/ Travel & Leisure

Why I couldn’t cancel my hotel room booking

A hotel bell

With the (mostly) beautiful weather we’ve been having there’s never been a better time to enjoy a staycation in the UK. But if circumstances intervene and you have to cancel a hotel room – can you?

When I recently moved to London I spent a couple of days staying with a friend before moving into my current flat. However, there was one evening where I wasn’t able to stay with my friend. Frantically I rang another friend to obtain crash space and then I panicked a bit.

I decided to book a hotel room, just to be safe. Thirty minutes later my friend came through, so I went to cancel my room… and found I could not. I hadn’t read the cancellation policy.

Always read the cancellation small print

It was a salutary lesson, not to panic book and to always read the cancellation terms before committing to pay. But it got me wondering, how many people actually read cancellation policies and how prominent are they?

Different companies have different policies. Some hotels will give you a full refund if you cancel within a certain time period, while others will expect you to forfeit a deposit or the first night’s room charge. It’s also worth noting that hotel booking sites have their own rules, so it’s always important to check.

Cancellation policies are often complex and riddled with small print, which makes them a chore to read when you’re booking an exciting getaway. However, unless you want to end up out-of-pocket, always look at the small print first!

Have you had to cancel a hotel room? Did you get a full refund? Do you read cancellation policies before booking a trip?


I would also like to echo some of the points raised by Kim (2 April 2017). I too am a small hotel owner.

Yes, OTAs (online travel agents) like booking.dot.com and expedia etc charge the hotel at least 15% commission on your booking. You pay £100, the hotel only receives £85.

Unlike Kim, our hotel does advertise lower prices than the OTAs – we always reduce the price by 10%. That way, the guest benefits with a nice discount and we save a little too.

So, I would always suggest finding a price on a OTA but then call the Hotel direct to negotiate a lower price – any hotel which is unable to do this is either not training their booking staff or is simply nuts.

What’s more, hotels are keen for guests to book direct and to keep booking direct with them. Wherever possible, we place our direct booking guests into our best rooms – if a free upgrade is available, it will always be given to those guests who have booked direct with us.

As we are a low cost hotel, we sell all of our rooms on a non-refundable basis. Thats all you get if you book via an OTA.

However, if you book direct with us, we will do our best to help you (remember, we want you to book direct with us again). If we can resell your room, we will provide a refund just like Kim does. We also offer our own Insurance product which allows guests to cancel for any reason and get a full refund. We don’t offer that via an OTA as its too complicated and the OTA wants 15% commission off that too.

If a direct booking guest needs to amend their booking, we will do our best to help them. A guest booking via an OTA cannot amend the booking as we keep strictly to the T&Cs.

And finally, one particular OTA (which starts with the letter B) uses the information we supply them and twists it to make it sound better in order to increase bookings (ie their 15% commission). That particular website is breaking so many Advertising Standards rules that it is amazing they operate at all – the problem is that because they are based in the Netherlands, all complaints submitted to the ASA in the UK have to be forwarded to the Dutch ASA to be looked at.

Book direct – you will save money and be treated so much better.

It all boils down to rather depressing reading when policy and T&C’s have replaced quality hospitality management decision making. I am a small B&B owner in Goodwick, Wales and use Booking.com so am well aware of the non-refundable policy. I have given refunds in all sorts of situations IF I believe that I could still sell that room no matter what the paperwork says. I do tend to empathize more readily with private bookers.

I still booked a farm house recently in the Brecon Beacons, in a hurry, last minute and did not realize that my third party web page reservation was auto channelled to the non-refundable price rate. Only when I received the print out moments later did I see “no breakfast” and “no refund”! It took me 10 minutes from reservation to cancellation and hope that the other property would empathize and over-ride the “no refund”. Even the mobile phone, the only form of communication with the property just kept ringing.
The owner, Andrew later explained that he is a cattle farmer and has no time to pick up the phone or talk to people. The rules work for him and many others that list as a secondary income. He kept my GBP100!

I think a solution is to have any sort of cooling off period even on a non-refundable reservation and the idea of a property showing willingness to offer any form of “goodwill gesture” after that is reserved for the true hospitality professionals!