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Travellers forced to sleep on the floor as hotel overbookings soar in holiday hotspots


Despite securing a bed in a Croatian hostel with a credit card deposit, Jason Underwood arrived to check in at Split’s Goli & Bosi, only to be told there was no room at the inn.

“I was told on two separate earlier check-in attempts that the bed wasn’t ready. So I went out and returned at midnight and they finally said there weren’t any rooms available,” said the 36-year-old. “They said we can give you a refund to go somewhere else, or we can give you a pillow and blanket and you can find a spot on the floor.”

Instead of a 38-euro-a-night dormitory bed, the Sydney engineer and three other travellers found themselves sleeping in a makeshift “tent city” in the hostel’s hallway.

“The other guys made a pretty good tent city. Mine was a bit Scandi minimalist; a table with a sheet over the top and the legs hanging out,” Underwood said, laughing. “It’s a good travel story though.”

Underwood, who made the reservation via Hostelworld, said he felt bad for the staff who were forced to deal with a problematic booking system.

“The guy at the counter said he could see when it was overbooked but couldn’t do anything to update it,” said Underwood. “They were on Hostelworld, Tripadvisor, and some other sites, and he said none of the sites spoke to each other, and it’s constantly a mess.”

Split, on the south-east coast of Croatia, is one of many Northern Hemisphere holiday hotspots buckling under surging summer demand, with average occupancy levels soaring above 95 per cent for the first time in years.

Reports of overcrowded hotels in places like Mallorca and Split have emerged, and summer travellers are being warned to brace for the possibility of being turned away.

Hotels overbook to bridge gaps caused by late cancellations and no-show guests, according to Canstar’s Steve Mickenbecker.

“Of course there can be genuine errors caused by the hotels’ own systems or communications between the hotel and multiple booking agencies,” he said.

Another issue is that major hotel chains were once able to predict no-shows with a high degree of accuracy. That’s no longer the case. Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said: “The booking patterns have changed. There are more leisure travellers than corporate, weekends are busier, and this will change again as we see corporate and international leisure travel start to return after November.”

So, what should you do if you find your accommodation has no room for you?

HOW CAN I AVOID BEING TURNED AWAY?

Turning up on time for check-in puts you at an advantage. Mickenbecker notes: “the last arrival is going to be the one to miss out.” 

Also, opt to pay in full before arriving. “If you’re confident about the provider and that your plans won’t change, this is one way to secure your spot,” said Mickenbecker. 

As with airlines, it doesn’t hurt to join the hotel’s membership scheme ahead of your stay – it’s free, and guests with a history of customer loyalty may be viewed favourably.

MY HOTEL IS OVERBOOKED. WHAT NOW?

If you’ve booked your stay through a third-party website, your first step should be contacting the platform’s customer service team. Staff may be able to relocate you, according to Expedia.

Check the hotel and booking platform’s policies for your entitlements. It tends to involve them organising alternative accommodation in an equivalent or upgraded category, and paying expenses, such as a taxi fare and phone calls.

A sensible approach is to arrive with cash reserves and a list of nearby hotels, in case hotel staff are unwilling to assist. If you’re left out of pocket from arranging another stay, Mickenbecker warns you may be in for an intense negotiation to be fully compensated.

WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS?

Under Australian Consumer Law, when a business accepts payment for services they must supply them within the agreed timeframe. If they can’t, the remedy will depend on the circumstances and booking terms and conditions. 

If you’ve booked through a third party, both the property and booking platform’s terms and conditions will apply.

These protections may still apply to overseas hotels, provided they were booked in Australia.

If there’s an issue with the booking, contact the accommodation to resolve the problem in the first instance. An ACCC spokesperson said: “If they are unable to resolve their dispute with the business, they can make a complaint to their local state or territory consumer protection agency.”





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