Now that the World Health Organization has officially declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic and we are seeing a huge spike of cases in the United States and around the world, Petswelcome decided to take a close look at how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus and what policies and procedures they are implementing to handle the situation.
How to Protect Yourself and Family When Visiting a Hotel
Before we look at how all the major hotels chains are reacting to the coronavirus, it’s important to review what you should do to maximize your safety if you will be visiting a hotel during the outbreak. Obviously, when you walk into a hotel you should practice social distancing and keep notice of objects that probably are touched a lot and try, if possible, not to touch them. Or, if you do, wash your hands afterward. And since you are in a social setting, regularly and thoroughly washing your hands and avoiding touching your face is critical. Beyond that, the next obvious question for travelers is whether hotel rooms are truly safe. And one of the most important factors in determining safety of a hotel room with regard to COVID-19 is how long the virus can survive on surfaces.
According to the Harvard Medical School, the COVID-19 coronavirus can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard (though it is much diminished after 3 hours), and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The virus can also hang out as droplets in the air for up to three hours before they fall. But, researchers say, most often they will fall more quickly.
When you enter a hotel room it is a good idea to wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant (see this list of COVID-19 fighting products from the American Chemical Council). The most-touched objects and surfaces are the critical areas to address, including light switches, bathroom faucets, alarm clocks, hair dryers, remote controls and any item that you naturally might reach for. Many doctors also recommend that you don’t drink from any glasses or cups in the room and that you bring your own pillowcase which, when you leave, should be put it in a plastic bag to wash as soon as you return home. Also, if anybody has handled your luggage, you should disinfect the handles and/or straps or whatever part might have been touched.
Between the hotel meeting the CDC guidelines and you doing your due diligence in sanitizing, you will be maximizing the safety of your room and lessening the chance of exposure.
How All the Major Hotel Chains Are Reacting to the Coronavirus
First, and sadly, with regard to how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus, the New York Post reports that, for the first time in history, they are closing down in large numbers. In a meeting with President Trump, several hotel executives said they would be closing hotels in most of the major US cities. Christopher Nassetta, CEO of Hilton, said the occupancy rates have declined to the single digits. This reality has prompted most hotel executives from major chains, including Marriott, Hyatt and Best Western, to ask to be included in a federal relief package that is in the works to help ailing businesses. Experts note that the virus is already set to do more damage than the recession of 2007/8 and the 9/11 attacks.
Marriott International, in announcing the closings, said they will be furloughing tens of thousands of employees ranging from property managers to cleaning staff. Furloughed workers won’t be paid but will keep their health-care benefits which are paid by the property owners, as Marriott does not own most of their hotels. Furloughed employees (Marriott has 130,000 employees in the US alone) will be offered a return to work once the travel market returns and virus is under control.
New Policies and Procedures Implemented by All the Major Hotel Chains
With regard to how all the major chains are reacting to the coronavirus, they each seem to be taking steps on at least one of the following fronts:
- Cancellations: Chains are updating their cancellations policies so that customers who cancel their reservation in a specific timeframe, determined by each chain, will not be penalized.
- Rewards Programs: Many are also enhancing their Rewards programs by extending the point expiration dates, as well as the status of all premium members so that, if they don’t maintain the requirements, they won’t be downgraded.
- Health and Safety: Chains are training staff in new sanitation procedures that meet the safety and sanitary guidelines provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with regard to reducing the probability of COVID-19 transmission.
Specific Coronavirus Policies and Procedures by Hotel Chain
If you go their websites to find out how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus, it might not seem apparent that we are in a major crisis mode. Some make no mention of the pandemic on their homepage, or just have a small link to their statements. That’s why we felt it’s important to summarize each of their coronavirus policies and to provide links to them so that you can keep updated as they change.
Most of the well-known hotel brands fall under larger corporate entities. For example, Holiday Inns are managed by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), and Comfort Inns by Choice Hotels, and La Quinta by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, to name a few. Because the larger corporation sets the policy, we list them below but also name the popular brands under each listing so that you can identify the specific brand affiliation and their policy.
Brands include Novotel, Raffles, Orient-Express, and Sofitel, among many others. Accor has an international portfolio of 3,500 hotels, the largest amount located in Europe and Asia, so many of their policies reflect the country where the hotel resides.
- Guests who booked a non-flexible rate with Accor prior to the current date and are scheduled to arrive prior to April 30, 2020, may modify their reservation for future travel through December 31, 2020 without penalty by contacting the hotel directly. See hotel list.
- Guests travelling to or from Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, China, Macau SAR, China, Taiwan China and South Korea through March 31, 2020 will be able to modify or cancel a valid booking
- Guests traveling to Italy through April 3, 2020 will be able to modify or cancel an existing reservation.
Brands: Best Western has 17 brands with over 4500 hotels worldwide and more than 2000 in the US alone. Brands include Best Western, Best Western Plus, Best Western Signature Collection, SureStay, among others.
- All Best Western Reward (BWR) members globally will maintain their current status through January 31, 2022 without needing to fulfill the necessary qualifications.
- BWR members who downgraded a tier at the end of 2019 will be brought-up to their previous tier and will maintain that status through January 31, 2022, without needing to fulfill the necessary qualifications. Additionally, BWR members can donate their reward points to BWHR’s charitable fund, Best Western for a Better World, which has committed to supporting those impacted by the virus worldwide.
Brands include Ascend, Comfort Suites and Inns, Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, EconoLodge, and Rodeway Inn among others. Choice Hotels has more than 7,000 hotels with 12 distinct brands.
- Penalty-free cancellations for guests residing in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy with reservations at Choice Hotels in the United States and Canada and guests with reservations at Choice Hotels in China, Japan and Italy. Through April 30, 2020.
- For guests traveling in the US or Canada with existing individual reservations, including reservations with non-cancellable, pre-paid rates made directly with Choice Hotels, Choice 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.
- For guests making new individual reservations directly with Choice Hotels from now until April 30, 2020, Choice will allow those reservations to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before a guest’s scheduled arrival date.
Choice has paused points expiration until May 31, 2020.
Health and Safety
Choice provides hotel owners with up-to-date information and training from vendors and health authorities (including the CDC) and shares best practices with hotel owners regarding heightened cleaning, sanitation and disinfecting protocols, as well as social distancing. They have also adjusted breakfast to focus on pre-packaged options.
Brands: Extended Stay America has 627 properties by the same name in US and Canada.
If you currently have a reservation for arrival through April 30th and are unable to travel, you can cancel without penalty.
Health and Safety
Extended Stay America reports that, has increased the frequency of public area sanitation, paying special attention to high touch surfaces throughout the hotel. They are closely following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations on the steps needed to be taken to help prevent the spread of the virus and have reinforced with their employees the importance of good hygiene and effective cleaning protocols.
Brands: Hilton has 16 brands with more than 5,500 properties. Their popular brands include Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, among others.
- All reservations – even those described as non-cancellable (“Advanced Purchase”) – that are scheduled for arrival before April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
- For any new reservation—even those described as “non-cancellable” (“Advanced Purchase”) – that is booked between now and April 30, 2020 for any future arrival date, can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
- Hilton is pausing the expiration of all points scheduled to expire between now and May 31, 2020 for Hilton Honors Points and Status.
- For Hilton Honors Co-Brand Credits Card Weekend Night Rewards in the US, they are extending the expiration date of all unexpired rewards as of March 11, 2020 to August 31, 2021.
- For all Weekend Night Rewards issued before August 30, 2020 will be extended to expire August 31, 2021.
Health and Safety
- Hotel teams are receiving ongoing briefings and enhanced operating protocols.
- Hilton has increased the frequency of cleaning public areas (including lobbies, elevators, door handles, public bathrooms, etc.) and have continued the use of hospital-grade disinfectant.
- They continue to adjust food and beverage service in accordance with current food safety recommendations.
- They have increased the deployment of hand sanitizers.
- They have activated regional and global response teams to provide around-the-clock assistance to hotels and are prepared to act swiftly should they discover a case of coronavirus at a Hilton property.
Brands: Hyatt has 20 brands and more than 900 properties, including Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Andaz, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt House.
Existing reservations made prior to March 13 (for arrivals between March 14 and April 30) may be changed or canceled without penalty up to 24 hours in advance of scheduled arrival time. Reservations made between March 13 and April 30 for any future date can also be changed or canceled with no charge, with the same 24-hour policy.
Brands: InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has 17 brands and more than 5,500 hotels, including Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental Hotels, Kimpton Hotels, and Staybridge Suites.
- IHG is waiving cancellation fees for existing and new bookings at all IHG hotels worldwide for stays between March 9, 2020 and April 30, 2020.
- For any stay prior to March 9, 2020, you will be able to change or cancel a valid booking reservation without financial penalty if you are traveling to or from Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and the Taiwan region for any stay between January 23, 2020 and March 9, 2020.
- If you are traveling to or from Italy and South Korea you will be able to change or cancel a valid booking reservation without financial penalty for any stay between February 28, 2020 and March 9, 2020.
IHG is offering a shorter timeframe when members can earn Elite tier status, reducing the Elite membership criteria required (nights or points) this year by 25% or more. Members can continue to earn Elite membership status this year and enjoy all the IHG Rewards Club benefits through 2020 and into 2021. The change will be reflected in member accounts in the coming weeks.
Health and Safety
All IHG properties are required to adhere to comprehensive health and safety procedures. In addition, IHG provides hotels with best practices and guidelines and have supplemented these resources with additional COVID-19 cleanliness specific guidance, training and information.
Brands: Marriott has more than 6,900 properties with 30 hotel brands that include Marriott, Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, JW Marriott Renaissance Hotels, and Meridien, among many others.
- Guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates will be allowed full changes or cancellations without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival. Changes or cancellations must be made by April 30, 2020.
- New reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, between now and April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before scheduled arrival date.
- Design Hotels and Homes & Villas by Marriott International are excluded from these policies.
Health and Safety
- Proper and frequent handwashing is vital to help combat the spread of viruses. Marriott teams are reminded that cleanliness starts with this simple act.
- In addition to training on housekeeping and hygiene protocols, hotel associates are also completing enhanced COVID-19 awareness training.
- Marriott’s Corporate and regional teams are on standby 24/7 to support the hotels and coordinate with local and regional authorities.
- Hotels use cleaning and disinfecting protocols to clean rooms after guests depart and before the next guest arrives, with particular attention paid to high-touch items.
- Hotels have increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in public spaces, with a focus on the counter at the front desk, elevators and elevator buttons, door handles, public bathrooms and even room keys.
- In the spaces where associates work out of public sight, hotels are increasing the frequency of cleaning and focusing on high-touch areas like associate entrances, locker rooms, laundry rooms and staff offices.
Brands: Motel 6 includes 2 brands, Motel 6 and Studio 6 with more than 1,400 properties throughout the US and Canada.
Motel 6 is waiving cancellation penalties for all reservations throughout March.
Health and Safety
Motel 6 will identify, report, and address any potential concerns – and will continue to emphasize the importance of following our housekeeping and cleaning protocols, which include chemicals that kill influenza and other viruses when used as directed. They have provided all our locations with best practices and protocols to reinforce these increased cleaning practices.
Brands: Radisson has more than 1,100 hotels around the world with brands that include Radisson, Radisson Blu, Radisson Collection, Radisson Red, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Park Inn by Radisson and Park Plaza.
Radisson allows free modifications or cancellations for all existing and new reservations (in all countries and all RHG hotels worldwide) for stays until April 30, 2020. For reservations with stays after April 30, 2020, their normal cancellation policy applies.
Radisson Hotels is extending its point expiration policy by 6 months, effective March 1, 2020. They have also extended the elite status of members through February 2022, for those that would have expired February 2021.
Health and Safety
Radisson Hotels has activated corporate crisis response teams worldwide and all hotels have been informed in detail on essential preparatory and prevention measures. These measures range from hygiene protocol including increased cleaning and sanitizing frequency to guidelines on how to handle suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) or lockdowns for quarantine purposes in cooperation with the local authorities.
Brands: Red Roof has over 580 properties in 4 brands, including Red Roof Inn, Red Roof Plus+, The Red Collection and HomeTowne Studios by Red Roof.
For stays through April 30, 2020, cancellation fees will be waived at all Red Roof hotels and any guest wishing to cancel a pre-paid, Advance Purchase reservation, will receive a full refund. Guests who booked on redroof.com, through their Contact Center, or with a Red Roof hotel directly can call 1-800-RED-ROOF to cancel their reservation.
Health and Safety
Red Roof uses EPA-approved products that kill the COVID-19 virus. The hotel staff is being extra cautious in sanitizing guest rooms including – bathrooms, door handles, desk table and chairs, light switches and thermostats, telephone and remote, safety latches and locks, exteriors/corridors and common areas. Enhanced cleaning protocols include additional sanitation and cleaning routines that improves the sanitization of high-touch areas that affect guests and employees. High-touch areas are being cleaned and sanitized several times a day.
Brands: Wyndham has more than 20 brands with more than 9,000 hotels worldwide. Popular brands include Wyndham, Wyndham Garden, La Quinta, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Baymont, Travelodge, Microtel, Wingate, and Howard Johnson, among others.
- Guests traveling to or from Greater China, South Korea or Italy with direct bookings for stays in any Wyndham hotels through March 31, 2020 will have their cancellation or change penalties waived.
- Guests who are prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel under applicable law will have their cancellation or change penalties waived on direct bookings.
- All properties are required to accommodate non-cancellable rate reservation changes if the request is received at least 48 hours prior to arrival and the same number of room nights or more are booked for a future stay.
- Wyndham is pausing the expiration of any Wyndham Rewards points scheduled to expire between now and May 31, 2020 and have extended current Wyndham Rewards Member Levels (status) for all members in the Greater China and Southeast Asia Pacific Rim regions through the end of 2021.
- Wyndham Rewards members will receive relaxed Member Level earning requirements, among other options. Specifics will be forthcoming.
Health and Safety
Wyndham has partnered with third parties, including Ecolab and other suppliers, to provide hotels with access to industry-standard cleaning and disinfecting supplies and have made training available to support their franchisees and managed and owned hotels in achieving the highest standards of cleanliness, disinfection and hygiene.
Other Lodging Options
Besides detailing how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus, we also looked at other options such as Airbnb.
- Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, may be cancelled before check-in. This means that guests who cancel will receive a full refund, hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will refund all service fees.
- Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date after April 14, 2020, will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy, except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual. If a reservation has already begun (the check-in has passed) this extenuating circumstance does not apply.
- Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made after March 14, 2020 will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy, except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.
Airbnb has a Resource Center where you can find the latest information on their COVID-19 response, from policy updates to resources for hosts and guests. Some of these include:
- Coronavirus travel advisories around the world
- Answers for hosts about coronavirus
- Answers for travelers about coronavirus
OTAs, Expedia, Priceline, etc.
While it’s helpful to know how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus, if you’ve booked through a third party OTA (Online Travel Agent) such as Expedia or Priceline or any of their subsidiaries, you will need to deal with them directly—not the hotel–with regard to cancellations, etc.
Expedia, which includes Expedia, Obitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, CheapTickets asks that you not call until within 7 days of your trip, due to a heavy influx of calls. They suggest signing into your own account, finding My Trips and and clicking on Change to see whether you can change your reservation and whether there will be a penalty.
Priceline, which is part of Booking Holdings, that includes Booking.com, Kayak and Agoda, asks that you don’t call unless you are traveling within 72 hours. They have a COVID-19 Advisories and Information page where they suggest you log-in to see if you can make the cancellation on-line.
Online Travel Agents usually adopt the policy of the hotel it’s partnered with so you should benefit from the same coronavirus policies that the hotel itself is offering.
Overall, with regard to how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus, they are reacting like we all are: trying to absorb the scope, size and severity of the outbreak while trying to keep up with the constant updates on new findings about the disease. For those in the hotel sector, that means ensuring the safety of their customers and employees by maintaining strict adherence to CDC and WHO guidelines for their properties as well as offering sensible and flexible policies that will minimize penalties. In short, when looking at how all the major hotel chains are reacting to the coronavirus, we’ve found they are implementing policies that will allow travelers to feel that all possible precautions have been taken to make their trip as safe, healthy and, yes, perhaps even enjoyable, as possible.