Top tips to handle an ota overbooking at your hotel

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!

Top Tips to Handle an OTA Overbooking at Your Hotel
An inefficient reservation process

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.

2 thoughts on “Top tips to handle an ota overbooking at your hotel

  1. It is all very well analysed in the above article but it is a fact that making an overbooking is essential if a hotel wishes to optimize its Occupancy % and revenue. Having worked as Front Office Manager of various ITDC 5 Star Hotels between 1978 to 1989 viz. Akbar Hotel, New Delhi; Kovalam Ashok Beach Resort (present Leela Resort); Hotel Kanishka, New Delhi (present Shangri La) and the flagship hotel 550 Rooms – The Ashok, New Delhi, I will recommend to every Front Office Manager to make at least 10-15% overbooking. As the saying goes – Water finds its own level, so does overbooking gets adjusted at the end of the day. What you need to do is hourly monitoring of the arrivals & departures. You will be surprised to note that at Akbar hotel, we used to achieve an occupancy up to 125% on many days. During 1978-79, we made a record average Room Occupancy of 93.6% which is really difficult to achieve for a 5 Star Metro city hotel. An incident comes to my mind which encouraged me to promote overbookings. It so happened that in the 1971 when I joined the ITDC as a Management Trainee and was posted to the Hotel Ashok, Bangalore (South India’s first 5 Star Hotel), I was on night duty at the Hotel Reception. This hotel with 91 Rooms at that time was very popular and had high occupancy. I was confronted with 2 guests arriving late night at the Reception, both with confirmed bookings. The hotel had only one Dlx Suite vacant. First I tried to explain to them the situation and requesting to arrange a similar accommodation at another hotel but sensing that both were not interested to accept the offer, I then requested them to accept the Dlx Suite for the night (that I would place an Extra Bed in the Lounge which had a toilet) and in the morning after first departure, I will shift him to the new room. Both looked at each other and agreed. I was petrified for this action of mine, being a Trainee taking such a decision, but to my pleasant surprise, later I was called by the General Manager of the hotel and given a pat for handling the situation so well as the guest sent a note to the GM informing him of the way the hotel staff looked after him so deftly.

    Friends, no matter these days computerised/online booking portals have emerged but the guest needs a personalised handling in the event of an overbooking.

    Kuldip Verma, former Senior Vice President, India Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.

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