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Double Bookings - the hidden secret no one talks about!

Fiona Rollings, Association Secretary

December 2019

The season is now advancing quickly and for some of us we have already had a dreaded "double booking". During my first years of operation I wondered how on earth people could get themselves into such a situation?? Isn't this why we have reservation / channel management systems? Now that I have experienced the catastrophe that is a double booking myself - I still can't understand why it happens but at least I can see how it happens.

For those of you who have yet to experience the heart pounding, loss of breath and sheer panic that occurs when someone arrives on your doorstep professing to have a booking - when you are full - you are lucky!! If you have - you are not alone. There are many of us who have experienced this at some point - though not everyone admits it!

Most importantly though - what do you do?

(Once the first moments of panic subside) In short you need to find the guest alternative accommodation. Under most contracts (both with Agents and OTAs) you are obligated to find the guest alternative accommodation that is same cost and quality as your property or better.

Regardless of the reason the double booking occurred you are the person who is on the spot facing the guests and therefore you need to find them somewhere else to stay.

And here's where belonging to the Association is such a great idea - local members as these are a great first option to try and they are always willing to help you - either find somewhere else or to take your booking. If you can't find somewhere the same level and cost as your property you will need to find somewhere suitable for the guests and this may be more expensive (additional cost to you!). If it is a busy time of year, this is not as easy as it seems and I have heard many stories of hosts sleeping on fold out beds in order to accommodate their guests.

Here's how I deal with the issue:

  • Breathe
  • Apologise profusely
  • Depending on the time of year I find 1 or 2 properties that are similar to mine and have available accommodation or I call Gavin and Sally @ Ashcroft Gardens (although last time they were at a winery and laughed at me but still came to my rescue!).
  • Confirm with the guests they are happy with the alternative property
  • Give them a wee gift of something (usually a bottle of wine)
  • Once they have left my property and I have recovered then, if necessary, I contact the agent or OTA, most of whom are happy (-ish) as long as you have found somewhere suitable for the guests.

Most guests are understanding of the issue as long as you find them somewhere else. Occasionally they aren't. What happens if they don't like the alternative properties you show them? Then you should help them find somewhere they do like - but if the alternative is far more expensive than yours (and there are properties similar to yours) available, you are not obligated to pay the difference.

In case you are wondering how double bookings can possibly happen the error usually occurs when:

1. By clicking on "accept" instead of "decline" on the Agents system.

2. Adding a booking to your reservation calendar in the wrong day, week, month or year (in speaking to other operators this is a very common mistake)!;

3. Failure of the channel management system to update reservation systems.

Most agents send a reconfirmation of their bookings and I strongly recommend you check these as, if there is an issue, you can deal with it straight away, without actually facing the guests.

Double bookings knock your confidence - for weeks you dread having other guests turn up (or not if you have put them in the calendar for the wrong day!) You think you will give up running your business and wonder how you will make it through the season. It takes a while to recover and admit that everyone makes mistakes - though you do spend a lot of time rechecking all your future bookings!

If you have received a double booking, talk to other hosts, It is a hidden secret that many of us (at all levels) have experienced double bookings but are just too embarrassed to admit it.  Remember you are not the only one this has happened to!

Fiona Rollings

Association Secretary


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