How to Cancel a Guest Reservation in Your Vacation Rental

Cancellations are always inconvenient. When a guest books your rental and then cancels the reservation, it’s a nuisance as you’ve already saved those dates for them, you’ll miss out on those earnings, and it may be too late to attract other guests.

Be that as it may, if you have a cancellation policy in place, it will protect you as a host. These policies make guests think twice before canceling, and if they do, at least you’ll have their deposit to cover the empty calendar.

But what happens when it’s the host who has to cancel a guest reservation? Often, homeowners are less protected than if the guest cancels. Of course, cancellations are a must at times. Anyone can have a compelling reason for having to cancel a stay, such as if the property is not livable due to a flood or leak, or sometimes it can be for personal reasons such as a family emergency.

On occasion, hosts even cancel reservations on sites such as Airbnb or HomeAway in order to redirect guests to their own site and save money on fees and commissions.

How to Carry Out a Cancellation

cancel guest reservation

When you have no choice but to cancel a booking, there are a few things you can do to avoid a negative review and keep the guest happy at the same time.

1. Do it as soon as possible

The sooner you cancel, the less of a negative impact it will have on the guest and your business. No one wants to have their plans canceled at the last minute and find themselves without accommodation the day before the trip, it’s not fair after all. Make sure you are quick so that the guest has time to look for a new alternative.

2. Tell the truth

Always tell your guest the truth. You may be experiencing problems (personal or in the rental itself) or have an emergency. Tell them the real reason behind the cancellation. If you simply cancel their booking without showing them your “human” touch, they can be left frustrated and angry.

3. Apologize

As well as stating why you need to cancel the booking, it’s also best to apologize to the guests. Tell your guests that you are truly sorry for canceling their reservation and apologize for the inconvenience.

4. Offer a discount for other dates

If you offer a discount to those guests whose reservations you canceled, they can return another time. A 20% discount is a reasonable amount and still profitable for you. It will prevent a negative review and you’ll be able to fill your calendar for other dates.

Guest Cancellation Template

Considering the points mentioned above, here is an example you can use to send to the guests whose booking you’re canceling.

Dear [first name],

I regret to inform you that your reservation at [rental name] for [dates] is no longer available. This is due to [state reasons why here].

We value our guests and for this reason, I would like you to offer you a 20% discount to stay at [rental name]. Once again, I would like to apologize for the cancellation and I hope to see you in the future.

I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

[Your name]

How to Avoid Cancellations

channel manager

Canceling a guest’s reservation frequently isn’t a good practice. As a vacation rental owner, you must cancel as little as possible, especially if the reservation is confirmed. However, there are some things you can do and put in place in order to prevent cancellations.

1. Be Clear about House Rules

If you don’t accept pets, make it clear from the beginning. The same goes for large groups, parties, and smoking. Many hosts tend to minimize their house rules outlined in the listing in order to attract more guests. But doing this can be a fatal mistake, as it can lead to troubled guests. Put all your rules in place to avoid canceling repeatedly.

2. Make sure Guests Know the Minimum Nights Stay

Having to cancel a reservation because the guest did not fully understand that they could not book only two nights’ stay is usually the main reason why owners end up withdrawing the booking. Make sure your minimum stay nights stay are clear, precise and visible in your listing or website

3. Have a Channel Manager

If your calendar is constantly updated, you won’t run the risk of two guests booking the same days. You can always do this manually, but due to different time zones or if you’re unavailable, you may not always be able to keep it up to date.

Therefore, it is better to have specialized software for vacation rentals that provides you a channel manager. A channel manager synchronizes all your external vacation rental listings on your calendar. This way, you’ll have everything on one calendar and never have to worry about double bookings, and then never have to cancel! Problem solved. 

4. Have a clear description 

So that the guest knows what to expect, you have to be honest. If your property is not safe for children or is not suitable for guests with reduced mobility, make it clear on your description. 

Why it’s Best to Avoid Guest Cancellations

Canceling a reservation gives off a bad image of your business and can result in a negative review. When a guest is organizing their vacation, they want the process of finding accommodation to be easy and hassle-free. That’s why a cancellation can ruin their vacation.

In addition, if you cancel more than one booking, your property will not appear reliable and other guests may avoid booking it too, in fear that you will cancel too. In the long term, it will can you a poor reputation.

how to cancel a guest reservation

If you’re listing on OTAs, canceling a reservation will cause your position in their search engines of these pages to drop significantly, which makes it increasingly difficult for a guest to see your property on the platform.

Moreover, OTAs may even charge you for canceling. In any case, canceling a reservation in your listing reflects poorly on your business and also affects your visibility. What’s more, if your cancellations are repeated, you may end up being excluded from the site.

What to Take Away

Of course, cancellations happen, and at times you can’t help it. If despite all your efforts the guest still ends up unhappy, most likely they will give you a negative review and post it on your ad, website or social network. 

If you know how to face a negative review, it won’t tremendously affect your business. 

It’s not a question of counterattacking, but of answering positively. You must make sure that the guest understands that you value their opinion and that you will implement it to improve your business.  Explain the reason for their complaint (repeat it if you already stated it in your cancellation message), apologize and be thankful that they were interested in your accommodation rental. 

Don’t ever let negative reviews get you down emotionally. Rather, stay calm and deal with them in a professional way. The key is to always stay positive!

Now that you know how to deal with this somewhat tricky situation, there’s no stopping the success of your vacation rental business! But remember, it’s easier to avoid canceling a reservation than to recover from one.

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