A hotel can cancel your reservation even if you already arrived
A hotel can cancel your reservation even if you already arrived – StefanDahl (canva)

There are many reasons a hotel can cancel bookings. Although it rarely happens, and no amount of well-meaning apologies and vouchers can appease the disappointment and anger of getting a last-minute cancellation notice for your booking, especially when you are counting on it.

A hotel is honor-bound to respect your booking; however, there are specific cases where the hotel can cancel your booking such as overbooking from online travel agent sites, a maintenance issue on one of their floors, severe weather, or others.

We will explore the reasons why a hotel would cancel your reservation as well as things you can do to prevent a hotel cancellation, the meaning of hotel walks, your rights as a customer, the form of compensation you are entitled to for your last-minute cancellation and things you can do to guarantee a successful booking.

What can cause a hotel to cancel my reservation?

Upon confirmation of a reservation, according to its payment policy, the hotel must honor the booking, whether paid or unpaid. Although it’s not a common practice because it discourages customer loyalty and generates negative reviews.

There are 11 reasons a hotel will cancel reservations. The reasons are hotel discrepancies, issues on your part, and other external forces.

Below are the 11 reasons thoroughly explained. Booking cancelations are not the norm, and a hotel goes to extreme lengths to avoid this from happening since it reflects poorly on its brand.

1. Hotel just opened.

An inaugurated or newly opened hotel can see an increase in walk-in traffic and decide to overbook in an attempt to gain loyal customers.

2. Maintenance or repairs.

A hotel unexpectedly has maintenance issues or goes through scheduled renovations that might not be communicated to online travel agents’ sites. Inclement weather is a valid reason for hotels to close or shut down a floor temporarily.

3. Unexpected request.

A change in circumstances; for example, the venue is booked exclusively by an influential organization or individual. While this is not common, it happens. Knowing the best days and times to book a hotel room in a brand-new city is important for the success of your trip.

4. Overbooking.

While your booking is not canceled, your booking is given away to whoever shows up first if the hotel is over-booked for the night. Hotels take some risks by assuming some of their guests will cancel last minute, but when this doesn’t happen, the hotel faces overbooking.

5. Booking party misunderstanding.

The cancelation was requested by a guest of the booking party without the party’s consent.

6. Late check-in.

Showing up after check-in and not contacting or emailing beforehand.

7. Invalid payment.

The reservation was made using an invalid credit card that was reported stolen or not belonging to the cardholder.

8. Fail to comply with health and safety requirements.

The guest did not comply with the hotel’s health & safety standards (for COVID-19).

9. Inclement weather.

Weather conditions are unfavorable in the hotel area. Inclement weather in the hotel area can cause a hotel to shut down for the day. While this is uncommon, it can happen, and the hotel will notify you via email.

10. Booking flexibility.

The requested room type is unavailable, and the guest doesn’t want to use an alternative room.

11. Blacklisted.

If the guest has been blacklisted in the hotel customer database and makes a reservation under a false name.

Who do I contact in case the hotel cancels my booking?

The hotel or online travel agent will inform you of any cancellations made before the booking date by email or phone; however, last-minute cancellations are usually disclosed during check-in by the hotel. The hotel or a customer service agent will help you resolve any issues.

What You Can Do If A Hotel Cancels Your Booking

Read the fine print of your booking and work together with the hotel manager or the customer service hotline to reach an agreement.

If a hotel cancels your booking, they are at fault, and they need to find a way to rectify their error. Most hotels already have a system to work through this but need the guest’s cooperation. Here are your options:

1. Speak with the manager.

The hotel must provide an explanation and compensation if a booking is canceled last minute. Ask to speak with the manager or contact the customer service support line. If you somehow already paid for a deposit fee to guarantee the reservation, you’ll have a very strong case.

Read here to find out more about hotel’s deposit fee.

2. Ask for a refund.

The hotel most likely has a compensation plan or package ready for situations like this, especially if you are part of their member’s program.

3. Request accommodation at another hotel group or branch.

Many hotels are prepared for overbooking incidents and have agreements with their hotel groups or nearby hotels where they can find accommodation; some even provide transportation for guests.

4. Compensation.

The main branches will have compensation packages ready for you. Compensation can be in the form of complimentary meals, drinks, or extra services like spa access. If you are part of their membership program, they add additional rewards. Not all hotels offer this type of concession. It all depends on how long you plan on staying and your hotel ranking.

5. Leave a review.

Write a review of your experience online. Give honest feedback to the hotel, warn other guests of potential issues, and provide suggestions on navigating the issue.

Canceled booking aside, there are times when you need to bring your concern to the hotel about any issue that you can’t ignore. Here’s our guide on how to complain to your hotel about any discomfort.

What does it mean a hotel can “walk me”?

It means that when you arrive at a hotel to check in with a reservation but the hotel is fully booked, the hotel will offer a room at another hotel, of the same ranking or from the same hotel group, as compensation for booking your room for someone else.

What are my rights if a hotel cancels my reservation?

Read the fine print of the hotel’s policies before booking to understand what you can get compensation for and what is out of reach.

There are no federal laws or protection against a hotel canceling a reservation at the last minute, like in the airline industry. However, if you are upset about how the hotel handled your cancellation, gather enough evidence to bring legal action against the hotel. You can also bring up your case to the Consumer Affairs department.

What happens if the hotel cancels your booking in advance?

If a hotel cancels your paid booking days before your check-in date: you should get an email letting you know of the cancellation and a full refund. If this is the case, place another booking at a different hotel and save the confirmation number.

If the hotel cancels your unpaid booking days before your check-in date: you will only receive an email to inform you.

If a hotel cancels your paid booking on the day of your check-in: ask to speak to the manager to receive proper compensation. The hotel’s double-booking issue is not your fault; reach an agreement to compensate for your lost time:

  • Ask the hotel for add-ons based on the length of your stay.
  • If it was for a day, ask for a refund and accommodation at their hotel chain.
  • If it is for a couple of days, ask the hotel for a voucher for breakfast, a complimentary night at their hotel group, extra points or rewards, or extra nights at their hotel group. Advocate for yourself with the front desk staff until you reach a reasonable agreement.

Will a hotel cancel my reservation if I’m late?

If your room is reserved and paid for, call or email before check-in to let them know about your delay; however, the risk of losing your booking is minimal.

If you reserve your room but have yet to pay for it, there are more risks of losing the reservation during the delay, especially if you don’t call ahead.

What makes a reservation guaranteed?

A reservation alone should guarantee confirmation of your reservation; however, a paid reservation is more likely to secure a room than a reservation not yet paid for.

If you make a reservation, a hotel should honor it, no matter if it’s paid or not.

Can a hotel reject your online booking?

Once a reservation is placed, a hotel cannot reject your booking, no matter what avenue you used to book that hotel. E.g., Booking.com, Travelocity, etc.

If the hotel has any issues with your reservation before the check-in date, the hotel should contact you via email or phone to find a solution.

How can I avoid booking cancellation?

Hotels should honor reservations unless the fine print states that they reserve the right to cancel a reservation at any time. An unpaid reservation should be enough of a placeholder; here are some tips to prevent issues with your reservation. Keep in mind this is in case.

1. Pay ahead of time.

Hotels can tell which reservations are paid and which are not and might not consider double-booking.

2. Call or email ahead of time.

Calling ahead of time will guarantee your spot because the hotel will expect your arrival throughout the week.

3. Late check-in

Call ahead of time to let the hotel know you are arriving late for check-in.

4. Save your confirmation email.

Your email confirmation number can help the hotel staff find your reservation and

5. Check your junk mail.

Ensure the hotel’s emails are not being sent to your junk email inbox. Save the booking confirmation number and keep it handy in case the hotel needs the confirmation number.

6. Read the fine print.

Read the fine print about your booking to know what compensation you are entitled to.

7. Check the weather conditions.

If inclement weather and damage are caused to the hotel’s facilities, the hotel might cancel your reservation. If you see worrying weather, call your hotel just to make sure.

Why do hotels overbook?

Hotels overbook as a strategy to fill last-minute cancellations.

Customers are more likely to book at hotels with flexible cancellation policies; this policy can’t guarantee the hotel that the booking will go through since travelers can opt-out easily, so hotels overbook to guarantee full rooms.

Although online travel agents are cheaper for hotel booking, you must go through them in case of a booking issue. For example, if the hotel cancels or overbooks your room, they might take care of your compensation without going through the online travel agency.

What if a hotel cancels my reservation, but I booked through an online travel agent?

Hotels avoid cancellations because it reduces customer confidence and loyalty and lowers their rating; therefore, they try hard to keep their bookings, so hotel cancellations are rare.

You will receive a refund from the online travel agency; however, you need to call the customer service hotline to ensure you get this sorted out. Explain to them the over-booking incident with the hotel.

Can hotels reject you?

Under common law, hotels have to accept guests unless there is a reasonable or non-arbitrary reason for rejecting a guest.

Under federal law, public accommodations like hotels, motels, inns, or other rentals cannot discriminate against or segregate guests based on race, color, religion, or national origin. This includes physical or mental disabilities as well.


The best travel advice is to confirm your reservation a day before traveling. In addition, let the front desk know if you will be late to ensure everything runs smoothly with your reservation. Ideally, there should be no issues with your reservation, but things sometimes don’t turn out as planned, so it’s better to call ahead for better or worse.

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