With ‘Free Cancellation’ almost becoming a norm with major OTAs, high cancellation rate has become a source of major concern for hotels. Cancellation is not at all welcoming for the host, and sometimes for guests as well.
For a long time, hotel industry has been fairly flexible with the cancellation policies. However, with the popularity of meta-search sites, even after booking, consumers now keep track of room rates. Whenever there is a drop in the room rates of the booked hotel or it’s competing properties, guests often cancel their existing reservations and rebook.
This high cancellation rate especially closer to the arrival has a major impact on the hotel’s revenue management decision where often inflated estimation of potential occupancy level leads to sub-optimal rates and lost revenue.
In the last few years, major hotel chains have been relooking at their cancellation policies and developing a strategy to address the changed consumer behaviour. While some hotels have followed the airline way, and introduced non-refundable early-bird rates, some have extended the cancellation cut-off. Empowered with comprehensive reservation data sources, including cancellation information, and analytics, hotels are now making thorough assessment of cancellation cost to hotel’s revenue and fine-tuning their cancellation policies in a strategic way. If you are planning to re-work your cancellation policy, here are some tips you can consider.
Limiting the Cancellation Period
Free cancellation is a major draw, especially on OTAs, to attract potential guests. However leading hotel groups are now extending the cancelling notice period from existing 24 hours cut off to 72 hours. Guests who cancel after that are charged with a penalty which varies from the cost of one night’s stay to total booking amount.
Many hotels are now adapting to a dual strategy where there is a non-refundable rate and relaxed cancellation policy for premium rates.
Partial Payment for Guarantee
High-demand hotels often charge one night’s stay immediately after booking and debit the rest of the amount closer to the arrival while enforcing a strict no-show / cancellation penalty. While booking, guests are made aware of these finer points and as a result think twice before going for cancellation.
Vouchers instead of refund
Boutique hotels and resorts are now adjusting their cancellation policy in a way where for a last-minute cancellation, instead of a penalty, or refund, they are offering a voucher which the guests can use for a future booking within a stipulated period of time. It’s often a win-win situation where the hotel gets the revenue and the guests the option to modify their plans.
Loyalty member specific cancellation policy
Some hotel groups with their own loyalty programmes have designed member-exclusive cancellation policies where loyal guests are given the flexibility to cancel their stay at the last minute even as other guests have shorter window. This benefit additionally gives hotels another opportunity to improve their loyalty programme which eventually results in more direct bookings.
While some hotels do have this policy, in the age of online booking and price-comparison sites, this policy is tending to lose its acceptance.
The choice of cancellation policy depends on the dynamics of the market, hotel size and categories. For a business hotel, it’s is very difficult to implement a strict cancellation policy, whereas high-demand leisure resorts can afford to do so.
For years the hotel industry has been relying on a cookie-cutter approach when it comes to their cancellation policy. It’s time for change. Monitor your reservation sources and identify channels where the cancellations are coming from. Based on their data, hotels need to create cancellation policy terms for each rate-category, plan and channel. An advanced system like RateTiger, for instance, allows restrictions and cancellation policies to be assigned and updated for different rate plans on OTAs. The reservation delivery options immediately notify hotels whenever there is a cancellation, making it easier for them to allocate inventories accordingly.
Invest in a system which helps you to optimally manage your revenue and distribution efforts and save time to focus more on strategy.