In June, Marriott changed its rules about cancelling hotel reservations. Before then, customers usually could cancel a room all the way until the day of check-in, sometimes the day before, and suffer no penalty.
But as of this summer, the new Marriott deadline is 48 hours in North America and Latin America. If you don't cancel your Marriott room at least two days before check-in, you must pay the equivalent of one night's rate.
It was a nasty game-changer for those of us who like to shop for better deals. Often, the best prices surface within 48 hours, as hotels begin to realize how empty they might be and slash rates accordingly. If customers don't have the chance to re-book with a better deal, they're stuck a with higher price.
And as it turns out, that is precisely why it instituted the new rule: to prevent you from finding something better. This is something that slams leisure travelers harder than business travelers, who tend to cancel at a lower rate.
Now Hilton has joined Marriott in the 48-hour penalty rule.
The new, ruder policy kicks in July 31 at hotels that Hilton owns in the United States and Canada. (At hotels that are owned by someone else but merely managed by the brand, the cancellation policy is up to the property manager.) If you don't cancel a reservation before the 48-hour deadline, you get charged a night.
If the industry wants to impose harsher cancellation policies, perhaps customers should respond by imposing harsher requirements for their loyalty. What's the point of being loyal to a brand that punishes you for being a smart consumer?
In fact, a Business Travel Coalition survey reported by Tnooz says exactly that is happening: Travel bookers are leaning away from Marriott for imposing harsher penalties.