October 21, 2021
Hotel guests are finding that perks they’ve long expected, like free breakfast or drinks, are still being advertised even when they are no longer available, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Eighteen months into the pandemic, travelers say they keep encountering misleading and false promises on hotel websites.
Indeed, the Journal notes, some road warriors say they routinely call ahead now to find out what the hotel has cut. Guests often see compensation for service cuts only after complaining.
The biggest difference between business-class rooms and regular rooms at Radisson Hotels is breakfast. It’s included with a business-class booking but not when paying regular rates. Except many U.S. Radissons still haven’t reopened restaurants, so every guest gets a grab-and-go breakfast.
Somebody ought to tell Radisson’s website and reservations department. The chain was still selling business-class rooms at higher prices as of Tuesday afternoon, October 19. A one-night stay this week costs $5 more. But book five mid-November nights at the Schaumburg hotel and a regular king-bed room costs $94 a night, while a business-class king is $219 for the same dates. For that money, you’re basically getting some bonus points and drink vouchers.
Radisson didn’t respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.
It isn’t always clear whether service reductions are due to COVID-19 safety precautions or cost-cutting. Some hotels are offering hot buffets on weekends, when they’re full, but no hot breakfast on weekdays, when occupancy is lower because of weak business travel.
Roger Hooson, a recently retired urban planner from the San Francisco Bay Area, called the Hyatt Regency St. Louis. They told him the restaurant had reopened and he’d get free breakfast, since he’s at a top tier of Hyatt’s loyalty program. He arrived earlier this month and was told yes, the restaurant had indeed reopened, but not on the days of his visit.
“It’s a shifting target,” he says. A spokesperson for Hyatt says its hotels try to find alternatives for eligible World of Hyatt members when complimentary breakfast isn’t available.
Hotel chains have almost universally posted notices on their websites that some amenities may not be available at some properties because of the pandemic. But drill down to offerings at specific hotels, and often nothing has been updated.
“We are now past the point where the pandemic is a temporary excuse,” says Jay Sorensen, a consultant to travel companies on branding and loyalty. “In today’s environment, it should be so simple to effectively convey what is happening or not happening on a property-by-property basis, and they are not.”
Sorensen told the Journal that he thinks many hotels are damaging the credibility of their websites and apps as sources of accurate information about properties—and how people view their brands, too. If your brand is free hot breakfasts and you’re not consistently providing them, you’ve got a problem.
Similarly, Karl Chang of Richmond, Virginia, who retired during the pandemic but continues to travel frequently, says he avoids full-service Marriotts because his titanium status no longer gets him any amenities such as free breakfast or loyalty-member lounges. Grab-and-go offerings often amount to high-calorie breakfast bars and other processed foods.
Instead, he now gravitates to limited-service hotels that still have a free breakfast for everyone, albeit with reduced offerings. Some hotels will compensate guests for reduced amenities by offering bonus points or even gift cards toward future stays.
“It’s something you have to ask for,” Chang notes. “Hotels may not be volunteering these extra benefits.”
Research contact: @WSJ