Avoid Empty Rooms: How to Attract and Manage Last-minute Bookings

Last-minute bookings are bookings that arrive days, hours, or minutes before the guests do. While these bookings can be trickier to handle (no one likes doing things last minute), they are worthwhile to pursue. A full room turns a profit, while an empty one does not. Here is how to land guests in a hurry. 

Identify Your Audience

Do you have a specific guest segment that’s more likely to book last minute? Use your guest data to find out and gear your last-minute offers towards that segment. Maybe your business guests often have emergency meetings.

Have a Mobile-friendly Website

Many last-minute bookers prefer to do so via mobile with 72 percent of mobile bookings arriving within two days of a last-minute Google search. Think about it, if you’re in the airport after a flight cancellation, desperately looking for a hotel, which do you take out? Your sleek mobile phone or your big, clunky laptop (that you—ooh—put in your checked baggage)?

Make sure that your website and booking engine are both mobile-friendly with easy-to-read font and an uncluttered, responsive design. Responsive design allows your website to optimize itself for the device it’s being viewed on.

A smiling woman views a hotel website on her mobile at the airport.

Integrate Your OTAs With Your PMS

Your PMS (property management system) is the command center of your hotel and handles everything from reservations to accounting to housekeeping. An OTA is an online travel agency like Expedia that sells rooms for you in exchange for commission. Information in both these systems needs to match to prevent overbookings and other errors. 

Select a PMS that integrates with your preferred OTAs so that availability automatically updates in both whenever a room is sold. This way, people coming in at the last minute won’t be sold rooms that are already occupied. You won’t have to log into multiple places to check, and they won’t book a room on your website that’s already been snapped up on an OTA. 

Hint: There are OTAs specifically geared towards late bookings. WebRezPro integrates with HotelTonight and Hotwire, who offer this kind of service.

Contact Travel Agents

Travel agents get last-minute requests as well—see if they can pass them on to you. Spend the time to develop your network and get to know the providers in this space. The more they know you, the more they trust you and feel good about sending travelers your way.

Use a Revenue Management System

A revenue management system can change your rates automatically based on market factors such as season, competitor-pricing, and your own availability to maximize revenue. A revenue management system enables you to present latecomers with an appealing deal while still making as much profit as possible. 

Your revenue management system should also integrate with your PMS so that it can receive inventory information from your property and send back recommended pricing. Accepted pricing is automatically updated in your PMS and across all connected channels. 

Take Advantage of Automated Communication

Automated communication makes it so that you don’t have to scramble to get in touch with your guests if they book late. WebRezPro comes with email templates that can be triggered whenever a guest completes a specific action (such as booking) so that your staff don’t have to worry about it. Or if you’re looking for something with more bells and whistles, you can always try one of our guest messaging integration partners such as Akia, Breezeway, or Duve

Include upsells in these communications. The guest may be too harried to look at them, but that guest is still headed your way. So why not? 

Offer Self Check-in

A late booking can result in a late arrival where the guest just wants to get to their room and rest. Self check-in enables them to do just that while decreasing the workload for your staff. 

You can email a guest agreement (or digital registration form) for guests to sign ahead of time—possibly while they’re in the Uber to your hotel—and use mobile keys so they can bypass the front desk and enter their room when they arrive. Mobile key integrations enable guests to either receive a code or download an app to access their room. Whichever option you choose, the key deactivates at the conclusion of the guest’s stay. 

Adjust Staffing

Have on-call staff so that you can adjust staffing levels as necessary when more guests arrive. If you have a last-minute deluge, you’re going to need someone to get those rooms ready. Of course, to do this, you need to pay your staff accordingly. It helps if you also offer perks, training, and positive feedback that makes employees want to work for you. 

Last-minute bookings enable you to fill rooms that would otherwise go unsold, so it’s worthwhile to create a strategy for them. Use these tips to get started!