If your hotel is closed, do you get compensation for your confirmed reservation?

Apr 7, 2020

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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

While many individual travelers are making the responsible choice and canceling their own plans in light of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, we’re also seeing mass cancellations from the travel industry with thousands of planes grounded and many hotels closing indefinitely. TPG reader Bruce wants to know what to do if his hotel closes down before his reservation date …

I am a Marriott Ambassador elite. I had a reservation at the Moana Surfrider in Honolulu for the end of April, but the reservation was canceled without any notice. I emailed the Ambassador desk and was told that hotel was not taking any reservations until June 1. Question: If you have a confirmed reservation and it is canceled by hotel for whatever reason, shouldn’t you be compensated in some way? Marriott has a policy that if you have a confirmed reservation and the hotel can’t honor that reservation, it puts you up at another hotel and gives you $200 and 90,000 points per night. I understand that this may be due to coronavirus and Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine policy. Should I be compensated?


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Coronavirus-related hotel closures

“Should I be compensated” is often a tricky question, as it relies on the goodwill and good intention of employees in the travel industry to fix whatever went wrong. Very rarely are there any clear guidelines on when compensation is owed and what amount, but one notable exception is Marriott’s elite benefits guarantee which Bruce alluded to.

Normally the “ultimate reservation guarantee” would entitle Bruce to $200 and 90,000 points if the hotel couldn’t honor his reservation at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin property. Unfortunately, there’s one large caveat in the Marriott terms and conditions that will prevent Bruce and many other travelers from claiming compensation here. Section 4.3.a.iii of the Marriott Bonvoy terms says the following:

“A Participating Property must be open and operational for the Ultimate Reservation Guarantee benefit/compensation to apply.”

If Bruce’s reservation is for the end of April, he’s out of luck — the Moana Surfrider is closed through May 31, 2020 — so the ultimate reservation guarantee wouldn’t apply. Clearly the intent of this guarantee was to deal with guests getting “walked” from an oversold hotel, not a pandemic-related closure of the entire property.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Getting walked from a hotel

Hotels, just like airlines, try and oversell their rooms with the understanding that some guests are going to end up no-showing. Of course, if they sold more rooms than they have and everyone shows up, someone is going to end up getting “walked,” or accommodated at a nearby and hopefully comparable hotel. While this should be a rare occurrence for a top-tier Ambassador elite like Bruce, it’s certainly possible.

Related: What compensation are you owed when you’re walked from a hotel?

Marriott Bonvoy is actually the only major hotel program to have a published policy on compensation for guests who are walked, but you can hope that if you have elite status with the chain and/or are staying at a more luxurious property, the hotel will do its best to take care of you even if they aren’t under any written obligation to do so. It never hurts to ask for compensation, and if you’re polite and not demanding (even under stressful circumstances) you’re more likely to get what you asked for. Appropriate compensation could be some combination of points or cash, or even an upgrade or property credit at the hotel you’re being moved to.

Bottom line

The coronavirus is forcing many travel companies to rewrite the rules in response to unprecedented cancellations and low booking volume. A penalty-free cancellation and full refund might need to suffice here, and I’d be shocked to see a hotel compensating guests for canceling reservations more than a month in advance, especially in a state that’s imposing a mandatory quarantine on arriving visitors. In this case, I’d recommend Bruce reach out to his ambassador to assist with any compensation, as the property is likely swamped dealing with other guests and winding down operations.

Thanks for the question, Bruce, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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