Marriott’s New Leverage Over Customers: 48-72 Hour Cancellation Policies Introduced!

When Marriott acquired Starwood Bill Marriott explained the purpose of the deal as giving them scale to have greater leverage — with online travel agencies for lower commissions (and presumably better placement) and with suppliers for lower costs.


Marriott Boca Raton

It’s this scale that made me expect Marriott Rewards would undercut the unique elite treatment offered by Starwood Preferred Guest. Starwood, Hyatt and smaller chains generally have to work harder to keep frequent guests loyal. You have to go out of your way to stick with a chain with 600 or 1200 hotels more than one with 5000.

Arne Sorenson has maintained that he wants to give customers the only hotel loyalty program they’ll need.

Offering more hotels in more markets means they’re more ubiquitous and can serve the needs of corporate customers more comprehensively.

And a strategy of keeping all of the 30 Marriott and Starwood brands means customers choose whatever the loyalty program is offering them in a region whether they understand the brand or not. (It also lets Marriott keep management or franchise fees from more hotels.)

How these competing tensions play out is precisely what we’re waiting to see as Marriott works on a combined loyalty program and shares it with the world.

In a sign that Marriott sees themselves as having greater leverage not just with suppliers but also with customers, they appear to have rolled out a chain wide (including Starwood hotels) 72 hour cancellation policy for North America. (HT: @TravelJono)

In fact, while many properties do have 72 hour cancellation policies now on cancellable rates:

Others appear to have 2 day cancellation policies, such as the first Westin that I checked the Westin Arlington Gateway and the Marriott Boca Raton:

What’s notable is that in spot checking I haven’t come across North American properties still offering cancellation until the day before arrival (or offering cancellation ‘the day of’ as was common up until 3 years ago).

While Hyatt battles Expedia, Marriott is using high occupancy and the difficulty escaping their footprint to change customer behavior.

No doubt if Marriott succeeds others will follow. In the meantime it will also be important to watch the managed travel market to see whether longer lead time cancellation rules can be successfully applied to corporate rate deals.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Some of the resort properties or upscale hotels in big cities often have a 5-day cancellation window. It’s really absurd. Thankfully, the platinum desk has waived it for me on a couple of occasions.

  2. Back to Holiday Inn Express for me. It was nice while it lasted – tootles Marriott!

  3. Not happy.

    I rarely need to cancel “at the last moment,” but there are certainly times when I have — say, 24-hours before. I have no idea how many reservations get cancelled “last minute” that Marriott feels they need to implement a 48-72 hour policy, but as a consumer, it SUCKS! I’ve been a loyal Starwood customer. Nothing says I have to be loyal to Marriott . . .

  4. The solution to “difficulty escaping their footprint” is don’t go there. Avoid all Marriott properties. If you are obsessed with Marriott points, just book at last minute, if you don’t like the rate, find another Marriott property, there are thousands of them. If you really want that property, then you are stuck like a tar baby and you will be SOL. Read the fine print. I do. Think before you click.

  5. My source clarified that the 72 hour policy was implemented today for the northeast region, unlike the entire North America that I previously stated. But I’m sure this is more of an indication of the trend that’s to follow…

  6. Like the airlines, when they get too big, they can make up rules to squeeze the costomers. Bring back the Trustbusters.

  7. Since I work for an airline and fly standby I have a policy of waiting until I get to my destination before booking. That way I avoid cancellation penalties.
    I do think that a 72 hour cancellation period is way too much. 24 hours should be good enough. But the DOJ allowed this anti-competitive merger to go through so now Marriott can do whatever they want to do.

  8. i only travel a few times per year (leisure), but it seems that, among the major chains, IHG gives the best chance of finding a property with a 24-hr cancel window (or even day-of). has anyone else found the same to be true?

  9. Loyalty rewards are less and less loyalty based. Now it is better to just get the best deal with the conditions that best suit you as your primary objective, with rewards being secondary.
    Credit cards with thebest flexible rewards and hotels fromt the cheapest source and with rewards (such as 10% rewards.com) as available. Screw the upgrades, unless company is paying

  10. I’ve wondered why cancellation policies weren’t more restrictive like they are with airlines.

  11. @Gary,
    Yes, it is possible that you’re seeing it also on the west coast, but not consistently. I was referring to the policy implemented this morning to all northeast region properties

  12. I’m not exactly excited by this but I understand. My wife works sales for Marriott and cancellation is a bigger issue than you’d expect – especially for big events. I don’t mind a three day cancelation, but I’d be pissed if it were a month like some resorts.

  13. It’s simple for plats to avoid — they can “force” a room even if occupied. So, don’t make a reservation until day of arrival, or day before.

  14. The cartels are back! Its a ridiculous thing to have. I can understand a 72 hour cancellation for a special, deep discounted rate. But for anyone travelling on Best Available Rate or Corporate Rate, this is ridiculous.
    @mwwalk event based bookings normally have different cancellations baked into the special contracts for those rates. If a chain like Marriott cant get a handle on its no shows, they should not be in business. Dont penalise 99% for the faults of 1%

  15. An article on how failing to cancel in time and results would be great. For instance, if fail to cancel in time but tell hotel that you can’t make it. Do they charge rack rate for award reservations? Do they allow you to rebook another night like a credit? Or do you simply lose the points for award bookings? Or lose the cash for non-award bookings? Seems like a lot can happen just from cancelled flights not making destinations. Like from snowstorms. Basically how are untimely cancellations handled? Is there any reason to notify hotel that you can’t make it to hotel if you are with non-cancellable period?

  16. I feel this is a HUGE deal for us business travelers. I regularly need to cancel reservations between the 72 and 24 hour window due to contracts not being signed in time.

    IF they are implementing this because some are abusing it there are far better ways to handle this. Here are couple ideas:
    1. Multiple booking the same day don’t qualify for the 24 hour cancelation.
    2. Put a limit per loyalty tier how many times you can cancel. No status =zero Silver=2 Gold=4 Platinum=8
    3. Sell them. Let people BUY 24 hour cancelation coupons. I may not but but come may.
    4. Let companies earn the above.

    This to me is not well thought out, and must be bean-counter driven. I don’t know if business travelers are the cause but I feel this alienates business travels most. This should be ridiculously easy to parse out the greatest offenders.

    Dang this is so disappointing and I’ve been trying for a while to get away from Hilton and just this month doing so opened up. But now this? There’s no way I can even think about Marriott now.

  17. I think the loyalty program is a great idea….Even tack on a $25 fee if you need to XL…but the whole rate…it is just wrong….Life happens sometimes you just can’t go…..

  18. SPG Plat, but just made about $6000 in Washington, DC hotel bookings with Hyatt next week due to the 72-hour cancellation rule. Meetings to occur Wednesday-Friday, but may be rescheduled as late as Monday (i.e., inside 72 hours). This rule is really frustrating and is costing SPG/Marriott my business.

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