New 48 Hour Cancellation Policy Response From Hilton
Reports have been posted — many which have either not been confirmed or derived from other sources — in the past week or so pertaining to a new cancellation policy by Hilton in which guests must cancel their reservations no sooner than 48 hours prior to the beginning of their scheduled stays to avoid a penalty.
New 48 Hour Cancellation Policy Response From Hilton
I reached out to my contacts at Hilton; and this is the response I received verbatim directly from a spokesperson at Hilton:
“At this moment there are no changes for our guests, but we have proposed an update to our policy guidance for hotels in the United States and Canada effective at the end of the month. We have proposed updating the default house cancellation policy to 48-hours (72-hours in select locations) for our managed properties and have suggested the same for franchised hotels (this decision will be made at the property level for franchise properties). As always, the cancellation policy associated with any reservation is made clear to our guests throughout the booking process and in the confirmation emails they receive.
“Our goal is to provide exceptional experiences: every hotel, every guest, every time. We regularly review guest booking and cancellation patterns across our 5,000+ properties, and have seen cancellation rates rise the last few years. These insights have led to the proposed update, which will allow us to maximize the number of available rooms for guests seeking accommodation. Both guests and hotel owners will benefit from rooms that would previously have gone unused.”
Is This Stricter Policy Customer Unfriendly?
The main reason behind the implementation of stricter cancellation policies is because when a potential guest cancels a reservation at the last minute, the room reserved for that guest might remain unsold. That would be unfair to management of the hotel property — especially if demand was high and the hotel property might have otherwise been sold out…
…and what if more than one guest cancelled at the last minute at the same hotel property? What if someone else could have used that room but was denied the ability to book the reservation — only to have that room possibly unused due to a cancellation at the last minute?
I stayed at the AC Hotel Coslada Aeropuerto hotel property in Madrid almost three years ago, which was a mediocre stay at best — but that hotel property was not my first choice. I initially wanted to stay at the Hilton Madrid Airport hotel property; but it was sold out every time I attempted to book a reservation. I would not have had a chance to book my reservation within 24 hours of wanting to stay there as a guest because I had spent the morning in Howth in Ireland prior to traveling on my second flight with Ryanair; and I was out late the night before prior to spending my last night as a guest at Hilton Dublin Airport — so if someone canceled his or her reservation at Hilton Madrid Airport, I never knew about it.
Whether or not I could have secured a room that night if this more restrictive policy was in effect is unknown.
Some hotel and resort properties — such as the Boca Raton Resort and Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort property — already have had in effect a cancellation policy of 72 hours prior to the day of which a stay is scheduled to begin.
According to the aforementioned communication from a spokesperson with Hilton, the new default cancellation policy is scheduled to become effective at hotel and resort properties in the United States and Canada as of Monday, July 31, 2017.
Note that the key word is default — meaning that the cancellation policy is at the discretion of hotel and resort properties which are franchised as opposed to managed by Hilton. While the majority of hotel and resort properties are expected to follow the proposed policy guidance from Hilton, do not be surprised to find that the cancellation policy may vary at some hotel and resort properties.
If and when this revised cancellation policy will be expanded to hotel and resort properties elsewhere in the world is unknown at this time.
As I originally wrote in this article pertaining to a similar cancellation policy by Marriott International, Incorporated which became effective as of Thursday, June 15, 2017, my experience with hotel properties is that if I ever needed to cancel a reservation beyond the deadline — which is highly unusual for me — I have never had to pay a penalty. I usually had a good reason — such as a canceled or delayed flight — and the representative had always been understanding and accommodating. That is not to say that that would be the scenario moving forward nor would I consistently expect that level of service; but as long as lodging companies empower their employees with the ability to implement logical decisions, I generally do not expect this “unwritten policy” to change.
Due primarily to the aforementioned reasoning, I initially believed that the policy of cancellation by 6:00 in the evening local time of the hotel property on the day before arrival was justified and not unreasonable to the consumer — especially if employees of the lodging company are empowered to override this policy on a case-by-case basis as necessary. If most guests will know to cancel two days prior to arrival, that suggests to me that any abuse of the policy moving forward will be few and far between, which to me further suggests that pleading for leniency will likely continue to be successful — especially if you are a regular customer of the lodging company or hotel property…
…but as to whether or not this revised policy is indeed unfriendly to customers: due to varying reasons, many people will agree; while few may believe otherwise.
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.