Hilton tests $50 “cancellation” fee

Hilton is quietly testing a new $50 cancellation fee for reservations canceled any time after you book a room.

The charges apply to bookings made through the end of business today at 20 U.S. hotels, including Hiltons, Embassy Suites, and Doubletree. If adopted, they could add another layer of complexity to the company’s current cancellation policies, which state that room cancellations made after 11:59 p.m. the night before the stay begins will incur a penalty of one night’s room rate and tax.

The new policy doesn’t apply to Hilton HHonors members.

Hotel cancellation policies have long been a source of contention between travelers and the hotels themselves, and this policy — if adopted chain-wide — are unlikely to help.

No one likes to pay for a room they’re not using. But hotels hate to lose what they thought was confirmed revenue.

Not all cancellation policies are equal, nor should they be. A small hotel may have a much harder time filling a canceled room than a large property, especially close to the arrival date. And holidays and peak convention times justifiably have tighter restrictions.

From the hotel’s point of view, the situation has been exacerbated with various apps offering last-minute discounts. Savvy price-conscious travelers might book a hotel, check just before travel to see if they could get a better deal at another property, and then cancel the first booking.

Last year, Hilton and Marriott decided to implement systemwide rules saying that a room must be canceled the day before arrival or the traveler will forfeit one night’s stay. Now, that addresses the discounter problem, but it does upset travelers whose plans really do change, or who get sick at the last minute.

Related story:   Hey, these aren't the seats I reserved!

I actually only learned about this new test because THOR travel services, one of our agency’s consortium groups, worked out a deal with Hilton to waive the policy for THOR corporate users and sent us an email about it.

Apparently, Hilton still feels like too many travelers are canceling bookings, whether or not it is in search of better rates. And there’s no word on whether the proposed policy would allow a guest not to cancel per se, but to modify the booking down to a lower available rate.

With luck, Hilton will decide these new fees are a bad idea. Or perhaps they will only institute mandatory cancellation fees in high season at certain properties.

On the other hand, how many fees has the travel industry met and decided they didn’t like?

Would you pay a $50 cancellation fee for a hotel reservation?

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Janice Hough

I've been in the travel industry since I graduated from Stanford. Back in the days when computers were new, and air travel was comfortable. These days I'm also a travel and comedy writer. All opinions are strictly my own, and not necessarily those of Elliott.org

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