An overbooking situation is frustrating for all concerned. As a traveller, there is nothing more annoying than to arrive at your hotel to be informed that it is booked out and that you are not holding the guest reservation. This can be worse if it happens to be holiday season or where a traveller is set on your hotel or are split from their travel partners. And if it so happens that you are an island resort with not too many other options nearby, then all the more complicated!
While the first aspect to consider are your hotel processes which lead to this situation and rectify them (they could be untrained staff, an inefficient reservation or distribution process, lack of technology etc), it is equally important to acknowledge that overbookings do happen at the best of hotels. Do you have a plan in place to address them if and when it happens?
Here we take a closer look at one of the most common areas that cause overbookings – an online travel agency booking and some of the steps your hotel can take to address it.
Why does it happen?
Updating room inventory across multiple online travel agencies is time consuming and during busy periods it is easy to overlook one channel. This is especially true if your hotel uses many online channels and they are being updated manually. This results in the online travel agencies not having your latest live inventory and results in the sale of a room that is actually not available.
What can your hotel do to address an OTA booking that cannot be accommodated?
- Check again to see if any room has become available or if your hotel is holding an unconfirmed booking where payment is not received. If this is possible, your hotel can honour the online booking. Read More
- If no room is available at your hotel, check for dates when room is available. Then inform the guest – mostly through the OTA about the issue with apologies and suggest alternative dates. An honest approach mentioning that a mistake has been made is usually the best way to communicate this. Different OTAs have different approaches and a good relationship with your local OTA market manager helps to find a quick and amenable solution.
- If guest is not willing or unable to change dates, your hotel will need to inform them (directly or through OTA) that they will be working to identify an alternative hotel. Read More
- Check for similar properties with same price levels in and around that location.
- Identify the hotel closest in type and price with availability for the same dates.
- Request the OTA to transfer the booking amount to the alternate hotel and confirm the booking. Again keep in mind that different OTAs follow slightly different processes.
- Direct co-ordination with guest is dependent on OTA. If handled by your hotel, ensure that alternative hotel has all the reservation information required to process the booking. Read More
- If the above steps do not work, inform the OTA that the hotel has done everything to solve the situation and that your hotel is unfortunately required to decline the booking. This is seen as a breach of contract with OTA. Again different OTAs can respond differently. So try and avoid this situation by all means.
In the long term, it is important to review overbookings from various channels to identify causes. This will help your hotel to improve its processes and technology needed to reduce such situations.