Hoteliers are often caught between wanting to fill up their rooms as early as possible and waiting to potentially charge more for last-minute bookings. It’s a tricky balance, trying to ensure you don’t sell out too cheaply early on, while also not holding out for higher prices that may never come. So, let’s unpack this challenge and explore strategies for finding that sweet spot.


The Early Bird vs. The Last-Minute Booker

The Case for Selling Out Early

Selling rooms early is all about locking in revenue. It’s comforting to know that your hotel will be full, allowing you to plan for staff and other operational needs with certainty. It’s the less risky route, offering peace of mind but potentially missing out on latecomers willing to pay top dollar.


  • Steady Revenue: Early bookings mean you’ve got guaranteed income.
  • Easier Planning: Knowing how full your hotel will be helps with everything from staffing to amenities.
  • Less Stress: There’s a certain calm that comes with having bookings in the bag.


  • Missed Opportunities: What if you sold out too cheap? Could you have charged more if you’d held out a little longer?


The Appeal of Late Bookings

Waiting for late bookings is the more adventurous approach, betting on the chance that you can charge more as the booking date gets closer. This strategy relies on the idea that scarcity and urgency can push prices up.


  • Potentially Higher Profits: You might make more per room with last-minute bookings.
  • Market Responsiveness: Adjusting prices based on last-minute demand can lead to better revenue management.


  • Risk of Empty Rooms: If those last-minute bookers don’t show up, you could end up with unsold rooms.
  • Operational Challenges: Last-minute bookings can make planning harder, from staffing to providing enough amenities.



Striking the Right Balance

1. Know Your Audience

Understanding your guests isn’t just about putting names to faces; it’s about diving deep into when and why they book. Do your guests typically plan their vacations months in advance, or are they more of the spur-of-the-moment type? Each group has its quirks and preferences.

For instance, business travelers might need a room at the drop of a hat, while families planning their holiday trips tend to lock in dates early to get the best deals. Recognizing these habits helps you not just in setting the right prices but also in creating special offers that hit the mark. It’s about making sure your hotel is the first thing they think of, whether they’re planning ahead or looking for a last-minute stay.


2. Use Technology to Your Advantage

Today, tech is less of a luxury and more of a must-have, especially when it comes to understanding and predicting booking trends. Revenue Management Systems (RMS) crunch the numbers and analyze the patterns to tell you when to bump up prices or when a special promo might fill those last few rooms.

These systems take the guesswork out of pricing, allowing you to focus on the big picture (like making your guests’ stay unforgettable). Using RMS effectively means you’re always a step ahead, ensuring your rooms are priced just right to attract guests and maximize earnings. So, let the machines do the heavy lifting.


3. Flexibility and Quick Thinking

In this industry, being able to pivot quickly can make all the difference. This means being ready to switch things up, whether that’s introducing a flash sale to boost bookings during a slow week or adjusting your rates in real-time to match demand.

Flexibility is crucial here; it lets you respond to the market’s ups and downs in. And it’s not just about changing prices; it’s about getting creative with what you offer, like throwing in freebies or unique experiences that make staying at your hotel too good to pass up.


4. Don’t Ignore Your Instincts

Even in a world driven by data and analytics, it might seem like analytics and algorithms have all the answers. But, there’s a compelling case to be made for the irreplaceable value of human intuition. Your experience and knowledge of the hotel industry are invaluable, allowing you to make calls that a computer might not.

Maybe it’s a hunch about a new trend or an idea for a promotion that feels just right. Balancing the insights from technology with your intuition can lead you to make decisions that benefit your hotel, setting you apart from the competition in meaningful ways.


Conclusion: It’s All About Balance

Finding the right approach to hotel inventory management isn’t about discovering a secret formula that works for everyone. Instead, it’s about hitting the sweet spot through a mix of understanding your market, utilizing technology wisely, and being ready to shift gears when needed. This delicate balancing act doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all blueprint; it’s tailored to each hotel’s unique circumstances and goals.

At the heart of effective inventory management is the courage to take calculated risks. Every strategy involves some level of risk, but if you balance your know-how, tech, and ability to adapt, you can balance unnecessary risk. You’re not looking to eliminate risk entirely—that’s an impossible task. Instead, the aim is to manage it in a way where you’re optimizing for revenue without stretching your resources too thin.

This whole process is something you’ve got to keep at, constantly. It requires staying sharp, being creative, and really understanding what your guests are looking for. It’s more than just filling up rooms; it’s about doing it in a way that fits with what your hotel stands for and what your guests expect. By keeping this balance, you’re not just keeping your hotel running; you’re setting it up for lasting success in a tough, constantly changing industry.

Published On: April 4th, 2024 / Categories: Business Development, Hotel, Managing, Revenue Management, Tips /