You might have questions regarding your next hotel room stay during the coronavirus pandemic. Are people even checking into hotels right now? Is it safe to stay there? What do I need to know before I go?
But before you get to any of that, make sure you're aware of the basics — including how to cancel (or book) your hotel room if you're wary of traveling or can't get there due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic.
If you have a hotel or short-term rental booked for this summer or are planning to book, first check your hotel's cancellation policies. If you prepaid for your room, is it eligible for a refund or rebooking? Is so, for how far out? Remember that if you booked through a third-party site, you may have to abide by their rules.
Keep checking your hotel website if the date you booked isn't eligible for a refund just yet as the hospitality industry has been updating cancellation policies frequently due to the pandemic. Airbnb, for example, recently extended the eligibility for certain guests to seek refunds.
Remember that dealing with platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo will be different, as you may have to work with both the company and the host to get a refund or rebooking. These extra steps in the process have been challenging for consumers and hosts alike, though the companies are also hurting.
Most hotels are indeed still taking reservations, so if you're looking to book, you can go about making reservations like normal (but pay attention to travel restrictions in the area).
Be sure you're reading the fine print, however, in case you do need to cancel or otherwise update your stay.
That said, hotels should be transparent about these policies, according to Jan Jones, professor of hospitality and tourism at the University of New Haven. She recommends travelers talk to customer service if they have questions (keep in mind these lines may be busier than normal).
And customers may be able to go through a credit card company if they're unsuccessful in getting refund from their hotel. "If you are canceling for reasons beyond your own control, it is absolutely worth calling your credit card company to see what they can do," Jones told USA TODAY.
There's no guarantee, however. "The best and quickest way to resolve the issue and achieve your desired outcome — whether it's a refund or credit — is to contact the company," Zongqing Zhou, professor at the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management of Niagara University and president of the International Society of Travel and Tourism Educators, told USA TODAY. "Most companies are reasonable and understand this is a special situation."
Should I be concerned about safety?
Hotels all over the U.S. are prepping for you to come back and issuing cleanliness measures left and right.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association unveiled its Safe Stay guidelines this month, an effort made in conjunction with major brands like Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott and Best Western to standardize cleanliness.
"It's really an effort to make sure that no matter if you're staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you're staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry," Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, told USA TODAY.
The standards outline baseline hotel practices and procedures meant to protect employees and guests. These include measures like hand-washing and hand sanitizer availability; signs reminding employees and guests how to wear, handle and throw away masks; and contactless check-in when possible.
Are people even staying in hotels right now?
Yes, and though the numbers haven't been pretty, they are improving.
Hotel occupancy is down more than 58% year-over-year, standing at about 29% for the week of April 26 to May 2, according to data firm STR. This is higher than previous weeks but is still a large decline.
Occupancy has climbed steadily since the week of April 5 to 11, when it stood at 21%.
"Week-to-week comparisons showed a third consecutive increase in room demand, which provides further hope that early April was the performance bottom,” Jan Freitag, STR’s senior VP of lodging insights, said in a statement.
Freitag added: "As we have noted throughout the pandemic, the leisure segment will be the first to show a demand bounce-back. In weeks prior, the more reasonable conclusion was that hotels were selling mostly to essential worker types."
Rogers said best estimates indicate that by late summer, most leisure travel will be back to 60% or 70% of last year. Places like the Florida and California coastlines should begin seeing closer to normal numbers by the end of summer.
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