Marriott, Booking Holdings warn of virus hit as JetBlue waives cancellation fees

This photo taken on January 11, 2018 shows a woman walking past Marriott signage in Hangzhou in China’s Zhejiang province.

– | AFP | Getty Images

Hotel operator Marriott International said it expects a roughly $25 million hit to its monthly fee revenue from the fast-spreading coronavirus, as U.S. airline JetBlue Airways said it would drop cancellation fees, even though it doesn’t serve markets hit hardest by the outbreak.

The travel industry has been facing mounting problems after weeks of cancellations focused on Asia, with online travel agency Booking Holdings forecasting a wider-than-usual range for its first-quarter outlook, citing uncertain travel demand and flagging a significant hit to the period from the virus.

Hawaiian Airlines has suspended flights between the international airports at Honolulu and Incheon, South Korea beginning March 2 through April 30, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Asian country.

The United States told Americans on Tuesday to begin preparing for the coronavirus to spread within the country as outbreaks in Iran, South Korea, and Italy escalated, triggering concerns of a hit to global travel demand.

“Due to the uncertainty regarding the duration and extent of the coronavirus outbreak, Marriott cannot fully estimate the financial impact from the virus, which could be material to first-quarter and full-year 2020 results,” Marriott said, adding that room additions in 2020 could also be delayed as a result of the outbreak.

Marriott, which is currently facing low occupancy rates in the Asia Pacific region, has also issued cancellation fee waivers for guests affected by the virus outbreak in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan until March 15.

U.S. airlines and hotels are extending options for customers to rebook travel to a growing list of countries, including Italy, as coronavirus cases spike beyond China and spark fears of a global pandemic.

“It is not possible to predict where, and to what degree, outbreaks of the coronavirus will disrupt travel patterns,” Booking said in its earnings release.

JetBlue which only flies in the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America, became the first U.S. airline to offer waivers for all travel on Wednesday, announcing it would suspend change and cancellation fees for new flight bookings between Feb. 27 and March 11 this year.

“While authorities have not issued any travel restrictions to the locations we fly, we want to give our customers some peace of mind that we are ready to support them should the situation change,” JetBlue said in a statement.

Marriott reported a quarterly profit above analyst estimates on Wednesday as occupancy and room prices in North America inched higher. The company also forecast revenue per available room growth a measure of a hotel’s financial performance to be between flat and up 2% in 2020.

The hotel operator said it expects 2020 earnings, excluding the impact of the virus, to be between $6.30 and $6.53 per share. Analysts were expecting $6.47 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

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