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Hotel Overbooking: Why do Hotels Overbook Rooms? (& How to Deal With It)


Hotel overbooking – it’s a dreaded phrase for any traveler. But why do hotels overbook rooms? This guide explains in detail, along with how to avoid it.

It’s a nasty phrase, hotel overbooking, but even the best places to stay do it.

If you’re a seasoned traveler, you don’t need an explanation of what overbooking is—you’ve been there and learned the hard way. 

Why do the hotels overbook rooms? What to expect if you become a victim of overbooking? And how to prevent yourself from this unfortunate situation in the future?

Read on to learn about all the pitfalls of and remedies for hotel overbooking!

hotel overbooking happens, but how to avoid being the unlucky guest?
Taken by runnyrem via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Why Do Hotels Overbook?

Being a hotelier is somewhat similar to playing a twisted video game: you win if you end your day with a 100% occupancy rate. That’s the ultimate goal. 

However, life is tricky: a few guests will never show up, a few might shorten their reservations, etc. That is why almost every day the hotel decides to play Russian roulette and sell more rooms than there are physically at the property. Of course, there are also those rare times when overbooking can happen because of human or technical error.

The level of overbooking is usually calculated with many various factors taken into consideration: the historical forecast, the size of the hotel, the number of guests who’ve already informed the hotel about not coming, and many more. The discrepancy may be only two or three rooms, at times. However, it can also go as high as 15 or even 20 rooms!

No matter the type of your reservation – if it was confirmed a few months beforehand, or even prepaid, you might still be relocated or “walked.”

Hopefully, I didn’t scare you too much?

As a matter of fact, overbooking does not happen in the hotel every day. Moreover, it is an unpleasant experience not only for the guest who is walked but also for the hotel staff. The receptionist does not want to deal with the enraged, late-arrival guest at 1 AM, and the manager is not eager to answer angry emails that are longer than this article. So you can be sure that everyone in the hotel will try their best to reach that cherished 100% occupancy without relocations. 

In many cases, the motivated staff can do wonders you can not even imagine!

Related Read: Types of Hotels: Complete Glossary of 30+ Hotel Types Terms Defined

What to Expect from the Hotel

So what happens if you are unlucky enough and being walked? 

Sometimes you can get asked to move to another hotel coming even so early as 3 PM or 4 PM. It is hard for the hotel not to notice that they are screwed while they are lacking twenty rooms, so they will try to fix the situation as soon as possible and find those people who will change their accommodation willingly. But usually, if the percentage of overbooking is not that drastic, it happens to the latecomers. 

Imagine this…

It is 2 AM, a peaceful night in the hotel and even the regulars at the hotel bar went up to their rooms. The lobby is empty except for a few ghosts that, we know, have to be present in any self-respecting hotel. For the last hour, the shift manager has been praying to all the known gods of travel and otherwise to not have to walk anyone tonight, and finally, even she is convinced that nobody else will show up. 

The door opens with an uneasy squeak… and you walk in.

First of all, take a deep breath and stay calm after hearing the bad news. I feel you, it is extremely nasty, unpleasant, and just unfair, especially late at night. Coming to the hotel, you expect it to be the end point of your journey, and you are dreaming about the hot shower and the comfy bed.

But in a case of overbooking, the person who stands on the other side of the reception desk has not the slightest influence on the situation. They hate to ask you to leave almost as much as you hate hearing it. If there is physically no room for you in the hotel, it will not appear there by some magic, no matter how long your tantrum is.

Instead, take the business card of the manager. After you get some sleep, you will express all your resentment in a calmer way (a sternly worded email). 

What to expect from the hotel in this situation?

Most importantly, they should cover the cost of one night in another hotel, which should be at least the same standard, if not higher, and in a similar location. If you have any extras, such as breakfast, included, they should cover that too. Plus the cost of a taxi to that second hotel.

Usually, the hotel is chosen by the staff member with all the above criteria in mind long before your arrival, so it is very unlikely you can dictate the terms and choose the hotel for yourself.

Related Read: 25+ Types of Hotel Rooms from Singles to Presidential Suites & More

How to Avoid Being “Walked” 

It might sound brutal, but not every guest in the hotel has the same value if we talk about overbooking. And it does not depend on the price you are paying for the room.

You are the most likely to get walked if you meet the following requirements: staying for only one night and booking through an intermediary. 

So here are a few tips on how to reduce the risk of being relocated:

Arrive early

If you have a choice to come to the hotel to drop off your luggage and head to the conference or go there straight away, please, do come to the hotel first. As soon as you check in, your reservation and your good night’s sleep are safe. If you know that you will come late at night, make sure the hotel is informed about that a day or two prior to your arrival. That will also reduce your chances of being walked.

Related Read: 35 Fun Hotel Facts: Interesting Facts About Hotels Around the World

Join the hotel loyalty program

Those who frequent the hotel or chain usually have the lowest chance of being relocated. Even if you are not a regular customer, the magic annotation that you are a member of the loyalty program can save you. Which leads us to the third point…

Book directly through the hotel’s website

Remember what I said above: those who book through an intermediary have a much higher chance of getting turned away. In most cases, the price on the hotel’s website will not be higher than that on Expedia or Kayak, and, you get the added bonus of showing a bit more credibility on your reservation with this simple trick.

Related Read: Vacation Meal Plans: 10+ Hotel & Food Plans Defined

Thank you so much for reading! Please don’t be scared of staying at hotels after reading this article. As I mentioned, the chance of overbooking is minuscule, and with our tips you will be armed even against those small odds.

Mariia Kislitsyna
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Mariia Kislitsyna
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