If you are one of the many travelers who had to cancel your hotel bookings due to the CoVid-19 pandemic, you might be able to get a full refund for your hotel booking, even if you booked the cheapest, prepaid and non-refundable rate! Many hotel chains have issued travel policies that allow you to cancel even pre-paid bookings due to the worldwide travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak! Find out what to do to get your money back!
The CoVid-19 pandemic has resulted in the greatest reduction in travel in history, even bigger than after 9/11. And in many cases, you don’t really have a choice anymore – airlines have stopped operating and many countries have banned all foreigners from entering, some like Thailand, are even banning their own citizens from returning.
Many of the large hotel chains realize the issue and are allowing customers to cancel their bookings, even if it was pre-paid, waiving cancellation fees, offering full refunds or the chance to rebook for a later date. You can find the details for the big chains below:
InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), with brands like Holiday Inn (find more brands here), is waving cancellation fees for all stays through April 30, 2020. Check out the full IHG policy for more details!
Marriott with 30 brands from Courtyard to Sheraton, has an even more generous policy, allowing free cancellations for all future travel, as long as you cancel before June 30, 2020. There are some exceptions, so read the full Marriott statement here! The same applies to new reservations you’ll make between now and June 30, 2020, giving you extra flexibility for future travel plans.
Hilton Hotels, with brands from Hampton Inn to Conrad, has the same policy, allowing you to cancel even “advanced purchase” reservations through June 30, 2020 and giving you flexibility for new reservations. For more information, read the Hilton Coronavirus Announcement.
The much smaller Hyatt Hotels is closely following the same playbook and offering free cancellations for all bookings, including pre-paid rates, through June 30, 2020 as well as flexibility for new reservations for the same time frame. Check out the details here!
Unfortunately, my favorite chain, Accor Hotels, has the worst policy of the major hotel companies and the most complicated one, too. You can only change (but not cancel) bookings with pre-paid rates through May 31, 2020 (a shorter time frame than the competition). Only if the government of your destination country has restricted travel, may you cancel your booking for a full refund by contacting the hotel directly. For example, Thailand has banned all foreigners from entering the country, so I was able to get a refund from two hotels in Bangkok, but it took a lot of extra effort and the refunds haven’t posted yet, resulting in more follow up work… You will have to check the Accor Coronavirus Policy for details and should check out the policy of your destination country to make sure, you’ll be able to get a full refund.
The situation is a little more difficult, if you have booked through an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like hotels.com or Agoda. There are a lot more ifs and buts, so you’ll have to do a bit more work to get a refund.
Hotels.com for example, offers a refund or voucher for future stay at the same hotel for stays booked through April 30, 2020. While they promise to contact you proactively, that didn’t happen in my case. I cancelled a stay following their directions, but haven’t received a refund. It’ll take a lot more work on my part, to hopefully get a refund with them! Their policy is here.
Another favorite of mine for hotel bookings in Asia, has an even worse approach, directing you to your booking and handling the cancellation there, making it very unlikely to get a refund for a pre-paid reservation, as the standard policies seem to prevail. Check out the Agoda Policy here.
For all other booking channels, I recommend to search for the “YOUR OTA coronavirus policy” and see what they offer. If they don’t allow a cancellation, despite travel to the country being prohibited, I’d contact the OTA directly and/or the hotel and ask them for a full refund by email (preferred, see reason below) or phone. Especially if the hotel is not able to provide the service, for example due to a lock down in the city or travel restrictions in that country, you have a good case for a full refund.
The nuclear option of travel refunds: If you haven’t received a refund after a reasonable amount of time, despite promising it, or if the hotel or OTA is refusing the refund, even though the country is banning foreigners or the hotel is closed, you can file a dispute with your credit card company for failure to deliver the contracted service. Depending on your credit card, you’ll have to file the documents proving your case, and they will than open a case for a refund, typically checking with the merchant on the situation. I have used that as a last resort when merchants refused a due refund and have always been successful.
Now, I call this the “nuclear option” because you don’t want to use it lightly. For example, if you don’t want to travel right now (understandably), but you would be able to go, you don’t have a good case for the refund of a non-refundable booking, as it is your choice. It also can have repercussions: if you file a number of disputes that end up being rejected, the credit card company could close your account. So, only use this option, if you have an iron-clad case and a merchant breaking your contract.