Of course, no one actually wants to cancel a reservation. Guests rarely want to, and apartments and hotels rarely want or need to.
But, there are times when this is necessary. Despite having a “non-refundable” booking for a guest, it is actually possible to cancel for free. And if your a host, a property, there are easy and hard ways to cancel a booking. In this article, we explore the different options available to both guests and hosts and simplify the whole process for both.
- How can a guest cancel for free?
- What’s the cancellation process?
- Factors to keep in mind as a host (3 key points)
- Further Situations
- What Booking.com says
- Other Resources
1. How can a guest cancel a reservation for free?
Despite many guests choosing the cheaper non-refundable option on booking.com, even these reservations can be canceled. Let’s look at the sensible things to do, and then what to actually do:
If you have extenuating circumstances, call the property and explain the situation. My response as a host, unless I think someone is blatantly lying to me is to always accommodate the guest’s request.
I have three “policies” to deal with these situations:
- If the circumstances are not extenuating, meaning that there has not been a family tragedy or similar, and the time between the booking and the notification that the guest wants to cancel is close (i.e. a week or so) then I say to the guest that they can re-book at any time at no additional cost.
- An alternative to this is to say to the guest that you can cancel, and if we sell the room night, we will refund your money.
- If the guest genuinely has a family tragedy, illness, or some other reason for needing to cancel, I let ‘karma’ play its role and allow the guest to cancel for free.
2. What’s the actual process for you to cancel your reservation?
This is actually very simple. Just head over to your.booking.com which looks like this:
Enter your confirmation number and pin code (you will have been emailed this when you booked), and login.
You’ll then have various options. You want to look for the “request to cancel for free” option. You simply fill this out and send it over to the property, and you should receive a response quite quickly.
But, do remember that it’s far better to have called the property first so they will know to expect this message.
The property should then confirm this back to you, and you will receive a confirmation from booking.com as well as a full refund for the booking.
3. Factors to keep in mind when canceling a booking as a host
There are a number of different ways a property/host can cancel a booking. What you should keep in mind though, as a host, that you should only ever cancel a confirmed and paid booking if absolutely necessary as you are bound to inconvenience the guest. You should also help them through this process as much as possible.
1. Can you relocate the guest?
It is a good idea to develop relationships with other similar properties to be able to manage this situation ahead of time.
These properties must be similar. Imagine how you’d react if you’d booked then Hilton and got relocated to the Holiday Inn! (not happy).
2. Call the guest to explain the situation first
If you call booking.com to cancel a reservation, they will put you into a process called relocations.
In this process, you can still help relocate the guest, however, if the guest is moved to a more expensive property you may be invoiced for this.
If you call the guest and explain the reason for the cancellation (and you must be 100% honest), then very often, if there is enough time, guests will want to cancel the reservation for free and make a new booking. This means you will not have to go into the relocations process.
3. What if the booking has not been paid?
If a booking has not paid online through booking.com but you have been sent the guests’ credit card details, you should check to see if these are valid asap. You will generally have to use your own credit card processing system for this.
If the guest’s card details come up as invalid (and they often do especially if the guest is shown the option to pay at your property). Then you have two options:
- Call the guest and explain that the card details are invalid and can they update them.
- Mark the card as invalid on the extranet. The guest will then have approximately 24 hours to update their details, otherwise, you can simply click “cancel reservation” on the extranet, and the booking will be canceled.
4. Further Situations
What if you have a non-refundable reservation where the credit card is invalid?
This is a tricky one. One the one hand you have a guest who has made a non-refundable reservation with you, who is legally liable for paying for the reservation.
On the other hand, if you’ve got someone who hasn’t paid (or the card is invalid) then you don’t want them sitting in your calendar, blocking other reservations. Do you?
- Mark the card as invalid – quickly. Booking.com will then try and get the guest to “pay online” (pay online means they actually charge the guest, they don’t just pass you the credit card details for you to charge.)
- If they don’t pay, just cancel them as soon as the 24-hour limit has expired. This way your calendar is unblocked and you can take other bookings.
What if you’re unhappy about a reservation for whatever reason?
This is difficult, for the following reasons:
- If you do or are seen to discriminate against a guest, then you may even be breaking the law.
- You can’t truthfully call the guest and explain you can’t accommodate them, and you also don’t want to go through the booking.com relocation process as ultimately too many of these will affect your rankings.
- Call the guest to welcome them and “confirm their booking”.
- Message them explaining your check-in processes, but make one of your first points the fact that you require a security deposit of $500 (or currency equivalent). This is a great tip I picked up from a Facebook group and essentially means that if you have a guest who doesn’t want to pay this amount (even though it’s refundable on checkout) then your instincts may be correct.
- As long as you mention in your booking small print that a security deposit may be required, you then are in a situation where the guest has to either pay the security deposit or cancel their reservation. (You can read more about your house rules (and enforcing them) here.
5. The Rules According to Booking.com
- If you’re a guest – call the property
Then you can request to cancel for free. Most properties will be accommodating.
- If you’re a host or a property
Avoid canceling guests as this causes extreme inconvenience.
- If the credit card is declined
Mark the card invalid and then cancel if there’s no feedback
- If you have doubts about a guest or a reservation
Use a deposit to protect yourself, but make sure it’s in your booking conditions.