The Price of Penalties: 59 Percent of Business Travelers Won't Book Marriott Properties Due to New Cancellation Policy

Marriott's new cancellation policy, which commenced last month and requires a one room-night penalty for cancellations within 48 hours of check-in, is not popular with travel managers and business travelers: Fully 59 percent of respondents to a poll conducted last week by the Business Travel Coalition indicated that they likely will book away from Marriott properties, while another 20 percent were unsure if they would do so. The poll surveyed 216 travel managers and travel-management company executives from around the world.

The new policy applies to Marriott properties in the Americas, including the United States, Canada, Caribbean and Latin America, across all brands with the exception of Design Hotels and Marriott Vacations Worldwide.

The study reported that 30 percent of respondents are considering a travel-policy change that restricts travelers from booking Marriott properties, while 68 percent indicated they would seek to negotiate an exception for their travelers. A slim majority of those polled (53 percent) expect that other hotel companies will follow Marriott's lead. Hilton Worldwide already has announced a similar cancellation policy for new bookings in the U.S. and Canada, beginning at the end of July.

Extensive comments by respondents that accompanied answers to the survey revealed a sense of great disappointment in Marriott. Among the comments:

"Other companies should see this as a competitive advantage. It will impact traveler behavior once they figure out the penalties."

"If Hilton does not follow along it will give them an advantage."

"Traveling for business is hard enough today. Marriott is now making it even more difficult. Our clients who always booked Marriott hotels are now looking for alternatives."

"This doesn't work for corporate customers; it's an aggressive move. If customers have a relationship with Marriott, they should look to have a corporate identifier in every booking, regardless of rate type, so that the cancellation policy does not apply. I can understand this may be an approach appropriate to leisure travelers. In the corporate market place, this just isn't viable -- travel plans change, and it would be expected that companies (rightfully so) heavily shift business to hotel suppliers that have more acceptable cancellation policies."

"With Marriott merged now with Starwood, this is a huge over-reach and burden. A 24-hour cancel policy would have been easier to stomach than 48 hours. Will be advising business travelers going forward and seriously will be moving business away from the chain in many cases."

"While I understand the desire/need to avoid having unsold rooms due to last-minute cancellations, this policy hits corporate travelers hard, and in combination with nonrefundable rates (this also appears with Marriott) and predatory airline practices for extra revenue, including baggage and seating fees, it makes the travel booking more difficult, and influences the agent to book away from vendors who use these restrictive policies. It also suppresses business travel in general and forces companies to control their spending by moving their travelers to other hotel companies. At the very least, you should have a higher-priced room option that has more flexible booking and cancellation policies so that corporate travelers can have a reasonable choice. I'm going through lots of extra effort these days trying to find hotel reservations with fewer penalties for my corporate clients."

When asked to comment on the above, a Marriott International spokesperson noted that, "While cancellation policies vary by hotel, hotels whose policy is to allow guests to cancel their room reservations on the day before arrival without incurring a fee are faced with a significant number of unsold rooms due to last-minute cancellations." The spokesperson went on to state that requiring guests to cancel their reservation by midnight 48 hours prior to arrival or face the penalty "will allow hotels a better chance to make the rooms available to guests seeking last-minute accommodations."