In hotel news this week, Hyatt creates a new brand for independent hotels; Marriott clears a hurdle in its planned merger with Starwood; what Hilton learned from its $50 cancellation fee experiment; and several Las Vegas properties boost their “resort fees.”
Marriott has its Autograph Collection, Hilton has its Curio Collection, Starwood has its Tribute Portfolio, and now Hyatt has created its own similar brand of affiliated but independent hotels that will participate in the Hyatt reservations system and loyalty program. It’s called The Unbound Collection by Hyatt. The company said the new group will feature “upper-upscale and luxury properties,” both existing and new, and will include “historic urban gems, contemporary trend-setters, boutique hotels, resorts, and more.” The first properties to join The Unbound Collection are The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Hotel du Louvre in Paris, the Carmelo Resort in Carmelo, Uruguay; and the Coco Palms Resort in Kauai.
The planned acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts by Marriott International got a boost this week when the deal’s antitrust waiting period expired with no action from the federal government. “The expiration of the waiting period means the parties have cleared the premerger antitrust review in the United States, satisfying one of the closing conditions of the pending combination transactions,” Marriott said in a statement. The company noted that the waiting period in Canada also passed without any action from that government, but it noted that it is still working with competition authorities in other countries to secure their approvals. Marriott and Starwood stockholders are expected to vote on the merger March 28.
Last fall, Hilton Hotels started a test at 20 hotels, charging customers $50 if they canceled their reservation at any time after making it, unless it was within 24 hours of arrival, in which case a one night’s room charge applied (HHonors members were exempt from the fee test). That test is over, and Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said in a call with analysts that guests who had to pay the fee “hated it.” But he said that was just the first step in Hilton’s ongoing plans to move ahead with new pricing or fee models in which customers will incur an added cost if they want the flexibility to cancel at any time – just as airline customers pay more for a fully refundable ticket. Part of the reason hotel operators want to tighten up cancellation policies is the growth of websites that allow customers to search for better prices than the one booked, then cancel and rebook at the lower rate.
Las Vegas, one of the nation’s top convention venues and the home of the largest and most widespread mandatory “resort fees” in the hotel business, is taking things up a notch. According to the Los Angeles Times, five big Caesars Entertainment hotels on the Strip are raising their resort fees by 10 percent, from $29 to $32 a day. They are Caesars Palace, Nobu, the Cromwell, Paris, and Planet Hollywood. Although the fees are separate from room rates, guests must pay them even if they don’t use the services they are intended to cover, like Wi-Fi, local phone calls and use of the fitness center. The newspaper noted that the higher resort fees come just a few weeks after MGM Resorts in Las Vegas said it plans to start charging guests a fee for parking, whether they self-park or use valets.
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