WHY Do You Say the Hotel is Sold Out? (It’s available on their website!)
This is a first in a series of “WHY” posts. Travel is a complicated subject, so we spend a lot of our time explaining things to people. This series will attempt to explain some of the most puzzling subjects we tackle.
To start with, we’ll start with the question, “Why are you telling me my hotel is sold out when I can see on their website that they are showing availability?”
Good question, and thank you for it.
Filling up a hotel each and every night is quite the daunting task. Each night, every empty hotel room is gone forever. The hotel can never go back and make up that revenue. So, the hotel wants very badly to come as close as possible to filling up every room, every night. In fact, many nights they actually oversell the hotel (just like airlines do to flights). They know that there will be some “shrinkage” of cancellations and no shows and they still want to have a full hotel.
Most hoteliers work with a variety of wholesalers and also take direct bookings. Each wholesaler/tour operator the hotelier works with represents a large number of room nights. So, think of these tour operators (and the major travel agencies who work with them) as BIG “customers” of the hotel. These agencies and tour operators sell hundreds and thousands of “room nights” for the hotel. The hotel couldn’t be successful without these room nights.
As you can imagine, the relationships between the hotels, the tour operators and the major travel agencies are very important. From the hotel’s perspective, they need the tour operators and travel agencies to fill their hotels. From the perspective of the tour operators and travel agencies, they need the hotel to have a product to sell and they also need the relationship with the hotel so that they can be sure that their clients will be well cared for and have a great experience.
These relationships are the key to the answer to this question.
Hotels are going to be really sure to cut off availability to the tour wholesalers / travel agencies when the hotel is very nearly or completely full. On their own website, they will keep selling rooms.
In the hotel world there is a thing called “walking” a guest. It means that when a guest checks in and the hotel is full, the hotel will provide accommodations at another hotel until the original hotel has space (maybe the next day when people check out). This means that you could make your confirmed reservation at one hotel and when you arrive they don’t have a room for you and you end up at another hotel.
When the hotel has to decide who to “walk”, who do you think they will choose? Do you think they will choose the guest who made their reservation through the tour operator or travel agency who represents hundreds or thousands of room nights per year, without whom they would have many many empty rooms? Or, do you think they’re going to walk the guest who booked themselves on the hotel’s own website and has very little recourse?
So, yes, you may see that the hotel is still taking bookings for a particular night when we say the hotel is full. Do you really want to take that chance?