How Are Hotels Adapting During COVID-19?

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Updated March 16, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the travel industry as a whole. Demand for travel among customers has seen as much as a 95% drop due to the world’s economies being on lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. Therefore, this has caused hotels to have to close some locations temporarily, furlough employees and quickly adapt to new standards in regards to cleaning, food service and check in/out procedures. This post will answer the question of “how are hotels adapting during COVID-19?” This post will provide answers in terms of cancellation policies, elite status extensions and points expirations for eight of the largest hotel chains in the country. Another post will cover the updated and enhanced cleaning initiatives for all eight of the same hotel groups.

Best Western:

Cancellation Policy: 

Per Best Western’s website, the cancellation policy may vary depending on the rate booked. The cancellation policy in place at the time of booking will be the one that is honored. Furthermore, this policy may vary depending on each individual property, including a more restrictive cancellation policy. 

Elite Status and Points:

Per Best Western’s website, on March 2, the company announced that effective immediately all elite members worldwide will automatically keep their current status through January 31, 2022. Members who saw a downgrade in status at the end of 2019 will regain that tier and maintain it through January 31, 2022. Best Western points never expire, regardless of the current travel situation. 

On February 8, 2021, the hotel group announced that it was making a 50% reduction in the elite status requirements for 2021.

The Best Western website and Press and Media page were the sources for the information above.

Photo Credit: Paolo Nicolello from Unsplash.com

Choice Hotels:

Cancellation Policy:

Per Choice Hotels’ website, the cancellation policy may vary depending on the rate chosen.Therefore, the cancellation policy in place at the time of booking will be used.

Elite Status and Points:

Per the Choice Hotels’ website, loyalty points expiration is on hold until Dec. 31, 2021. There are also reduced elite status requirements to qualify for 2021 and 2022: Gold status requires seven nights as opposed to the normal 10, Platinum requires 15 instead of 20 nights, and Diamond status can be achieved with 25 nights instead of the original 40. Existing Gold members will receive an upgrade to Platinum, current Platinum members will get an upgrade to Diamond effective June 1- Dec. 31, 2020. Members receiving the upgrade who stayed at least five nights by the end of 2020 will maintain the upgraded status through Dec. 31, 2021; those unable to stay at least five nights will revert back to the original, pre-upgrade status which will be effective through 2021. Current Diamond members will receive an extension through Dec. 31, 2021 and get an additional 10% points bonus.

Choice Hotels website and the Choice Hotels Press Releases page were the sources for the above information.

Hilton Hotels:

Cancellation Policy:

Per Hilton’s website, as of September 30, they updated the cancellation policy. For existing reservations, even advanced purchase, can be changed or cancelled free of charge, up to 24 hours prior to arrival, if the reservation was made by September 30. For reservations made after September 30, they will be subject to the change/cancelation policy at the time the reservation is made. Hilton Honors members that need to cancel an advance purchase stay, may be eligible to receive a certificate for a free night per original night booked that would expire on Aug. 31, 2021. 

Elite Status and Points:

Per Hilton’s website, as of May 8, they made a few changes to elite status, points and weekend night certificates. For members that were going to have their 2019 status downgraded on March 31, 2020, the 2019 status will get a complimentary extension through March 31, 2021. Members that have a status for 2020 will automatically have that tier for 24 months until March 31, 2022. Points expiration is on hold through Dec. 31, 2020. Unexpired weekend night certificates earned from eligible Hilton credit cards, and new ones earned between March 11 and August 30, 2020 will be valid through August 31, 2021. 

On May 1, Hilton announced there would be temporary changes with the Surpass and Aspire cards issued by American Express. The free night certificate (new ones issued before Dec. 31, 2020 and unexpired) are now valid any night of the week. Free night certificates awarded between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 will not expire for 24 months from issue date. Between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, bonus points on eligible purchases count as base points and are valid towards Elite tier qualifications, including Lifetime status.

The Hilton website and the Hilton Newsroom were the sources for the information above.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Hyatt Hotels:

Cancellation Policy:

Hyatt announced on June 3, with limited exceptions that reservations made starting on July 1, 2020 (also reservations made prior to July 1 fall into this same policy) for all travel until July 31, 2021 are able to be canceled free of charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival. Advance purchase rate bookings are included. To be eligible for this policy, bookings have to be made directly with Hyatt.

Elite Status and Points:

Hyatt announced that through June 30, 2021 they will be pausing points expirations for members. Earned, unused awards, rewards and upgrades that had expiration dates between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 will now expire on Dec. 31, 2021. Any awards earned in 2020 with an expiration date this year will be valid to the end of 2021. These award changes will happen automatically and require no action from members. All elite members will get a status extension through February 28, 2022 and it will be based on the status level that you held on March 31, 2020. This extension is also done automatically and should have been changed in members’ accounts by April 15, 2020. Another good piece of news is that Hyatt is postponing the implementation of dynamic (Peak and off-peak) pricing until July 2021. 

In addition, Hyatt announced a 50% reduction in the requirements to obtain elite status in the World of Hyatt program for 2021. Elite status earned in 2021 is valid through February 2023. This reductions means that top-tier Globalist status can be achieved with 30 nights as opposed to the normal 60.

The Hyatt website as well as the Hyatt Newsroom web page were the sources for the information above.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG):

Cancellation Policy:

The hotel group has stated that all reservations that are booked directly with IHG, there will be no fees to change the reservation. However, price differences may be the responsibility of the customer. IHG has introduced two new rates during this time, Book Now, Pay Later and Best Flexible Rate. Book Now, Pay Later rate requires no deposit and allows cancellations up to three days prior to arrival for reservations booked direct. The Best Flexible Rate allows direct bookings to be changed or cancelled up to 24 hours prior to arrival (in some situations it could be up to 6pm on the day of check-in). IHG Rewards Club Members can get additional savings on the above rates. The cancellation policy may vary based on the room rate at the time of booking directly with IHG.

Elite Status and Points:

Elite members will have their 2019 status automatically continue through January 2022. Due to travel restrictions, IHG has lowered the Elite status requirements by at least 25% to qualify for a higher status by the end of 2020. Elite members’ points never expire and club members’ points expiration is on hold until Dec. 31, 2020. Anniversary night certificates which IHG Club credit cards issue in 2020 will be valid for 18 months. Certificates that are expiring after March 1, 2020 are now usable through Dec. 31, 2020.

The IHG’s website and from the IHG News Releases page were the sources for the section above.

Marriott International:

Cancellation Policy:

Per Marriott‘s website, existing reservations made prior to July 6, 2020 for any future arrival date will have the cancellation/change policy honored, that was in place/communicated at the time of booking. For reservations with arrival dates before March 31, 2021, Marriott is allowing free changes and cancellations up to 24 hours prior to arrival date. Pre-paid bookings, and other exclusions, will be subject to the rate rules conveyed at the time the booking is made. Rate differences may apply if a change in reservation is made. New reservations made after March 31, 2021 will be subject to the individual hotel cancellation protocols in place at the time of booking.

Elite Status and Points:

Marriott announced that all members’ will have their 2019 status tier extended to February 2022. Marriott announced that they are suspending points expiration until August 1, 2021, at that time the only ones that will expire are ones in accounts that have seen at least 24 months of inactivity. Suite Night Awards are now valid until Dec. 31, 2021. Free Night Awards set to expire in 2020 will now be valid through August 1, 2021 for most members.

This Marriott International’s website, News Center page and Marriott Bonvoy page were the sources for the information above.

Photo by Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

Radisson Hotel Group:

Cancellation Policy:

For bookings made by August 31, 2020, for any future arrival at any property worldwide the company will allow changes without charge up to 24 hours before arrival date. The changes may be subject to availability and a charge for rate difference may occur. The hotel group is allowing cancellations on these reservations without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, and this does include rates that are typically noncancelable or nonrefundable. Refunds may include refunds to the credit card charged for the reservation, hotel credit or a voucher.

As of January 1, 2021 the individual hotel property’s cancellation policy that is in place at the time of booking will apply.

Elite Status and Points:

Radisson also announced that all “points that were set to expire between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2021 will now be extended and expire on December 31, 2021.” For elite members who’s status was to expire in February 2021, they will receive an extension through February 2022. E-certs earned from spending on the Radisson Reward Visa card that were to expire March 1 through May 31, 2021 are now valid through June 30, 2021. Eligible nights/stays made in 2020, will now roll over to 2021 and be used toward earning or maintaining status for 2022.

The Radisson Hotel Group’s website and their Media page were the sources for the section above.

Photo by Kerem Karaarslan on Unsplash

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts:

Cancellation Policy:

Wyndham already allows guests to cancel without charge up to 6pm on the day of arrivals at thousands of locations. For direct bookings, made before June 6, 2020 for arrival after June 30, 2020, all properties are required to accommodate non-cancellable rate reservation changes as long as requests are made at least 48 hours before arrival. In addition, the same number of rooms or more have to be booked for a future stay. For bookings made on or after June 6, 2020 for travel after June 30, 2020, the change/cancellation policy may vary depending on the rate that was booked. Check the rate details to find this information

Elite Status and Points:

Wyndham also announced that points expirations are on hold until June 30, 2021. All Wyndham Rewards members worldwide will have their current status level extended through the end of 2021. For the remainder of 2020, Wyndham has reduced its elite night requirements by 40 percent. Stays that were completed earlier in 2020 will also be applied to this new lower requirement to earn higher status. Gold status will be achieved with just three qualifying nights for the rest of 2020, Platinum will be unlocked after nine qualifying nights and Diamond will be awarded after 24 qualifying nights.

The Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ website and the News and Media page were the sources for the information above.

Conclusion:

During these uncertain times these guidelines can change and this information will remain up to date as it becomes available. Stay safe while we begin to start traveling again. Check out Part 2 to see how hotels are improving and enhancing their cleaning and disinfecting protocols to ensure guest and staff safety.

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