Room Availability: All of Your Questions Answered
The one thing standing between you (or your employees) and a successful business trip is booking the right hotel. And, that depends on being able to find an available room for the dates of your trip.
In the hotel industry, we call that “room availability.”
But it’s actually more complex than whether rooms are open for booking or not.
Below, we’ll answer all of your room availability questions, from how it’s determined to the steps needed to secure a room for your upcoming trip.
What Is Room Availability?
Room availability describes the number of unbooked rooms a hotel has during a given timeframe for a certain room type (suite, standard, etc.).
For example, you may request honeymoon suites available during the week of July 4th.
If you’ve ever scrolled through hotel booking sites when planning a family vacation, you’ve likely seen a 1 Room Left — Book Now! notification in red.
That’s room availability at its simplest.
How Room Availability Is Determined
Here’s a question we get all the time:
How do hotels and hotel booking sites always know the room availability?
Boutique hotels, large chains, and mid-range hotel brands typically use revenue management systems to track room availability in real-time.
The system tracks guest check-ins and check-outs to calculate how many rooms are available during a set timeframe.
We call this room demand forecasting.
Here are some of the metrics our forecasting software tracks:
- Early check-outs
Hotels will share this data with hotel booking sites, which may update the room availability immediately, every few hours, or even every day.
Say you’re searching for a room with double beds between April 5 and 8. After keying in your preferences, the system will calculate how many rooms meeting those criteria are still unbooked.
It could be no rooms or 40 rooms — it all depends on how many rooms you need to book, how far in advance you book the reservation, and how popular a destination the city is.
Why Room Availability Matters for Bookers and Managers
Unless you’re booking a hotel at a world-renowned five-star hotel or in a tourist destination during peak season, finding a single hotel room within a few-block radius won’t be too challenging.
However, bookers and managers often run into trouble when booking multiple rooms for business-related travel.
The struggle becomes even more cumbersome with longer trips.
A construction crew traveling cross-country to a worksite may need to house 25 workers. Even paired up into double rooms (which might earn you a bit of well-deserved pushback), this large group reservation might require renting out an entire floor.
Last-minute or large-scale group bookings are up against limited room availability, posing challenges for bookers and managers.
Room Availability Term Definitions
When booking hotel rooms for work crews and employees, you’ll also come across tons of other related terms. It can get a little confusing!
We’ll define the most common terms below:
Last Room Availability
Last room availability (LRA) is a pre-negotiated contract between a business and a hotel at the room rate level (for example, if the specific room type is no longer available, then the negotiated rate will not be available either).
With this clause, a company is entitled to book a hotel’s last vacant room at the previously contracted rate even if the rest of the hotel’s rooms are otherwise booked (as long as it is the negotiated room type).
Non-Last Room Availability
Non-last room availability (NLRA) is essentially the same concept of last room availability with one extra caveat:
The agreed-upon rate falls to the hotel’s discretion, meaning they can make the rate unavailable based on vacancy.
Alternative availability is when a booking site recommends a similar hotel property when the preferred hotel is fully booked.
Occupancy describes how many rooms in a hotel are booked and occupied on any given day. It’s usually represented as a percentage of the total number of rooms.
A hotel occupancy forecast reports the predicted number of rooms that’ll be booked and vacant for any given night. Forecasts can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Meaning your reservation is guaranteed with a payment method, and the hotel will not give away your room.
Overbooking occurs when a hotel books out more rooms than it has, with the impression that a percentage of the reservations will cancel. Hotels intentionally overbook rooms to keep occupancy rates high.
Best Available Rate
The best available rate (BAR) is the lowest price a guest can rent a hotel room for on any given night. Rates could fluctuate from one night to the next depending on supply and demand. This is sometimes called a flexible rate or regular rate.
A qualified rate is a special discount or an offer only available to guests involved with a partner affiliation or loyalty program. Hotels may limit qualified rates to certain packages or accommodations.
How Can You Check Room Availability at a Hotel?
Whether it’s a last-minute business trip for one employee or a department-wide trip booked a year in advance, it’s essential to find a lodging option that fits your criteria:
- In the right geographical area
- With enough rooms for all workers attending
- Offering the right accommodations and amenities
Here’s how to check a hotel’s room availability:
Call or Email the Front Desk
The hotel’s receptionists and front desk staff have direct access to the booking software that tracks room availability in real-time.
Does your company travel policy require you to book at certain hotels in your destination city?
Are you hoping to book rooms at the hotel hosting an upcoming conference?
If so, call or email their front desk to inquire about room availability for the upcoming trip.
Let them know all of your needs:
- Number rooms you need to book
- Number of guests
- Projected check-in and check-out dates
You can also ask specifically for the group sales manager when you call. Not only will they help you book a hotel block with multiple rooms, but you may also be able to negotiate a group rate discount.
Checking Booking Websites (i.e., Hotel Engine)
Travel websites and booking engines are the most efficient way to narrow down your hotel search, especially for group reservations.
Rather than phoning or emailing a dozen hotels in a five-mile radius, you can select the trip’s details on the site’s search engine (dates, location, number of rooms, etc.).
The site will pull up all hotels that meet your search criteria. Then, just choose the one that fits the travel budget and has the amenities your group needs (i.e., free Wi-Fi, special parking considerations).
How Can You Ensure There’s a Hotel Room Available?
Short of planning trips around peak season, how can you guarantee that a room will be available for the length of the business trip?
Here are three tips to take the headache out of the often unpredictable process of researching room availability:
Be Strategic With *When* You Book Rooms
Although booking too far in advance may raise the nightly rates, reserving a room as soon as possible is the best way to guarantee a room.
Many hotel chains allow guests to make room reservations 10–12 months in advance. Once your company confirms the date of your project or conference, book a room and lock in the rate!
Join Rewards and Loyalty Programs
Guest reward and loyalty programs are quite popular in the hotel industry, offering perks such as free nights, discounted stays, and redeemable points.
Of course, read the fine print before depending on the loyalty program to make last-minute reservations. Guaranteed availability may not apply if the hotel is overbooked or if your trip falls during high-demand periods.
Use a Platform With Live Inventory
The best way to ensure there’s a hotel room available for you or your team is to rely on a booking platform with a live inventory, like Hotel Engine.
These tools track hotel vacancies in real-time and allow you to book your stay instantly with the click of a button. After you make the reservation, the booking portal will confirm your reservation with the hotel.
Sign up for Hotel Engine and start taking advantage of our live inventory booking platform today!
What About Meeting and Conference Rooms?
Booking a hotel meeting, conference, or banquet room can be more challenging in bigger cities that host national events. Yet, finding an open hotel venue is much easier if you know where to look.
Many economy and high-tier hotel brands have a search feature on their website to match you with the right venue in your preferred location.
You’d just need to clarify:
- The destination city
- The date(s) of the event
- A preferred room layout (i.e., theater, classroom, banquet)
- How many people you expect to attend
- How long you’d need to rent the space out for
You may also be able to secure a discounted packaged if you reserve a space for your event plus nine or more rooms for attendees.
How Can You Get an Available Room in a Sold-Out Hotel?
Here’s one of the biggest secrets in the hotel industry:
Just because a hotel is “sold-out,” that doesn’t mean you can’t book a room there.
But how do you find an available room when the website says no vacancies?
These strategies might seem simple, but they tend to work well:
Call the Front Desk
The first thing you should do is call the hotel’s front desk (not the national number).
Ask if they have any available rooms during your desired stay. Also, request to speak to the reservations manager if they’re available.
Room availability changes by the minute, and the hotel itself will have the most up-to-date information about vacant rooms.
Check for Vacancies Regularly
Cancellations are quite common in the hotel industry, meaning no rooms available could change at any time. Check the hotel’s website or hotel booking engine frequently to see if any vacancies open up.
Ask to Be Put on a Waiting List
If there aren’t any rooms available, ask the manager to put your name on the waitlist. Don’t forget to give them your name and phone number so they can reach out if any rooms open up.
Check a Day or Two Before Arrival
Many hotels offer free refunds on rooms if guests cancel at least 1–3 days before their scheduled check-in. Check daily to pounce on these last-minute cancellations and guarantee yourself a room in your preferred hotel.
Booking a hotel room — or 15 — doesn’t have to be a hassle.
But once you understand the quirks and loopholes of room availability, you’ll be a pro at booking your next big business trip.
The best way to secure a room is to book reservations early, call the front desk if all rooms appear booked, and turn to booking tools to guarantee the right room for your stay.
Learn more about Hotel Engine and start booking the deals you want (at the prices you want) today!
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.