In with the new owners, out with the old reservations – what are your rights?

Opaque travel sites that let you name your own price can be a great deal for travelers. But if you’re a hotel, you might have some reservations about putting your inventory on Hotwire or Priceline.

Sure, you can sell rooms — lots of rooms — but no one pays the published rate. Kind of hard to make a meaningful profit like that.

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So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when a hotel changes owners, that contracts with opaque sites are renegotiated. It is surprising when I hear from readers like Nancy Evans, who says her Priceline reservation at a New Orleans hotel was being canceled after a reported change in ownership.

What are your rights when a hotel cancels your reservation, leaving you room-less? And to what extent is your travel agent (that would be Priceline, in this case) responsible for finding you alternate accommodations?

Back in July, Evans used Priceline’s “Name Your On Price” option to book a hotel in the Big Easy for Jazz Fest 2011. She got a confirmed reservation at the St. Ann Marie Antionette from April 30 to May 3 2011 for $50 a night — a great rate.

Friends of mine that will be attending Jazz Fest in 2011 also received confirmed reservations to the same hotel for those dates — give or take a day — via Priceline and Hotwire.

Last week, individuals that booked via Hotwire were contacted and informed that their reservation had been canceled. The reason provided was that the new owner of the hotel does not want to accept the reservations.

Priceline hasn’t contacted Evans yet, but she made a few inquiries and discovered that the hotel didn’t have any reservations under her name, either.

Evans did a little sleuthing and found what she believes to be the real reason for the dropped reservations. The hotel was actually acquired back in the fall of 2009, and had undergone a renovation and a name change. The owners wanted to turn a new leaf in 2011, and Priceline rooms weren’t part of their plan, she speculates.

I asked Priceline to look into Evans’ reservation. Yesterday, I got some good news from the company:

We’ve been in contact with the hotel and made sure that all Priceline guests with future arrivals at the hotel have valid confirmed reservations. We are also sending confirmation numbers to all of our guests for their records.

Problem solved? Sorta. Evans gets to go to Jazz Fest, but what happens if your hotel decides to not honor your reservation?

If Evans had showed up at the hotel in April, and it had showed her the door, then the property would have had to “walk” her to a comparable property. In other words, the hotel would have had to find her another room at a similar hotel. Evans could have also called Priceline if the hotel refused to help.

I feel bad for the Hotwire customers who were reportedly turned away. Once you have a confirmed reservation that you’ve paid for, a hotel has no business canceling, simply because it doesn’t want any more customers from an opaque travel site. The property can always say “no” to future reservations.

(Photo: Scott/Flickr Creative Commons)

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