Shaky times for hoteliers as guests cancel bookings

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013

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Hoteliers have been left out of pocket with tourism and business bookings cancelled following the magnitude 6.5 earthquake felt in Wellington on Sunday, but the restaurant trade picked up yesterday.

The Wellington president of Hospitality New Zealand, Jeremy Smith, said the level of cancellations was a concern.

"We're getting quite a few hotel cancellations. In the hotels I've spoken to, occupancy has dropped this week from around the expected 70 per cent by around 20, 30 per cent, so that is a bit of a concern in the short term. I think it's going to have a pretty big impact on July turnover."

The Mercure on Willis St was evacuated following Sunday's shake and guests were relocated to its sister hotel, the 111-room Mercure Wellington on the Terrace. Accor marketing director for New Zealand Lucy Acott said the chain, which owns the Mercure, Ibis and Pullman brands, was allowing guests to cancel or amend bookings up to and including August 12. Some had taken up the option, leaving the capital.

"I did hear, speaking to the hotel general managers, they had some cancellations. We wouldn't want to say how many because [it is] commercially sensitive."

The manager of the Terrace hotel Novotel, Philip Hilton, said it had received a significant number of cancellations earlier this week, in line with what he expected.

"On Monday and Tuesday we saw a number of cancellations for this week, the remainder of this week and for early next week.

"Having said that, they have started to slow down now and we have seen booking patterns start to return to normal for the beginning of August."

There is no industry-wide cancellation policy. Ann-Marie Johnson, communications manager for the Tourism Industry Association, which the Hotel Council was integrated into last year, said it was up to each hotel.

"It's really up to the individual hotel or organisation as to how they deal with that and enforce a cancellation policy they have, taking into account unusual events like an earthquake, whether they want to show goodwill to their customers. But they have to balance that against they have to make a living."

Flight Centre had not experienced an influx of people wanting to change their travel plans to Wellington, according to its senior PR executive, Karina Rowling.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said there had been a few cancellations and a few people had cut trips short, with travel plans affected by Civil Defence advising people to avoid the CBD. "There is not a lot of leisure travel going on midweek at this time of year. Talking to a few of the hoteliers, it just seems to be short-term [cancellations]."

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- The Dominion Post

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