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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 2, 2011

Hilton Cairo World CenterAs protesters crowd the streets of downtown Cairo, and thousands of desperate tourists flee the escalating violence and political unrest, U.S. hotel chains in Egypt stepped up their own private security measures and began waiving cancellation fees for future reservations.

A spokesperson for the Boston-based Sonesta Collection, which operates seven hotels and six cruise vessels in Egypt, told The Hotel Insider that while the chain was waiving cancellation for individual travelers, "Group business in Egypt tends to be more regional and that is being handled on a case-by-case basis at the hotels." Sonesta's executive chairman, Peter J. Sonnabend, who returned from Cairo this past Monday to assess matters firsthand, issued a statement saying while all of Sonesta's properties are open for business, "At some properties, services have been affected by the current situation in the country."

Hilton Worldwide, which operates 17 hotels in Egypt, including the 617-room Conrad Cairo and 104-room Hilton Cairo World Trade Center Residence, is waiving cancellation fees; helping guests who choose to transfer their bookings to other parts of the Middle East, such as Dubai, and reviewing and updating its cancellation policy as the situation progresses. In addition, Hilton issued a statement saying, "We have implemented additional security procedures at all our hotels across Egypt, particularly Cairo."

Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile PlazaToronto-based luxury chain Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts said it has currently suspended taking reservations for its two Cairo properties, the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza and Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residences, while its other two Egyptian resorts are operating normally.

Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels and Resorts declined to comment on individual security measures at any of its properties, but confirmed that the management of its 715-room Grand Hyatt Cairo had implemented heightened security measures to ensure the continued safety of its guests and employees.

Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International, which operates seven hotels in Egypt, including two in Cairo, issued a statement saying, "Although the unrest is not currently affecting areas in proximity to the two Marriott hotels located in the city of Cairo, we are carefully monitoring the situation.The safety and security of our guests and employees is one of our top priorities, and we will continue to evaluate the threat levels and respond accordingly. Added a spokesperson for the company, "We are not saying anything beyond the statement."

White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which has seven Sheratons and three Le Meridiens in Egypt, as well as two more properties in the pipeline (including a St. Regis), did not return requests for comment.