Update: The Oregon Department of Justice said a dozen people have filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice against nine hotels. The DOJ asked anyone who's had this happen to them to submit a complaint through OregonConsumer.gov or call the DOJ consumer hotline at 503-229-5576.
PORTLAND, Ore.— Many visitors who booked hotel rooms more than a year in advance of this summer’s total solar eclipse have had their reservations canceled as hotels raise prices.
Customers say they’ve been told hotel rooms are either no longer available or must be re-booked at a much higher rate – in one case, for $1,000 a night.
“They realized they could get more money,” said Steven Addams of Keizer. “This is a big deal. People’s plans are getting canceled, getting ruined.”
Thousands of tourists are expected visit Oregon for this summer’s solar eclipse as the moon completely blocks out the sun. On August 21, the eclipse will touch down just north of Depoe Bay at 10:15 a.m. The moon’s 90-mile wide shadow will move diagonally through 12 states from Oregon to South Carolina.
It is the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979.
Addams anticipated there would be a rush on hotel rooms in the viewing area, so he booked early to help accommodate friends. Addams said he received confirmation for his hotel rooms at the Quality Suites in Keizer on March 31, 2016. Emails show the reservation confirmation number and price of $135.89 per room.
“I thought everything was good,” said Addams.
He called to confirm his room reservations after reading a recent news report about increased hotel demand for the eclipse. The Quality Suites said the reservations had been canceled. A customer service representative explained there was a “computer glitch” and there was nothing management could do to help him with accommodations.
“They said they were overbooked and they didn't have any rooms for us and they had been cancelling reservations,” explained Addams.
A hotel manager at Quality Suites declined to comment on camera. A company spokesperson did not respond to an email from KGW.
Nearly a half dozen similar complaints about hotels cancelling reservations have been filed with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office. There are also posts on Facebook. Several disappointed consumers emailed KGW to express their frustration.
“It is a scientific event. You could have figured this whole thing out ahead of time and not canceled on somebody who already booked,” said Julie Taylor of Southwest Portland.
Taylor reserved a room at the Liberty Inn in Lincoln City in August 2016 – roughly one year prior to the eclipse. She said the online reservation confirmed the room rate at $130 per night.
When she called this February to confirm the room, the Liberty Inn said they’d canceled her reservation and she would need to rebook at a higher rate.
“She was like, ‘we canceled all of those. Just canceled them all. You should have gotten a phone call,” said Taylor. “They told me the rates had changed and it was $1,000 a night now.”
A review of the travel website Expedia shows rooms available at the Liberty Inn on August 20-21, 2017 for $1,000 per night.
KGW tried to speak with employees at the Liberty Inn about cancelations and pricing but was asked to leave the property.
“Everybody is doing it,” an employee shouted from the parking lot. “Go on Expedia. Everyone is charging the same amount.”
The travel website shows one other hotel in Lincoln City with availability on August 20-21. The Comfort Inn & Suites posted a room for $999 per night. Other hotels in the area advertised that they are sold out.
Airbnb also reported a spike in demand for cities in the path of the eclipse. In Salem, for example, bookings are up more than 2,500 percent the week of the eclipse compared to the previous week. Bookings spiked 212 percent in Lincoln City during the eclipse, according to a company spokeswoman.
A search on Airbnb’s website showed most listings still available that weekend in in Lincoln City were around $700 a night.
In Oregon, hotels can charge whatever they want but can’t be deceptive in advertising or marketing of prices.
For example, if a hotel advertised a certain rate on its website and a consumer relied on that rate, then changing the price after a consumer has made a reservation could be considered false advertising and misrepresentation, explained the Oregon Attorney General’s Office.
Consumers who felt like they were misled can submit a complaint form online at www.oregonconsumer.gov.
Consumers with existing hotel reservations for the solar eclipse should call to confirm before arriving so they’re not left in the dark.
“They had canceled our reservation without telling us,” explained Addams. The Keizer man and his friends are now trying to come up with an alternate plan for this summer’s solar eclipse after losing their rooms at the Quality Suites.
“Tourists are coming to Oregon and they're being told ‘sorry’ and that's not right,” he said.