How to Recover from a Last-Minute Cancellation

February 7, 2015
last minute cancellation
Photo Credit: abadonian/iStock/Thinkstock

Every business in the hospitality industry remembers a time this has happened to them: a last-minute cancellation of a major reservation empties out the entire property shortly before the guests were set to arrive. In the pre-Internet days, this would have meant one thing: no business during the cancelled period, with the same overhead costs (or even a little extra, if additional services had been ordered) as before.

Thank goodness for the Internet and a little bit of brainstorming! This exact situation happened to one of our customers recently. A retreat had been planned for a weekend, but the entire group’s reservation was cancelled the week-of due to illness. Our client graciously allowed them to reschedule their retreat, but were left with an empty house in a notoriously slow part of the year.

What to Do?

Fortunately, we at Q4Launch go out of our way to help our customers when a situation like this unexpectedly arises. Our customer contacted us and brainstormed a sale–all rooms in the house were offered at the same discounted rate for the weekend at a first-come, first-served basis.

The Landing Page

We then got to work on behalf of our customer. We created a new landing page on their website displaying this special. A landing page is a page on a website used to attract and then capture a particular type of website visitor. The goal of a good landing page is to convert a higher percentage of website visitors into either potential or actual customers. This is usually achieved by targeting a particular stream of traffic, in this case visitors to the website interested in taking advantage of our customer’s special offer.  When making this landing page, we made sure to use images and words that created an aura for visitors to the page of luxury, romance, and an escape from another boring weekend.

Driving Traffic to the Page with Email Marketing

Once this was complete and met the exacting standards both we set for ourselves and the standards of our customer, we went about promoting the page. We first sent-out an email marketing campaign to our customer’s email contact list focused solely on touting this special, making sure to include what our research has demonstrated is the perfect amount of relevant pictures and words. The main focus of the campaign–and what the email largely provided links to, besides our customer’s website homepage–was directing potential customers to the landing page we previously created.

Don’t Forget about Social Media

Once the email marketing campaign was sent out, we then directed our attention to social media. We created a post on Facebook explaining the special and again eliciting feelings of romance and an escape from the ordinary. This post was linked to the previously mentioned landing page. Once we posted this advertisement (which was worded to appear to be friendly advice, rather than a blunt advertisement), we shared it with a target demographic defined by gender and age in major cities nearby to our customer. For the next few days, we continued to test and recalibrate our efforts in order to maximize the effectiveness of our campaign.

So What Were the Results?

But in the end, our campaign was indeed effective. In a matter of days, our client went from a completely empty property for two nights to having 72% occupancy in the same period!

While this does appear to be almost miraculous, in reality there were a few foundational tools in place before we started this campaign:

  1. a loyal customer base, among whom our client remains top of mind with regular postings on social media and email marketing campaigns
  2. a website optimized for access by search engines as well as human visitors
  3. a knowledge base of what works and what doesn’t in marketing based a little off of business practices and psychology, and a lot of previous experience from consistent testing of marketing variables and outcomes

These are just three things we strive to successfully provide for all our customers. If you’d like to learn more about our entire marketing program, feel free to reach out to Matt Bare by email at