What to do if a hotel cancels your stay because it won't be open in time
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Booking brand-new properties before they open is always a gamble -- especially in a country like Spain, where construction schedules seem to be more of a suggestion than a firm timeline. I got to experience this firsthand, when I was supposed to stay at the brand-new W Ibiza during a trip to the Spanish island hotspot this summer. About a month before my reservation, I received bad news: The hotel would not be open in time for my stay.
Here's how the property handled the situation, and some tips about how to proceed if you find yourself in a similar conundrum.
Booking a hotel before it opens
When I reserved the W Ibiza — the island's first Bonvoy property — back in early June for a stay from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 (at a book-now, pay-later price of almost 600 euros, or $650, per night), I thought I was in the clear, as they were accepting reservations for mid-July and onward. Then, I purchased plane tickets for my husband and myself from our home city, Madrid (MAD), to Ibiza (IBZ) on Iberia for just over 100 euros (about $110) per person shortly.
Once everything was booked, I did what every normal traveler does before a vacation: I daydreamed about lazy mornings reading on the hotel balcony and afternoons spent sunning by the hotel's chic rooftop pool, cocktail in hand, enjoying the ocean views.
Ibiza is a seasonal island, meaning many hotels close completely from November to April. I figured the opening couldn't be delayed too much, because if they didn't open their doors in late summer, they'd miss the peak of Ibiza's busy tourism season by opening in the low season or, possibly, have to wait several months before opening in the high season of 2020. Surely, the opening wouldn't be delayed for more than a few weeks -- if at all.
But it was.
How I was notified
I was on vacation in Italy when I received the dreaded email from a reservation agent at the hotel on July 30.
"Greetings from Ibiza," it said, "and first of all, thank you for choosing W Ibiza for your trip to the White Isle. We are contacting you regarding your reservation . . . We are very sorry to inform you that we will not be able to [honor] your booking at W Ibiza. Due to unforeseen construction challenges, the planned opening date has been delayed and unfortunately, we won’t be able to welcome you."
The note continued to explain the property was "working with all parties involved to understand the new opening timeline."
"Our Marriott Bonvoy Members are extremely important to us and we would like to offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay may cause you. If we may suggest that we could give you a call to discuss potential alternative solutions. Please inform us within the next 48 hours that you have received this notification and kindly let us know the best time and contact number to reach you. We deeply regret the inconveniences and please be assured that we would like to find the most suitable option with you. Thank you for being a Gold Marriott Bonvoy Member. We do remain at your full disposal for any further assistance."
I wrote the hotel back, and they called me moments later to explain further.
What I was offered
Before I could even ask what they could offer me to make up for the canceled room, the reservations supervisor profusely apologized and then asked if I already had confirmed travel plans. Since I already did, I said yes. There's a St. Regis on the neighboring island of Mallorca, so I thought perhaps they'd put me up there if I hadn't yet purchased plane tickets. Or maybe they would offer me a free night at the hotel itself once it opened, as a consolation.
The representative explained they would offer one free night at one of the following two hotels as compensation: the ME Ibiza or 7Pines. Or, they would give me 60,000 Bonvoy points as an apology, and I could find an alternative lodging option on my own. They then emailed me to confirm this, and I was expected to write back and let them know which I chose.
"It was a real pleasure talking to you," the agent said in an email. "We are extremely sorry for the inconveniences this might cause you and for that, we want to apologize. Following our phone conversation, we would like to send you the below options for your stay . . . We would like to offer to coordinate the booking of an alternative [five-star] hotel on Ibiza for you. In addition, we would like to invite you for the first night at the offered alternative hotel or alternatively offer 60.000 points as our sincere apology for the situation."
The email went on to detail the rates and information about each of the hotels being offered as substitutes, which were approximately the same price per night.
I knew 7Pines was far away (Ibiza is larger than you might think) and I wanted to stay in the same area, Santa Eulària des Riu, where the W Ibiza was under construction. And I had actually been to the ME Ibiza before, and hadn't been that impressed. Plus, if I was going to fork over more than $600 for the second night, I wanted to stay somewhere I could earn points (specifically Hilton, Marriott or IHG) -- but Ibiza is very limited in that regard.
We decided to search on our own for a hotel, but in the midst of high season in Ibiza, prices were high and there wasn't much in the way of availability. I was able to find one of the last rooms available at a hotel I had stayed at a few times before, Sol Beach House, for a little over 300 euros per night ($328).
So I chose to accept the 60,000 Marriott points and booked the Sol Beach House on Hotels.com using my Capital One Venture Rewards credit card to get 10x miles. (Offer ends Jan. 31, 2020.) The Bonvoy points appeared in my account in late August, about three and a half weeks after I confirmed the points option with the W Ibiza.
Since then, I've used the 60,000 Marriott points (plus a couple thousand extra) to book six award nights — one of which was free thanks to the fifth-night-free rate — at the Sheraton El Gouna in Hurgada, Egypt, over the holidays this December. The rate was 12,500 per night, as I booked before peak and off-peak pricing started in mid-September.
In my case, I was offered what I felt was a fair alternative. Although I was disappointed that the hotel didn't open on time, I still had a great weekend in Ibiza, and the hotel I stayed in, though not quite as luxurious as the W, was perfect — and about half the price.
The W Ibiza officially opened its doors on Oct. 1, but I don't have time to make it back there, as the property will close at the end of the month until mid-April of 2020, when the season gets going again on the island. Maybe I'll check it out next summer instead.
In any case, I saved some money by booking a cheaper property on my original travel dates and ended up with a six-night award stay in Egypt this winter, too.
What to do if your hotel doesn't open
Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, I believe the W Ibiza reservations team did the best they could to accommodate me, providing me with options to the best of their ability. The staff was extremely apologetic, helpful and genuinely disappointed the hotel wouldn't be open according to schedule.
But in some cases, a hotel may not handle things so well, or even at all. TPG readers described situations in which their prebooked hotel wouldn't open in time, and yet no staff had contacted them.
One lounge member even mentioned that, after seeing the Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown opening was delayed until January 2020 (he had a reservation for November 2019), not only did no one contact him, but also when he called the IHG help desk, they seemed unaware the hotel's opening was delayed. So here's what you can do to prepare for, and deal with, any opening delays once you have a reservation:
Book a refundable back-up room
If you suspect the opening may be delayed when booking a new hotel or one under construction, book an alternative with a fully refundable rate. I regret not doing this, especially because I considered that the hotel's construction could be delayed, but brushed the possibility aside. I should have simultaneously booked a room at the property I ended up at, Sol Beach House, when I reserved the W Ibiza. Had I done this, I surely would have gotten a cheaper rate — or at least had more options.
If you're nervous the hotel may not open in time, make sure to book directly through the property -- especially with major brands, or if you have elite status with a brand. If I had booked the W Ibiza on Expedia or Booking.com, who knows when (or if) I would have been contacted or what I would have been offered in terms of compensation.
Decide what you value most
Think about what you want: Would you rather have points and rebook yourself? Or is there a nearby hotel in the same brand that you'd prefer? In my case, there weren't any other Bonvoy properties on the island, but in a destination like New York City or Bangkok, there are like.y plenty of hotels from the same brand to choose from -- and you might even end up with an upgraded stay at a nicer hotel. It's always worth knowing what you want, and asking for it. The worst they'll say is no.
Work your elite status
If you do have elite status and you feel your compensation simply isn't fair, explain (politely) that you are a loyal customer to the brand and see what happens. In my case, I had Bonvoy Gold elite status from The Platinum Card® from American Express, and while it's certainly not the top elite status, it may have helped motivate the hotel contact me sooner. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Contact the property
In the event that you aren't notified, but realize on your own the hotel won't open in time, contact the hotel directly rather than using than the main reservations line for the brand. Agents on the main line may not be up to speed with every single property (this is obviously what happened at the Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown).
Don't cancel your reservation
Whatever you do, don't cancel your reservation, even if you're unsure the hotel will open on time. The hotel should contact you, or you can get in touch with them to figure out the situation. If you cancel, you won't be offered anything in the way of compensation.