Accommodation bookings & natural weather events or disasters

With the recent floods in NSW, I was pondering the following question:

What happens to people who have booked accommodation, which they then cannot use due to a weather event such as flooded roads. What happens if the actual venue is intact, but cannot be reached due to road diversions?

I can see that both the traveller and the inn-keeper (for want of a better generic term) would believe that they are in the right. The inn-keeper because the room is available, and the traveller because they can not access the accommodation.

What happens in such a situation when the accommodation is pre-paid, or a deposit is paid? Should the traveller be refunded, or is the inn-keeper entitled to keep the money?

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If one has travel insurance, it should be covered by most policies. …either cancellation of the trip due not being able to start the journey to the planned destination or additional costs associated with not being able to complete the planned journey, esp. if travel to flooded area was part of a bigger trip or the trip had already commenced.

If one doesn’t have travel insurance, I expect that it would be dependent on the refund policy by individual companies…in the booking T&Cs. This would include costs associated with accommodation and travel fare/car hire. Some may be willing to give credit to a postponed journey, some may give refunds or some may give refunds (or not) in accordance with their own booking cancellation policy. Some may be willing to bend their cancellation policies if rebooked or to keep customers happy in the case of a force majeure.

It is possible to get domestic travel insurance (travel by Aussies in Australia), but I haven’t ever met anyone who has taken out such policies.

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Thanks @phb

I was aware of travel insurance for o/s, but not for domestic travel, apart from what airlines sell.

As you stated, I was assuming that the average punter doesn’t have travel insurance for road trips. What you answered was what I was thinking, but it is good to have it confirmed. :slight_smile:

Hi @meltam,

Last year we published this piece on holiday rights and accommodation which you might find useful.

The ACCC actually refers specifically to the issue you’ve described above in its guide to accommodation providers as a “frustrated contract”.

What does this actually mean? A frustrated contract occurs when it is impossible to carry out a contract due to events beyond the control of all parties to that contract. You should be able to cancel without any fee - if you haven’t pre-paid for a discounted rate and forgone cancellation rights. In this case, you may be able to recover costs from your insurer, but always check the PDS.

Here’s a good example: I was meant to go camping on the weekend. For anyone else reading this from Sydney, you’ll know that it’s been raining for at least a million years straight (ok, not really, but at least all week). NSW Parks rang me to let me know the causeway was flooded and the campground was closed and that I’d be offered a refund as the service isn’t available.

You’d hope that most accommodation providers would do the right thing, like in this example. But for peace of mind, check our travel insurance reviews.


Thanks @TillySouth.

Duh! I didn’t even think of looking back through Choice. Mia Culpa!

That’s what we’re here for @meltam :slight_smile:

Only we’re lucky(?) enough to know the full volume of CHOICE content and it’s helpful for us if people start a discussion in the forum on these issues as well as we can get a feel for what some of the main issues with businesses are.


@meltam I had this exact situation in April 2015. We had accommodation in booked Newcastle via but learned the pacific highway travelling south was closed so we called the accommodation and they processed a cancellation and refund back through .

Any reasonable accommodation provider should act in the same way but if you have any problems it’s nice to know you can quote the ACCC guidance on frustrated contracts.

And for any high value holidays booked in Australia, a decent domestic travel insurance policy is useful.


We had the same issue arise with the recent flooding of the Avon River. Our cancellation policy states our terms quite clearly, so we were entitled to keep the money as the property was available and accessible and it was the client that cancelled.
We are on the banks of the Avon, so I not only understood the cancellation, but as I would be the responsible party requiring to provide a duty of care to our guests, I was happy that they cancelled because it was highly possible that by staying with us they could have been in harms way.
Because of this reason, I returned the monies IN FULL to the guest even though we were not obliged too do so.
Could we afford it?
No, but that was not the point.
Just because right was on our side, did not make it right to do so.