Bookit.com has stranded customers and is likely out of business
EDIT: The following letter was sent from Bookit.com CEO Bud Finlaw to hotel partners on the evening of March 17:
As we are all very much aware, the coronavirus event has had a disastrous effect on the entire Travel Industry, especially in our international space.
BookIt.com has been especially hard hit, as we have been an “all- inclusive only” website for the past 3/12 years-this leaves us, effectively, with nothing to sell until this crisis passes.
(Up until last week, we were seeing a hesitancy in booking for future travel, but keeping the cancellations at expected levels. Starting just nine days ago, though, everything changed. Yesterday’s announcement from the White House that citizens should “cancel all unnecessary travel” was especially hard to hear.)
Since Monday of last week, we have experienced a tsunami of cancellations. Over the weekend and through today, our cancellations have exceeded new sales, and dramatically so.
Obviously, this is an untenable situation. Despite great efforts from our Exec Team to find a path to continue with business as usual, we have now determined that the best option is to suspend regular operations until this crisis passes.
Just a few moments ago, I announced to our team that we were reducing our team members by some 85% until this crisis passes.
This cut will affect our ability to service your resort as we would normally do. And, as a result, we do not plan on making payments for arriving guests who do not cancel their stay.
As we ride out this storm, we understand that you, too, will be facing the same difficulties. We realize that you must make your own business decisions as to arriving guests.
We are hopeful that the US Government’s relief bill will pass Congress and that it delivers relief to the companies like your and ours who have been knocked down by the impact of this pandemic.
On a personal note, please know that our relationships with our partners has always been much more than “just business”, and this is the last thing we had expected. We hope that this crisis will pass soon and that we can come back together to do what we do, and work as true partners again.
In the meantime, please be careful-please take care of your loved ones as your top priority, as our family plans on doing.
Wednesday morning in the TPG Lounge Facebook group, reader Walid posted a difficult situation he was facing at the Ocean Coral and Turquesa in Cancun, Mexico:
I spoke over Messenger with Walid, who said he ended up having to repay the resort $2,077 before heading to the airport. He also found out a separate booking for the airport shuttle he made through Bookit wasn't paid to the shuttle company and he ended up taking a cab to the airport.
Several TPG readers on Walid's post said they had seen similar reports of Bookit.com reservations not being paid and guests asked to pay the resort directly upon checkout.
Bookit.com's recent Instagram post, as well as Twitter mentions, are littered with people asking for help and relaying similar situations where their bookings have not been paid and the hotels are asking them to pay directly. Social media reps for the company have not responded to comments in over 24 hours.
ABC13 in Panama City, Florida — home to Bookit.com's headquarters — ran a story Tuesday saying that Bookit.com employees were terminated without notice and the company's phones disconnected. I tried to call all of the numbers listed for Bookit and either got a failed call notice, a busy signal or a sorry message declining the call and directing me to the Bookit.com website. The website is still up and running, returning search results for flights and hotels.
What should existing customers do?
If you're a Bookit.com customer with a prepaid booking, I would contact your hotel, airline or travel provider directly and see whether payment has been received. Travel protection from credit cards will likely not protect you as financial insolvency is not covered in most trip interruption/cancellation policies in the benefits guide. We recommend you pay the travel vendor directly (if you still want to travel) and dispute the Bookit.com charge with your credit card company. It may take a little longer to resolve given the volume of business credit card issuers are dealing with but hopefully, the banks will find in your favor and issue you a credit for the amount you paid Bookit.com.
If you find yourself in a situation where a hotel is demanding payment before you leave, I recommend paying the hotel and avoiding any unnecessary pressure, particularly if you're in an international location.
Bookit.com has not responded to any press or customer inquiries and with the website still up and running, we can't definitively say the site is out of business. Mass cancellations and demand drop off will affect the travel industry for months to come and Bookit likely succumbed to the disastrous effects of COVID-19.
Booking through third-party travel providers can have its benefits, but there are many instances where booking directly with an airline or hotel is the preferable method. If you are a Bookit.com customer in a difficult situation, you can either join the TPG Lounge on Facebook and ask for crowdsourced help or e-mail us here at TPG and we'll respond with the best information we have.