Many of the chains with properties in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have issued policies regarding meeting cancellations.
- Starwood Hotels and Resorts. is letting groups out of their meeting at its three New Orleans properties--the New Orleans Sheraton, the W French Quarter, and the W New Orleans--through March 31, 2006. But after that the hotel chain intends to hold groups to their contracts, with some exceptions, says David Scypinski, senior vice president, industry relations, at Starwood.
- Hilton Hotels Corp. has waived group cancellation damages for meetings through December 31, 2005, at hotels in the New Orleans area and Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Since New Orleans' convention center will not be available until March 31, the policy is extended to March 31 for groups with meetings at the center. The Hilton Family of Hotels--Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton--had 29 properties close because of the storm, and 25 that remained closed at press time, the largest being the 1,616-room Hilton New Orleans Riverside. The company has established a Hurricane Group Bookings Hotline for inquiries: (866) 973-8030.
- Hyatt Hotels Corp. has canceled all group business through 2006 at the 1,184-room Hyatt Regency New Orleans. All cancellation fees will be waived.
- Marriott Corp.'s Mike Beardsley, senior vice president of sales, North America, says, "We have proactively contacted every group [booked at hurricane-affected Marriott hotels] through the end of the year and are in the process of moving them to other Marriott hotels. If we can't help them at a Marriott hotel, we will forward the business to another chain." For groups with meetings in 2006, he says, "We're asking for patience. If they absolutely insist on moving their meeting, we are asking them to book another Marriott hotel, and give us a meeting [in the affected property] in the future. That's our current stance, but with the rate things are changing, we will re-evaluate as the situation becomes clearer."
- Sonesta, which describes the damage at its 500-room Royal Sonesta Hotel and 251-room Chateau Sonesta in New Orleans as "minimal," is allowing groups scheduled through December to cancel without penalty. In addition, for groups meeting in January, February, or March 2006, that insist on cancelling and that Sonesta is unable to rebook at another of its properties, may cancel without penalty. Sonesta is expecting to firm up a policy regarding groups booked beyond March 31, 2006, in the near future and is working with those groups on a case-by-case basis.
- InterContinental Hotels Group--which includes InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn hotels and resorts, among other brands--is waiving group cancellation fees at properties in New Orleans and in other areas extensively damaged by Hurricane Katrina for stays through December 31, 2005. Cancellations by individuals and groups traveling out of highly impacted areas will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans is not accepting reservations through March 2006.