Sell Unused Hotel Rooms Quickly

5 Tricks to Sell Unused Hotel Rooms Quickly

October 16, 2023
Nathan Baws

Due to cancellations, no-shows, and fluctuating demand, hotels inevitably have leftover vacant rooms, even during busy periods. While overbooking helps, a specific inventory of empty spaces remains on any 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 into intelligent and practical tips to sell unused hotel rooms quickly. 

1. Forecast Hotel Room 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 can cancel at the 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 of up to 65% off drive urgency while limiting purchase windows, room types, and minimum stays. 

It is ideal for short lead times of under three 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 in 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 are often booked at the 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 more extended 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 dat—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 prepaid 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, the more advanced rates are purchased, the greater the discount. Maximize early commitment. Consider bonus loyalty points for bookings made 6+ months out to incentivize booking. 

Market to Flexible Segments 

Target promotions to retirees, digital nomads, and 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 seven 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 upselling. Block premium rooms for airline crew stays, often booked at the last minute at high rates.

Offer Food and Beverage Vouchers

Provide credit for dining or the bar as an 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 the front desk staff, notifying them 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 booking experience at the last minute. 


Getting creative with tactical promotions, segments, and channels allows hotels to drive incremental revenue from perishable inventory. Partner with Emersion Wellness today to discuss strategies tailored for unused room opportunities.

See Also: Hospitality Revenue Solutions: Boosting Your Hotel's Profit

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