Due to cancellations, no-shows, and fluctuating demand, hotels inevitably have leftover vacant rooms even during busy periods. While overbooking helps, a certain inventory of empty rooms remains on any given night. Savvy hoteliers implement creative strategies to sell these unused rooms through last-minute discounts, opaque distribution channels, and leveraging customer data to capture incremental revenue.
Let’s dive straight into smart and effective tips to sell unused hotel rooms quickly.
1. Forecast Cancellations and No-Shows
Historical data on cancellation rates by market segment, season, and booking lead time provides intelligence to estimate no-shows and empty rooms.
Segment Cancellation Data
Analyze patterns separately for leisure, corporate, groups, packages, etc. to apply precision overbooking levels by segment. Watch for outliers.
Review cancellation history over multiple years to identify trends unique to certain annual events, holidays, or seasons that cause spikes.
Account for Seasonality and Events
Certain annual events, holidays, or seasons have reliably higher cancellation volumes to prepare for. Local knowledge helps.
Overbooking flexibility is required to avoid empty rooms during massive citywide events, popular holidays, and peak seasons.
Consider Lead Time
Late bookings within 7-14 days of arrival have significantly higher cancellation rates to account for. Monitor trends.
Short booking windows indicate travelers have flexibility to cancel last minute if plans change. Factor higher overbooks for this segment.
Build in Buffers
Even with historical data, use slightly conservative buffers on overbooking levels to avoid guaranteed no vacancies.
Add a 5-7% buffer on top of forecast overbooking levels to account for statistical anomalies and last-minute surprises.
Update Forecasting Models
Continually refresh predictive analytics as new data provides insights into improving precision. Machine learning models grow smarter.
Mark unexpected variances for analysis to inform model adjustments. Review monthly for seasonality changes.
2. Offer Last-Minute Deals
Promote undisclosed remaining inventory through opaque channels at rates driving urgency without cannibalizing existing bookings.
Flash Sale Rates
Last-minute rates up to 65% off drive urgency while limiting purchase windows, room types, and minimum stays.
Ideal for short lead times under 3 days. Monitor to optimize rate discount percentages to maximize conversion versus revenue.
Opaque Distribution Channels
Sell on channels bundling undisclosed hotels at discounted rates to avoid diluting core rates. Examples include Priceline and Hotwire.
Leverage opaque OTA promo codes, cash back offers, and member rates to secure bookings at acceptable margins after factoring commissions.
Mileage Program Incentives
Additional points, status upgrades, breakfast, or other elite benefits enhance last-minute booking value.
Special promotions offering triple points, complimentary WiFi, member-only rates, or late checkout incentivize loyalty members.
Social Media Promotions
Limited-time flash offers shared on social channels incentivize rapid booking from followers. Target based on interests.
Geo-target social promotions to nearby followers. Limit to one use to avoid over-sharing a specific promotional rate.
Mobile Push Notifications
Send real-time personalized offers to app users targeting nearby travelers. Drive impulse actions.
Offer expires within an hour of receiving the push notification to incentivize instant booking.
3. Leverage Customer Data
Mine CRM and loyalty data to promote last-minute deals to segments primed for impulse booking.
Target Elite Members
Elites book impulsively to elevate status, so share last-minute promotions accordingly. They have flexible travel budgets.
Send targeted offers to elites nearing the next tier threshold where one last stay could bump them up. They'll book hastily.
Families and Large Groups
Large parties or families often book last-minute. Ensure they receive deals. Saving overpowers planning needs.
Promote extra room nights at 50% off to large existing bookings, ideal for splurging on a longer vacation booked impulsively.
Local Zip Codes
Nearby guests need little planning to book so target them aggressively. No lengthy travel is required. Leverage previous stay zip code data. Geofence promotions to zip codes within a 3-hour drive.
Previous Last-Minute Bookers
Remarket to prior last-minute buyers open to rebooking on short notice. Their past behavior indicates likelihood.
If booked within 14 days in the past, add high propensity last-minute bookers to a targeted email segment for promotions.
Social Audience Interests
Promote deals to social followers whose interests indicate possible impulse booking. Leverage digital insights.
Boost posts for nearby concerts, festivals, and events that complement an impromptu hotel booking to enjoy the occasion.
4. Setup Advance-Purchase Rates
Drive commitment from flexible travelers willing to book further out in return for lower rates.
Offer Discounted Prepayment
Allow booking future stays at a discount in exchange for prepaying now. Generates immediate revenues. The further ahead of arrival the stay is booked, the deeper the discount. Maximize your revenue benefit.
Limit Cancellations and Changes
In exchange for discounted advance rates, restrictions like nonrefundable prepayment and limited date changes apply.
Allow minimal date changes but apply a change fee to discourage cancellations and reinforce commitment.
Increase Rates Over Time
The further out from arrival advance rates are purchased, the greater the discount. Maximize early commitment. Consider bonus loyalty points for bookings made 6+ months out to incentivize advance booking.
Market to Flexible Segments
Target promotions to retirees, digital nomads, budget travelers willing to plan around discounted rates. Promote advance purchase rates on channels frequented by leisure segments with flexible travel schedules.
Provide Rebooking Incentives
If plans change, offer hassle-free rebooking at the same discounted rate to retain the booking. Allow discounted advance purchase rates to be rebooked anytime within 12 months with 7 days notice and a nominal change fee.
5. Empower Front Desk Upselling
Train and incentivize front desk staff to convert last minute walk-ins into booked guests.
Overbook Flexible Room Types
Leave upper tier rooms open for potential upgrades from walk-ins. Make top inventory eligible for upsell. Block premium rooms for airline crew stays, who are often booked last minute at high rates.
Offer Food and Beverage Vouchers
Provide credit for dining or the bar as incentive for spur-of-the-moment bookings. Perks drive urgency. $20 in dining or bar credit incentivizes walk-ins to commit to booking a last minute stay.
Recognize Top Performers
Reward front desk staff who achieve high walk-in conversion rates. Praise successful upselling. Highlight top monthly walk-in converters. Consider commission incentives on short window bookings.
Monitor Opportunity Signals
Equip staff with data on remaining inventories, overbooks, early departures, etc. to capitalize on availability. Push real-time walk-in alerts to front desk staff notifying of last minute vacancies to fill.
Emphasize Personalized Service
Train staff on building rapport quickly with walk-ins while promptly completing registration. Service focus pays off. Ensuring seamless, ultra-efficient check-in avoids disrupting the guest experience of booking last minute.
Getting creative with tactical promotions, segments, and channels allows hotels to drive incremental revenue from perishable inventory. To discuss strategies tailored for your unused room opportunities, partner with Emersion Wellness today.
I'm Nathan Baws, a nutrition nerd, exercise and weight loss expert, and an unwavering advocate for good health. As the founder of Emersion Wellness, I'm passionate about crafting Seamless Weight Loss Programs to supercharge hotel revenue and transform lives. We've pioneered the World's First Plug & Play Weight Loss Programs for top hotels and resorts, sparking a wellness revolution. Beyond my professional journey, you'll often find me hiking, swimming, and riding the waves, embracing every moment in nature. Join me on this exhilarating journey towards diet, health and wellness.