Hoteliers offering guests more wiggle room during the pandemic

Beginning in January, Dromoland Castle in Ireland will begin offering guests a 24-hour check-in window: If they check in at 4 p.m., they have until 4 p.m. to checkout when they leave.
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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

One of the biggest -- and most welcome -- changes the pandemic has brought for travelers is flexibility.

Airlines have dropped what had become increasingly exorbitant change fees, and shorter deposit windows and fee-free last-minute changes and cancellations are being offered on everything from tours to cruises.

Even hotels, which generally have some of the most lenient change and cancellations policies, are getting in the game.

Peninsula Hotels, for instance, just unveiled what it calls "Peninsula Time," which will eliminate those traditional late afternoon check-in and midday checkout times. Beginning in January, guests may check in as early as 6 a.m. on their arrival date and check out as late as 10 p.m. on their departure date at no charge when they book directly or with their travel advisor.

Flexible check-ins are hardly new. But while they have been introduced here and there over the years -- or reserved for elite rewards members -- they've never really taken off in the broader hotel world. And for obvious reasons: imagine the headache of trying to operate a hotel at 90% occupancy when everyone gets to call their own check-in and checkout time.

But it certainly makes sense during a time of low occupancy to offer guests a little more flexibility.

As Gareth Roberts, group director of brand and operations support for the Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, which owns and operates Peninsula Hotels said, "Now that travel has become somewhat more challenging, we understand that extra time is one of the most meaningful gifts we can provide to our guests.

"By letting guests arrive earlier and stay longer, we hope to provide them with greater peace of mind -- and an even more personalized experience."

In addition to Peninsula, La Reserve Geneva, is among hotels that have begun easing up on check-in and checkout times, letting guests arrive as early as 8 a.m. and stay until 8 p.m. the following day.

The Kensington in London is offering check-in from 10 a.m. and checkout up to 4 p.m., and they said they can also accommodate earlier arrivals and later departures on request.

Beginning in January, Dromoland Castle in Ireland will begin offering guests a 24-hour check-in/checkout option. In other words, if a guest arrives at 4 p.m., they have until 4 p.m. to check out at the end of their stay.

With hotel occupancies so low globally, it's a trend we can expect to see grow. Unfortunately, like the elimination of airline changes, it probably won't last.

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