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I have been amazed at the number of cancellations that I receive now that I use an OTA (while my overall booking numbers decrease - another phenomenon that implies I must use all OTAs as one does not do the job - apology, I digress into another forum topic). I have watched the increasing trend over the last 2-3 years and there seem to be three categories.
1. The best price/better location "deal" seekers who may be booking multiple places for the same date. These people make a reservation and within the week or just before any cancellation deadline cancel it. (so, unless you are in a high traffic area or have a lot of rooms, a short cancellation window is not a good idea as the room will not get rebooked)
2. The traveler who really has to cancel their vacation; these people call personally, apologize, tell you to keep the deposit. I will not charge any cancellation amount for 9 out of 10 and if I have to keep a deposit for some reason, I ask them to remind me when/if they are able to stay with me another time and I'll credit all or a portion back..
3. The traveler who just decided to change their plans and stay somewhere else within a day or two of their stay. Interestingly, many of these decide to come on by when they are reminded their deposit is not refundable under the cancellation policy.
I have come to consider a free cancellation policy an invitation for no courtesy from a booked guest. I also believe OTA attitudes toward the hosting party(s) are contributing to the increase in cancellations by creating a drive for the best "deal" at our expense versus allowing us to sell the price value of our property and letting the traveler decide. Our properties are put on a playing field where the fixed cost of operating (which includes the commission) is not taken into account when a best price competition atmosphere is created by OTA advertising. This depersonalizes and undervalues us and our property. Where once having a comfortable, clean, happy, enjoyable spot to spend the night was enough, travelers now feel no obligation to honor their reservations and if they do, they often expect free services and amenities that drive our profit (aka operating reserve for variable expenses such as taxes, utilities) down. This environment causes travelers to no longer view us as individuals with a business just like theirs, or workers just like they are and so many do not feel the need to extend basic courtesies or honor their commitment to us. The increase in cancellations has occurred since OTA's started competing with each other to place our traveler, at our cost, instead of having them book directly with us.
Just an fyi. If I decide to use an OTA when I travel, I choose the one who sells me on the value of their service and not at the expense of the property owner who has already sold me on their property value.
Final comment: As noted in someone else's comment, more OTA guest bookings are coming through with no address, invalid addresses, bad credit card numbers, no or wrong phone numbers. We have no way to collect on a no-show or late cancellation. Credit card processors charge extra if no address verification is done. Booking should not allow a reservation to come through without this information and perhaps should as a courtesy/value add for the commission they collect run a "pre-authorization" and only pass a reservation on once it has been "verified". Especially since we have to honor the booking no matter what. I know this would help ensure my loyalty to Booking.com versus just seeing it as another interchangeable commodity that must be tolerated. Just a thought.
Thank you Booking for providing this forum. I appreciate that you care to hear from us.
I also worked hard to keep 5 rooms turned each day of "busy" season and was surprised by a few guest comments about cleanliness. My solution, and I think this will work even if you have housekeeping staff, was to hire a good cleaning company to come in one day on alternate weeks. Their task list is to deep clean all nooks and crannies, windowsills, top shelves, behind furniture, etc. the spaces that can be easily overlooked (or passed over) when cleaning under a time constraint. This deep-cleaning has worked. I can focus on the critical turn-over items and spot check the nooks and crannies knowing that they have been well cleaned. My cleanliness ratings have improved since doing this Of course, as mentioned above, I keep in mind that some people are never completely happy.