Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of hotel room assignments? Do you watch the staff at the front desk calmly type away at their computer screens, and wonder just how they came back with the particular room you and your family will be staying in?
Sometimes you may walk away especially pleased – landing a suite or an ocean view you didn’t pay for – thanks to a free, last-minute upgrade. Other times the two queen beds you reserved aren’t there. Between the highs and lows of room assignments, it sometimes seems as if there is no logic and everything is just a random toss of the coin.
Well there is a process involved, and we are here to provide a peek behind the curtain:
First of all, booking the rooms for a hotel is a complicated task. Just some of the considerations that come into play are:
- Different Types of Rooms (Suites, Bed configurations, Smoking vs Non-Smoking, etc)
- VIP Requests and Special Functions
- Accessibility Requirements
- Where rooms are located, which can vary greatly and presents challenges (albeit different ones) whether a hotel is a mega-resort or a boutique location in a small or even historic space.
The difficult task falls on the rooms controller of a hotel. Their job is to assign rooms based on quite a number of variables. Essentially, they need to take into consideration all of the requests made and decide which supercede others.
Their primary function is to make sure the hotel maximizes revenue on a given day, by leaving the lowest number of rooms unoccupied. This includes not only the hotel on a given day, but projecting for the week, month and year ahead. Your room on your check in day may be affected by a anticipated check in down the line.
It is also worth noting that room controllers always try to leave a few rooms open for last minute requests and problems.
The controller has to take into account requests from a variety of sources, including (but not limited to) the hotel’s sales, housekeeping, corporate office and special events departments.
While it may seem like computers do all the work, and complex algorithms handle all the tough decisions with numerical values and hard rules, the truth is that in almost every hotel out there, room assignments are handled by actual human beings. The complex nature of these tasks makes them more “art than science” and real, live room controllers are often left to collect and interpret the data themselves. It is their mix of expertise, judgement and adaptability that keep the machine running smoothly.
You also may think that hotel room assignments are simply handled day of, or on a basis of as guests arrive. Again, there is some wiggle built into the system to allow for last minute occurrences, but at most facilities rooms are assigned 3-5 days in advance. Minor changes will be made on the day of, to factor in the latest developments, but something this complex doesn’t work by the seat of the room controllers’ pants.
Some key factors that play into the priority of room assignments include:
- Guarantees provided at time of booking
- Hotel loyalty club status/repeat business
- VIP Status (not much you can do here, at least not overnight)
On packed days, all of these factors and more will weigh heavy on the controllers for each assignment. On slower days, when many room types are available, is when you may find that surprise upgrade more likely, as a hotel looks to build loyalty and appreciation with you.
While these assignments are made far in advance and subject to all the criteria mentioned, many hotels do empower their staff, including the front desk, to exercise some authority and discretion in accommodating additional upgrades or switched – even at the last minute. Just be aware that when you ask to switch your view, or get further away from an elevator, or that you forgot to mention it is your anniversary – the hotel will often try to make reasonable accommodations when they can. They want you to be happy.
While the hotel is there to serve their guests the best that they can, you should understand that the world of allocating rooms is a complicated one. Politely ask for upgrades and make your preferences known. Maybe you will make a request and get a pleasant surprise.
If you enjoyed this article, and would like even more insight into the room selection process (as well as some helpful hints for scoring an upgrade), be sure to check out our recent travel tip “How Suite It Is: Top Tip For Getting a Free Hotel Room Upgrade.”