Sorry, Your Hotel Reservation Isn’t Guaranteed

September 20, 2017, 4:13 PM UTC

Can hotels overbook? In a word, yes, though there are things you can do to mitigate the risk of getting your hotel reservation turned down.

Much like airlines, hotels have a natural business incentive to overbook in case some customers don’t show up for their reservations. Since there’s usually a deadline for canceling a room reservation in exchange for a refund, hotels can potentially double their revenue on a single room by overbooking. Typically, the number of overbooked rooms is determined based on a hotel’s historical “no-show” rate, according to Hotel News Now.

The problem is, like with flights, a hotel can be off and wind up with more reserved customers than they have available rooms. And when that happens, they have to turn some customers away to make up for the disparity.

This is an industry practice called “walking” a customer. And when it happens, hotels are obligated to make other, similar accommodations for someone without an available room and pay for that customer’s transport to a different location.

But how does a hotel choose who to walk — and how can you minimize the risk of it happening to you?

VIPs, families, people who have booked a room for multiple nights, and large groups are almost never walked. The most likely victims are customers in for single-night stays and those who get in late for check-in—which is why it’s always important to notify your hotel if you’re expecting to be tardy.

While some customers may not mind being walked, others, understandably, might find this practice unacceptable, even with alternate accommodations. At that point, you can try out the time-tested tactic of raising hell with management and potentially scoring some more financial sweeteners like a future free stay.