Hotels tightening cancellation rules

Some hotels are tightening their rules to ensure more rooms are available at any time of the day.

Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International have new cancellation policies in place that are designed to prevent guests from canceling reservations at the last minute before they are due to check in.

As of Jan. 1, both chains now require customers to cancel any reservations by midnight the day before they are due to arrive. If customers don’t make the cancellation in time, they might be required tor pay a cancellation fee, which can cost the same price as the room they planned to stay in.

The companies said the change will ensure that more rooms will be available at all times for customers in need of spur-of-the-moment lodging.

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But the hotel chains also are adding services. Hilton, Marriott and several other chains now offer free wireless Internet service for guests. However, guests will have to sign up for the hotel’s free loyalty or rewards program to enjoy the free Internet.

Members of the Marriott rewards program started receiving free Internet service on Jan. 15 as long as they reserved their room directly with the company and not through services such as Orbitz or Expedia.

Hotel Indigo, which is owned by InterContinental Hotel Groups, already offers free Wi-Fi services and has for some time, hotel general manager Cindy Waddle said.

Waddle said having Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury for customers but an amenity.

Hotels that charge for Internet are charging from about $10 to $40 a night, depending on the location and connection speed.

However, in cities like Indianapolis, Las Vegas or New York, customers still are charged to use Wi-Fi at some hotels and usually will pay the price, she said.

“Every brand and every chain is somewhat different in what their standards are for their properties. For instance, free wireless is something that has been offered at most of the chains in the Columbus area for quite some time,” she said. “That’s not something new for the hotels in this area.”

Hyatt Hotels, which has locations in Bloomington and Indianapolis, started offering free Wi-Fi in February. That service can be accessed at all Hyatt locations around the world and on an unlimited number of wireless devices.

“Today, people consider smartphones just as important as their car and more important than television or coffee,” said Kristine Rose, vice president of brands for Hyatt. “Travelers feel out of sync with their lives when they can’t freely connect. Giving free Wi-Fi without a catch will enable us to continue innovating the guest experience to help people be more productive and stay better connected to colleagues, friends and family.”

As for the cancellation fees, Waddle said Hotel Indigo allows customers to cancel a reservation as late as 6 p.m. before the booked date and time without paying a cancellation fee.

Hilton Worldwide, which owns the Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn near the Edinburgh Premium Outlets mall, requires all cancellations to be made by 11:59 p.m. local hotel time the day before the arrival.

Hilton spokesman Blake Rouhani said in a statement that any reservations canceled at midnight or after the night before the booking will be charged for one night’s stay.

“Along with providing guests greater consistency in the booking process, we anticipate these changes will make more rooms available for travelers needing last-minute accommodations,” Rouhani said.

He said guests staying at a Hilton location should check with the specific hotel as its cancellation procedures could be different depending on the location and date of the reservation.