At Roomkey, we talk a lot about the benefits of booking directly with hotels. When you book direct, you are the one communicating with the hotel instead of relying on a third-party site to make arrangements for you. This eliminates the opportunity for miscommunication and error, and it also makes it more likely for you to get a better room or upgrade. But most of all, when you book direct, you have a much lower chance of your reservation getting lost.
But, maybe it’s too late for that. Maybe you already booked through an online travel agency (OTA)—like Booking.com or Travelocity—and your reservation has vanished into thin air. The hotel can’t find it. At this point, you’re probably pretty mad (we’d be too), but luckily, you have some options. Here is everything you should do to try to rectify the situation, get a refund, and secure backup accommodations, fast.
First, Call the OTA
If you show up at a hotel and they have no record of your reservation, immediately show them the documents you received from the OTA that include your reservation, dates, and confirmation number. If you still aren’t showing up in their system, call the OTA directly. As a travel agency, the OTA site is responsible for transferring all of your booking details directly over to the hotel. But sometimes—and hopefully this doesn’t happen often—the OTA fails to pass over all of your information, and your reservation is lost.
If you get on the phone with them, they might be able to talk to the front desk to straighten things out. You’ve likely already paid in full for the reservation, so even if the hotel has rooms available, you’ll need to call the OTA because you don’t want to pay twice. All online travel agencies have a 24-hour phone line you can call in situations like this.
When you’re on the phone with the OTA, explain the situation and give them your confirmation number. At this point, the responsibility to solve the problem is with them. They should offer to consult with the hotel or to set you up at a new hotel and arrange transportation. Be kind, but firm. They’ve inconvenienced you as well as the hotel, and you’ve already paid for a room that you were guaranteed to have. If they try to blame it on the hotel and tell you there’s nothing they can do to help, don’t give in. This is their mistake. They should make the situation right.
If That Doesn’t Work, What Are My Options?
If the OTA refuses to fix the problem and you need a place to stay, you can try to engage the hospitality of the hotel where you originally booked. Hotels are just as frustrated with OTAs as you are in this moment. They’re powerless to prevent OTAs from losing or randomly canceling reservations, and they hate to see guests inconvenienced. If they have rooms available, you could book a room with them and take up the fight for a refund with the OTA the next day. The hotel might even offer to talk to the OTA themselves to work out the miscommunication.
If there aren’t rooms available, see if the hotel has a policy called “walking.” Walking is a hotel policy typically used when the hotel overbooks and guests are left without a room. In this situation, it’s customary for the hotel to “walk” the guest over to a comparable property, sometimes cover the cost of transportation or even the first night. In your case, even though the error wasn’t the fault of the hotel, they may have a policy for when guests experience lost third-party reservations. They may be able to set you up at another property. Ask “Can you walk me to another hotel?” Even if the hotel doesn’t have that policy, they’re likely to know about the other hotel options in the area and have resources to get you rebooked quickly.
Give Feedback to the OTA and Make Them Listen
If the OTA doesn’t make the situation right, there are a few ways to put the pressure on. You’ve probably tried to call and email, but consider posting a public message on social media. If you tweet at the OTA or comment publicly on their Instagram or Facebook page, they might address your concerns. OTAs are worried about public opinion and bad press. Addressing them on social media also puts your message through a different channel. Instead of the phone or email customer support team, you’ll be in contact with the media support or marketing team. Fresh eyes might be all you need to finally get a call back.
In the worst case, if you’ve lost a substantial amount of money and the OTA won’t respond to your queries, you can get in touch with a consumer advocate. Consumer advocates are professionals who stand up for people like you when you’re interacting with large companies. They will assess the situation, read any policies or terms you agreed to, and argue on your behalf.
How to Prevent Lost Reservations Next Time
This has probably been enough of a nightmare that you’ve sworn off the specific OTA that you booked with. You might have even called all your friends and made them promise never to book with that company for their own good as well. However, don’t just transfer your loyalties over to another OTA, hoping the incident won’t happen again. Not many people know that the majority of travel booking sites are owned by one of two parent companies. So by moving along to the next OTA, you might just be using the original OTA’s clone. The only way to prevent this situation is to book everything (your hotels, flights, cars, restaurant reservations, etc.) direct. Here’s why…
When you book direct, the hotel you book with will be your advocate and take responsibility if something goes awry. Booking direct always gives you more flexibility if something goes awry. The hotel will assume responsibility for your reservation and be more able to fix the situation, find you other accommodations if necessary, or get you a refund.
OTAs have not proven themselves to be a customer advocate. If your reservation is canceled or lost, they are quick to label the situation as out of their control and in many cases won’t issue you a refund. Just Google search “[insert OTA name] lost my reservation” and you’ll come across dozens of customer stories of this exact situation. Book directly with the hotel or the airline and you won’t have this problem.
Where Does Roomkey Come In?
When you book with Roomkey, you’re booking directly with the hotel, right on their own website. We offer the benefits of a multi-brand hotel search experience like an OTA, but when it comes time to book, your relationship lies solely with the hotel, not with a middleman.
Once you’ve finished your search and have the perfect hotel, we’ll transfer you to their website so you can complete your booking with them. This means your reservation is not likely to be lost or canceled. But if (in the worst-case scenario) something did go wrong, the hotel will be able to fix the problem faster and better than any OTA could.
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