In an announcement earlier today, large online travel agency (OTA) booking.com has notified its booking partners that any requests from guests for refunds of reservation prepayments, through its website or call centres, will be provided without penalty, for countries that have been declared subject to the Force Majeure/Forced Circumstances clause in the partner agreement.
The OTA also directed accommodation providers to refund, upon direct request by clients, all prepayments, without any cancellation fees or other penalties.
For Costa Rican providers (and an increasingly growing list of other countries), the notice affects all reservations with a check-in date between 19 March 2020 and 12 April 2020, inclusive (relevant to international travellers only, domestic travel is not affected).
Unsurprisingly, hotel operators and other tourism providers who use booking.com’s services are disappointed. As one, Quepos hotelier Boris Marchegiani, said in an industry chat on Facebook, “This is a one-sided decision that neither considers the views of hoteliers nor lets us negotiate with customers to re-schedule the trip, or generate future travel credit. It is CATASTROPHIC that Booking unilaterally decided this policy. We understand the circumstances, but we have options to be flexible about date changes.” (translation)
Keven Peoples, General Manager of San José-based ClickAss Tourism Marketing, is sympathetic to Marchegiani’s complaint, but sees little chance of fighting it, given booking.com’s size and strength in the marketplace. “This is one example of why we strongly encourage our clients to rely less on OTAs like booking.com. There are some very effective ways that hotels can encourage more guests to bypass OTAs and book directly. Unfortunately, too many providers just accept OTA dominance and don’t fight back, and it’s costing them money.”
We’ll paraphrase a former Prime Minister of Canada here: Depending on OTAs is like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.
Read the full twitch from booking.com here.