Lost hotel reservation? Tips to save your room and your wallet


The travel industry has come a long way from the early days of the airline GDS reservation system, and that’s particularly true with most hotel reservations. But sometimes hotel reservations seem to disappear in the cloud, so to speak.

I’ll never forget back in the 1980s booking a Marriott in Florida for a Sunday night on Friday afternoon through our SABRE computer and calling the hotel with a client’s special request. Not only did they not have the room confirmed, but also I found out that Marriott often didn’t send Friday reservations to hotels until Monday morning.

Fortunately, the client never heard that story. I got a room booked directly. Barely.

These days, many major hotel systems have a direct link into the GDS and many reservations are at the front desk almost instantly. “Many” being the operative word, instead of all. It doesn’t matter if 999 of a 1000 reservations get to the hotel with no problem, if you happen to be the 1000th.

So here are a few tips to help a front desk clerk find a missing reservation.

1. Have the confirmation number with you. This simple step can solve a lot of problems, if maybe there’s a misspelling, or the clerk typed in something wrong at checkin, or if the computer ran a name together in a weird way.

2. It’s good to have the confirmation number in the exact format sent to you by the agency or online booking tool or service used for the reservation. Since many of us (including me) transpose numbers when we are typing or writing fast, an original confirmation avoids such mistakes.

3. Have the number of the booking service, agency, hotel reservations service etc, handy. Even if the reservation is somehow lost, a travel agent can often call a help desk that will trace down the problem and get the hotel to honor the booking; ditto a central reservations office for a hotel chain or group.

Just as background, some hotels, like the Intercontinental Hotel Group, have all bookings in a central computer, others use reservations services. Any time a reservation message must be transferred from one computer to another, something can go wrong.

Plus, any time humans get involved in the process there can be more complications. Clients have had problems because a reservations agent interpreted two similar names as a duplicate reservation. Some travelers calling the hotel directly, accidentally cancel the wrong reservation. (This last happens a lot when common names and/or non-English speakers are involved.)

Even if the clerk says “never mind,” they have a room anyway, it’s worth a bit of effort to find the original reservation. From a travel agent point of view that saves an agency commission. From a traveler’s point of view, there is a good chance the reservation is in the hotel system somewhere, and he may end up with a room charge AND a no-show charge for the same night. (It is not only is it possible, it happens all the time.)

In any case, most lost reservations can be found with a bit of digging. In the long run, the easiest time to try to find them is at check-in, not after giving up and having to try another hotel.

  • laura

    One sure fire way to avoid problems – get the direct local number to the hotel and call them before you leave! I do this all the time (usually I prefer to book directly with the front desk of the property where I’m going, anyway).

    I call twice in fact – a day after I ‘ve made any reservation with any service (not directly) and then a day or two before the stay begins. You’d be amazed how reservations can disappear from a system in between those two calls, I guess maybe the computer crashed and loses data, but expecially if I;ve booked a trip months in advance, sometimes the booking goes missing.

    Most international hotels have someone on staff that speaks English, so if you’re confirming a foreign reservation, just say “English” and that usually gets you to someone that can help.

    And, oh, I don’t care if the reservation is confirmed, guarranteed, or pre-paid, if you going to be delayed, call the hotel and tell them you’ll be checking in LATE. I called from a connecting airport to tell my hotel I was going to be getting in after midnight for a very important stay the ‘night’ before my son’s Air Force graduation, and when I got there, the clerk told me that even with a confirmed reservation, they would have given my room to one of the many requestors that had come in. Good thing I ALWAYS call.

  • SoBeSparky

    Calling the hotel is a double-edged sword, especially when the location is not in your native language. The client can call, and the busy front desk clerk can make mistakes, opening the door to more misunderstandings.

    I tremble when I call and hear broken English in China, for example. Instead, I have learned to send a message directly to the hotel at its email address which is on almost all the web sites. The email is short and simple. “Confirming reservation # xyz, arriving abc, leaving def. Please respond. Looking forward to my stay.”

  • http://www.skoosh.com Matt

    Working in the industry, one thing that can surprise and/or frustrate me as both a customer and an agency is the lack of knowledge on Front Desk of the hotel’s reservation channels and how they may work. It surely takes only a little training or a cribbed summary of them to allay a lot of customer fears and problems both pre & during booking.

    For example, a customer booking on the same day as the check-in may sometimes find the hotel don’t yet have their name in the system if the wholesaler’s fax hasn’t yet been picked up or similar. Some front-desk staff may not realise this could be the case though and just tell them they have no booking and the guest leaves without it being resolved.

    Ok so the reservation should be there in an ideal world but this depends on the channels being fully synched which even now alas they’re generall not.

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  • http://www.achotelexperts.com/hotels.html Atlantic City

    Most of the folks do not know, how to use GDS reservation system?Your tips will be helpful to those folks for reserving a hotel through GDS reservation system.This system work for various hotels.

  • Rogerking3

    how can i find my hotel booking in Bridlington on the 4th Nov under name MR RD KING email rogerking3internet.com