Starwood postpones India property opening, leaves me in the lurch

One of the anticipated hotel launches for the year for me is the Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa. This is a resort that has been in the making forever, and I was very excited when they decided to open up March 1, 2015.

Eager to check it out earlier than everyone else, I went ahead and made reservations for the coming weekend, except, the property has not opened doors yet.

I got an email from the sales team of the hotel, a month ago informing me about the fact that the hotel is not opening. No remorse, nothing except an apology. As if, I am supposed to take it as fait accompli that the hotel decided not to open for a few more weeks and I should rearrange my plans around theirs.

I asked them to activate a service recovery. I never heard back from the hotel, and I contacted Starwood on Twitter. They simply asked me to be in touch with the hotel.

Yawn. Next up, the folks at the Starwood hotel in question come back to me with a wishy washy email offering me a perishable commodity, with no certainty:

Invalid request error occurred.Invalid request error occurred.Invalid request error occurred.As mentioned in my previous email, it is really unfortunate that we will not be able to open Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar by the time you wanted to visit the property.

However on your next stay post hotel opening, we will be delighted to upgrade you to a higher room category including suites subjected to availability.

Now, I don’t know the way this resort will take about treating elites, but I think I know elites can be guaranteed not to be upgraded without special consideration. I am not trying to be a DYKWIA here.

That uncertainty was not good enough for me. Also, it pinched me hard that the hotel, for a fault of their own, is making genuine customers suffer. I wrote back expressing dissatisfaction. So then, they come back with another one which was a fair deal for them:

However on your next stay post hotel opening, we will be delighted to offer you a complimentary room (Classic Forest) for one night with Buffet Breakfast at Latest Recipe for two adults. Valid till August 31, 2015.

Somewhere they also mentioned over the phone that this offer was going to be only valid for a weekday stay.

All of this occurred as odd to me.

First and foremost, they are going to be cancelling a two night booking and offer me a single night in return. They did not touch the subject of the cost of organising a vehicle which I touched upon for pickup and drop from Mumbai as well.

Then, they expect me to take a day off during the week to visit a place about 6-7 hours drive away from home, and stay there for one night and come back to Mumbai with another long drive. All that during the times it rains heavily in Mahabaleshwar and hence you can’t do much but to sleep or watch TV in the resort.

I laid out my case to the hotel, and this time, they kicked it upwards, but still without a satisfactory resolution:

We will be able to consider a relocation of your reservation and pay for the first night of your room rate accommodation for your first stay on ______ for two nights. We will be happy to send you a check on production of the verifiable charges in Mahabaleshwar for the specific nights you booked with us.

Hell yeah, making it up to the customer is not an art this property clearly learnt, and instead of making it up to the customer, they did not get the 3 problems I outlined to them clearly:

  • I was planning a trip to Mahabaleshwar to experience their resort, not a comparable resort. I made my reservation in good faith after they opened the reservations.
  • I made a reservation for two nights, so wanting to pick the tab for one night does not make good for the discomfort they are putting me through.
  • I have a confirmed vehicle reservation paid in full, so they can and should provide for the commute.

I’d have imagined these issues to be addressed, and the hotel being apologetic. However, I find them unapologetic and taking a bargaining stance, which is so unfortunate. When that would happen at a non-brand hotel, I’d have taken it into my stride. But when a Starwood does that to you, you feel burnt!

What do you think is a good make-up offer from the hotel for the continuous shuffling they are going to put me through at the moment?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Are you actually out any money? You mention a paid in full vehicle reservation but don’t mention how much you paid, whether it’s refundable, or whether it can be moved. Perhaps the hotel can move it.

    I agree that it appears you haven’t communicated very well with them and wonder if there is a language barrier. It would be helpful if you CLEARLY told them what you wanted. Additionally remember that you should ask for things that are valuable to you but don’t cost them all that much. Be reasonable. Canceling your two night stay does not justify a request for a free two night stay. You need to give them some opportunity to make revenue from you on this stay. Also explain to them why what they’ve offered so far isn’t valuable to you. For example, the people at the hotel aren’t going to be as familiar yet with the Platinum benefits as you and may not have known you are Platinum and would’ve been expecting a suite upgrade regardless.

  2. I am usually happy with the amount of starpoints needed for a standard room at the property at the time of a cancellation like this. But I expect them to express apologies, be frank and appreciate that I was putting in an effort to stay with them.

  3. Have you actually outlined them what you consider to be a fair reimbursement for this fiasco?

    When customer service desk are too dumb to understand, sometimes you just have to spell it out.

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