TORONTO — First it was the 48-hour cancellation policy and fee, a move that major competitors followed within months. Now Marriott’s cost-cutting measures are hitting the travel trade, as the hotel company announces it will reduce the commission it pays on group bookings from 10% down to 7%, effective March 31, 2018.
Agency groups are already speaking out against the cut, which applies to commissions earned on group bookings made by group and meetings intermediaries for all properties in the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S., ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby released this statement:
“While we are in the process of assessing the impact of Marriott’s announcement on our members’ businesses, we are disappointed in the signal that a cut of this magnitude sends to the broader agency community.
“Travellers – individuals and groups, corporate and leisure – are relying now more than ever on trusted agents to help them sort through a multitude of travel options and get the best value for their travel dollar.
“In our view, a 30% cut in intermediary compensation diminishes the value of the role agents play in this complex and ever-changing industry.
“We plan to discuss this change with Marriott, our agency and consortia members and other stakeholders with an eye toward ensuring positive business outcomes for all involved.”
This is the latest cost-cutting measure for Marriott, now bigger than ever after its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, announced in 2015. The Starwood acquisition had a transformative impact on Marriott’s global footprint: Marriott went from operating in 87 countries and territories at the end of 2015 to 122 by the end of 2016, taking a significant lead in market share over its next largest competitor. According to Bloomberg News, the merger increased Marriott’s size globally by 40%, to some 6,400 properties by the end of 2017.
In July 2017 Marriott announced its new 48-hour cancellation policy, which levies a fee equivalent to the cost of one night’s stay to travellers who cancel their Marriott bookings with less than 48 hours notice.
Marriott said its move was based on the number of rooms that were cancelled at the last minute and going empty, resulting in lost revenue.
And earlier this year Hyatt fell in line too, with its own 48-hour booking policy. Hyatt guests now face a cancellation fee if they cancel a reservation within 48 hours or less.