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What’s up with nationality restrictions at some hotels?

No Vacancy

Do some hotels in Thailand discriminate against guests based on their nationality?

While browsing through a number of third party hotel reservation booking sites, I occasionally come across hotels that have a notice regarding a restriction on the nationalities of guests who can book through their site.

For example on Agoda, I sometimes see things like this:

NoticePlease note that this hotel operates exclusive contracts with other vendors to service specific markets and thus these rates do not apply to nationals of Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Looking at the list of countries, I could not help but become suspicious. Could it be that the hotel simply doesn’t want guests from this region of the world in their hotel?[wpbrsizezone size_id="11" zone_id="1"]

While most of the hotels for which this policy is displayed are in the 3.5 star range, there are a few 4 and 5 star hotels.

I called a couple of these hotels and was assured that they accept guests regardless of nationality. They even proceeded to process a reservation for me while I claimed that I carried an Egyptian passport at one hotel, and a Moroccan passport at another.

I’ve also seen these types of nationality restrictions listed for Japanese and Thai nationals as well. From first hand experience, I know exactly what these two are about.

Many hotels and resorts throughout Thailand offer discounted rates to Thai nationals, and foreigners living in Thailand. This is because rates are normally geared towards foreign tourists, who for the most part, are more affluent than the locals. Showing your Thai passport or work permit will entitle you to a discount at such hotels which is not available through third party booking sites, thus the notice.

The Japanese market however, is a totally different story. In the local market, Japanese hotels charge by the guest, not by the room, basically doubling or tripling the yield per room. With Japanese travelers accustomed to this arrangement, some travel agencies conspire with hotels overseas to basically extract twice the money per hotel room from Japanese guests. Of course if Japanese guests rock up with a normal booking – not the jacked-up per person rate- the hotel is not going to reject the reservation.

I have come to the conclusion that such nationality restrictions are not a sign of racism by the hotel, or the reservation company. I feel that we can take the policy at face value and believe that certain hotels have signed exclusive deals with particular travel companies in certain countries.

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I also suspect, though of course I have not confirmed, that if a person of one of the nationalities listed makes a reservation, that it will be honored by the hotel.

Have you ever had experience with booking at a hotel with such “restrictions” If so, please share your story below.

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