Overbookings: how do you solve it, and how do you prevent them?

Oh no, there’s a guest at the reception and you don’t have a room available for that person. You have an overbooking! It’s a nightmare for every guest and hotelier. The most important thing is to solve the situation as quickly as possible and limit the damage, but how do you do this? And even more: how do you prevent overbookings? In this article, we’ll give you our advice.


What is an overbooking?

You’ve probably dealt with it yourself, and you know very well what an overbooking is, but for those who don’t know: an overbooking means that more reservations than rooms available. The overbooking is often intentionally caused by revenue managers to increase revenue. Still, it can sometimes also occur when unexpected maintenance is required for a hotel room or when there is a problem in the booking process.

Also read: Overbooking strategies: what is it, and does your hotel need it?


How do you prevent overbookings?

Although overbooking is often used intentionally by revenue managers, an unplanned overbooking can also happen. It’s a very inconvenient situation. So, to prevent it from happening in the future, it’s essential to find out what caused the overbooking in the first place.

An overbooking can arise for many different reasons, maybe due to a technical problem or user error. Every hotelier can confirm it: the world of online distribution is complex, and many steps must be taken before the reservation correctly enters the reservation system. So, check where the problem started: at the property management system (PMS), the channel manager or at the booking site itself? At each step, we advise you to check the settings and setup carefully. In the SmartHOTEL Channel Manager, you can also see all the data traffic via the logs to check whether that +1 availability of the standard room has followed the correct path.

To prevent overbookings, the setup instructions must be followed at every step of the process (from PMS to booking site). If you miss one detail, this can lead to errors. A good channel manager also ensures that all data is updated in real-time when a change takes place, reducing the chance of overbookings.

The experience of our support team is that an unwanted overbooking is often caused by a manual availability adjustment or an incorrect setup of the connection(s).


How do you handle overbookings?

In the unfortunate scenario where you have an overbooking, the guest has specifically chosen your hotel and will not be happy to hear that there is no room for them. How do you deal with this?

First, it’s essential to show empathy in this situation. The guest wants to be heard, wants to vent their frustration and most of all, they are disappointed. Indifferent, distant, or angry behaviour from the hotelier will not help to solve the situation.

Try to inform the guest about the overbooking before arrival, to prevent disappointments when they arrive. If you can tell them beforehand, the frustration is likely to be less. You can also try to encourage the guests to look for another place to stay themselves, of course, with your assistance when needed.

When a guest is confronted with an overbooking at the property, prepare for heightened emotions. The least you can do is find the same or even higher quality hotel, so he has the feeling he gets a better deal out of it. Next to this, you can consider the following points:

  • Cooperate with similar accommodations in the area, so you can always help each other in case of an emergency.
  • The guest should always feel that they are being offered a better deal.
  • Give an upgrade for the next stay or offer a different kind of compensation (e.g. a massage or a bottle of wine).
  • Call the guest the next day to apologise again and check how they are doing.
  • When you need to choose which reservation needs to be relocated, try to find the guest who gives you the lowest profit (e.g. value, revenue, loyalty).
  • Make the guest as comfortable as possible while they are waiting to be transferred. You can think of offering free Wi-Fi or a beverage. You can also arrange a taxi to take the guest to the new location.

An overbooking is an unpleasant experience for the guest. How the overbooking is resolved is crucial and can make or break your hotel’s reputation. It’s best to avoid a negative review on TripAdvisor. In any case, always try to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

More about reviews: Why guest reviews are important for your hotel


A hotelier has the most expertise of the hotel and its surroundings and is, therefore, the most suitable person to speak to the guests. For this reason, the SmartHOTEL team will never contact guests on your behalf. SmartHOTEL is specialised in connectivity, which is why we are ready to help hoteliers to investigate behind the scenes what went wrong.


SmartHOTEL Channel Manager


About SmartHOTEL

For more than 16 years, SmartHOTEL has been helping hoteliers navigate the exciting world of online distribution. From our office based in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, our team serves independent hotels, hostels and chains worldwide by providing channel management and tailored online distribution solutions. A lot has changed over the last years, but our goal remains the same: simply connect hotels to the world. For any questions regarding our services, please contact us at sales@smarthotel.nl or call +31 (0)182 75 11 18.


By Chantal Mieremet | September 14, 2020

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