Coronavirus: Indian hotel chains offer free cancellation, relaxation on membership cards

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on March 17, 2020 Published on March 17, 2020

In the wake of coronavirus, Indian hotel chains are offering free cancellation of bookings and relaxation on their membership cards.

Hospitality companies like Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL), ITC, Radisson and Marriott are providing free waivers on cancellation fees and are freezing the duration of memberships and points.

The hotels have also beefed up safety and sanitation at their properties to mitigate the risk of contracting coronavirus by both guests and hotel personnel.


Safety action plans

Large hotel chains have set up sanitisation process for all areas, body temperature checks for everyone visiting their premises using non-invasive laser thermometers and increased the access to alcohol-based hand sanitizers across their properties as per Ministry of Health & Family Welfare advisory and guidelines for prevention of coronavirus.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have activated our corporate crisis response teams worldwide and have strong processes, robust systems, and dedicated support teams in place,” said Federico J González, Chairman and CEO of Radisson Group, adding that, “if required, hotel lockdowns for quarantine purposes in cooperation with the local authorities” would be undertaken.

Cancellations and rebookings

The hospitality industry, like aviation and tourism industries, has been severely impacted because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Indian government has suspended all visas for international travellers, and locked down ports and borders.

Within India, too, several state governments have imposed Section 144 of the CPC banning public gatherings. Alongside, the government has imposed an embargo on public places, and malls, except for grocery stores and supermarkets. Several events have already been cancelled indefinitely.

The government has also advised citizens to stay indoors unless essential and requested companies to allow their employees to work from home.

All these would obviously have an immediate impact on hotel bookings too. Customers and agents make their bookings at least a few months prior to the event.

In the wake of these developments, IHCL, Radisson, ITC and Marriott are offering free waivers on cancellation fees. “We understand the need for increased flexibility with your travel planning. For your assistance, all Taj, SeleQtions and Vivanta hotels are waiving individual cancellation fees for hotel stays through April 30, 2020,” Renu Basu, Senior Vice President - Global Sales and Marketing, IHCL, said in a customer note. IHCL has a portfolio of 197 hotels including 40 under development globally across four continents, 12 countries and at over 100 locations.

Marriott International, in a customer note, said that it is updating its policy to provide its customers the utmost flexibility the hotel company can offer during these challenging times.

“Generally speaking, for guests with existing individual reservations, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, we will allow changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020,”Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International, said.

ITC and Radisson too said that they are waiving off cancellation fees till April 30 for individual customers.

For the MICE segment, Radisson is offering free cancellations for select countries, “We allow free cancellations for China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Belgium, Spain, France and the US inbound and outbound business for arrivals/meetings and events up to and including April 30, 2020,” it said.

Freeze on loyalty programmes

The Taj Group has a loyalty programme titled Taj InnerCircle (TIC). Notifying the guests that in the wake of the pandemic, there would be a freeze on the loyalty programme, Basu said, “We will pause the expiration of all TIC points that are due to expire between March 16, 2020 and April 30, 2020. For members for whom the current tier status is due to be assessed between March 16, 2020 and April 30, 2020, we will now assess the tier eligibility only on May 1, 2020.”

Marriott International has several loyalty award programmes. Marriott said that points expiration has been paused until August 31, 2020. “The company has extended the expiration of suite night awards (SNAs) with an expiration date of December 31, 2020 by one year to December 31, 2021. Lastly, members who currently have an active free night ward (FNA) expiring in 2020 as part of their credit card benefit, annual choice benefit, promotions or travel package will be able to use it through January 31, 2021,” Marriott said.

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Published on March 17, 2020
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