Cancellations, refunds: Managing hotel, Airbnb bookings during calamity
MANILA, Philippines – On what everyone thought was going to be just another slow and easy weekend in Tagaytay City, ash and hot steam suddenly shot out of the Taal Volcano on Sunday, January 12.
The effects of the volcanic activity were quick and immediately felt – by 7:30 pm on Sunday, state volcanologists raised Alert Level 4 for the Batangas volcano because a "hazardous" eruption was likely to happen "within hours to days."
Thousands of residents from the towns surrounding the volcano were evacuated but thousands of nonresidents – those who happened to be in Batangas and nearby Cavite when the eruption happened – found themselves stuck as ashfall made mobility dangerous or downright impossible. Electricity is also out for many areas affected by the ashfall.
Definitely, the areas immediately surrounding the volcano are off-limits. But unless you absolutely need to, you're better off avoiding areas that may not be in imminent danger but are still exposed to ashfall.
Here are the policies you can refer to if you've already booked a weekend getaway at popular destinations affected by the eruption:
According to Airbnb, a popular homestay portal, they "may be able to give you a refund or waive the cancellation penalties" if the reasons for a cancellation is out of a user's control.
Reasons that require proper documentation include transportation disruptions, such as train, bus, or ferry cancellations.
Airbnb also said that several reasons don't require documentation at all – a "specialized team" will be in charge of reviewing each case. These reasons include natural disasters, terrorist activity, and civil/political unrest.
The process is straight forward:
- Cancel your booking.
- Contact Airbnb to formally file a claim within 14 days of cancellation; the site will walk you through the process.
- Submit any necessary documents.
Cancellation policies can differ from one hotel to another, so the best option would still be to call ahead of time, especially if you've already paid for your accommodations.
Sites such as Agoda and Hotel.com, popular hotel booking platforms, also have different policies.
On Agoda, for instance, you may still be charged if you cancel your reservation beyond a date they specify. It doesn't specify a clear policy for natural calamities.
Hotel.com is a little more straight forward – it advices people to change or cancel bookings right away should "severe weather" be a concern at one's destination. Still, the site encourages travelers to contact the hotel or rental themselves.
In the case of the 2020 Taal Vocano eruption, a handful of hotels in Tagaytay City – a popular vacation destination that offers an amazing view of Taal Volcano – are still running, albeit in a limited capacity. But others, such as the posh Escala Tagaytay, opted to shut down given the situation.
A good rule of thumb would be to call ahead of time. Also, be mindful that hotel staff are either busy tending to remaining guests or are affected by the ashfall themselves, so be patient.
Phivolcs, or the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, has said that Taal Volcano's eruption can last for months or even years. – Rappler.com