Updated August 2022 – As a tour and activity provider, changes within your daily operations are inevitable. No-shows, cancellations, and time changes are a few situations you’ll most likely run into. However, a common problem that many tour operator face are overselling their tours and figuring out ways on how to handle overbookings.

Overbooking is when tour and activity operators oversell their tours over the maximum capacity. For example, if a tour’s capacity is for 20 people, but it’s reserved fror 25 people, this tour is considered overbooked.

In certain cases, operators may purposely overbook their tours as a revenue management strategy to avoid financial losses due to last-minute cancellations and changes. This is a preventative tactic so that they’re able to maximize each tour’s capacity whenever booking changes occur.

However, for many tour and activity operators, an overbooked tour may be a simple mistake that they weren’t anticipating.

An overbooking situation might seem like a good problem to have as it means that so many people want to enjoy your tour, but it can be a stressful situation to manage. Naturally, you want to do what’s best for your guests, however, you’ll also need to think about your business as well. This is when your customer service and management skills are put to the test to ensure you’re able to maintain an exceptional guest experience.

In today’s article, we’ll run through the top 5 tips on how to handle overbookings and how you can avoid it in the future.

1. How to handle overbookings in your tours?

How to handle overbookings effectively
Overbooking is fairly common in the travel industry. Hoteliers, airlines, and other travel-related sectors all face this issue. Overbooking could be a result of forgetting to input a booking placed over the phone into the system, or forgetting to adjust the capacity of a certain session. In more recent cases, there may have even been regulations and policy updates outside of your control that may have led to changes to a tour’s maximum capacity.

In many instances, seeing that one of your sessions has gone over the occupancy rate is stressful, however, don’t panic. First and foremost, try and ask yourself, is the capacity of the tour at its absolute maximum? Are you able to squeeze in a few more people safely and effectively?

If a session does become overbooked and you can’t seem to fit more people in, make sure you contact your guests as soon as you are awar. You want to start by apologizing for the inconvenience and explaining the situation, as well as your tour company cancelation policy. Fortunately, most of the time, your guests will be patient and understanding as long as you provide them with a solution promptly.

Once your guests have reached an understanding, follow the following steps to resolve the issue:

  • Work with them to see if they can switch to an alternative time or date
  • Provide them with perks or premium benefits as a way to show your appreciation for their understanding. This could be discounted pricing, a voucher, or a complimentary gift
  • If you can’t seem to come to an agreement, you can offer them a refund so they can rebook another time

Through the thick of it all, ensure you make it a positive experience and let your VIP customer service skills shine through.

2. Identify the cause

Handle overbooking by identifying the cause

While overbooking is fairly common in the industry, you don’t want it to be a common occurrence in your business. To avoid overbooking, you need to identify the issue that’s causing it.

Could it be due to the fact that your business still processes bookings manually, allowing room for errors? Are you working with multiple resellers such as Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) that overlap with your exact availabilities? Is there a time lag between confirming a booking and updating your availabilities on your website?

Investigating your business’ processes until you find the cause is key to avoiding overbooking.

3. Showcase real-time availability and create a waiting list

An effective way to avoid overbooking your tours is by showcasing your exact availabilities, even as customers are accessing your tour booking form. By equipping your website with a real-time availability viewer, your system will recognize when a session has become fully booked and will no longer be available on your site. That way, customers wanting to book your tours will only be able to see your exact availabilities.

By having a real-time availability viewer, your customers can select from your available sessions and choose a time and date that best suits them. This prevents overbooking from occurring to avoid disappointment on both ends.

Furthermore, you can also add a waiting list feature to your tours that have reached full occupancy. That way, customers who missed out can get a chance to participate in the tour in the case of any last-minute cancellations.

A real-time availability viewer and waiting list functionality can be easily set up with the help of an online booking system.

4. Resell via a channel manager

We all know that the best way to maximize your revenue is by broadening your distribution channels. However, working with multiple resellers without a proper system in place can lead to overbooking. This is especially common when resellers aren’t able to view your real-time availabilities.

By joining a channel manager platform such as Rezdy Channel Manager, you can easily manage your availabilities, adjust pricing and block out particular dates. This allows you to keep all your sales channels updated and ready to take bookings in real-time from one single, easy-to-manage platform.

By using Rezdy’s tour operator marketplace, you can also access the reach of 20,000+ reselling agents from the biggest OTAs such as Tripadvisor all the way to your local agents. With a channel manager, you can sell to potential customers of millions, allowing you to boost your sales without the hiccups of overbooking.

5. Use a tour operator booking engine to handle and avoid overbooking

How to handle overbookings by utilizing a booking software

Using an online booking system for tour operators like Rezdy, will help you increase your indirect and direct bookings efficiently, saving you time and allowing you to sell more. It equips your business with advanced features that will allow you to easily handle and avoid overbooking tours.

Rezdy key features such as a real-time availability viewer will help you ensure that your customers will only be able to book from your available sessions. It also prevents any booked-out slots from appearing on the website. Reducing the chances of overbooking your tours.

In the instance where overbooking does occur, you’ll be able to easily move your guests to another date in a few simple clicks. Furthermore, you’ll also be equipped with:

  • Automatic email communication to keep your guests informed of the changes and updates to their booking
  • The ability to easily set up promo codes and gift cards to compensate for the inconvenience caused as a result of the overbooking
  • Integration with a diverse range of payment gateways for a simple and easy refund process


Overbooking tours can definitely be an intimidating situation to be in. And in some rare cases, can lead to unhappy customers and negative reviews. Fortunately, most travelers are generally quite understanding, so long the situation is resolved promptly.

By following the five tips listed in this article, you’ll be sure to effectively handle and avoid overbooking situations in the future.

Ready to handle and avoid overbooking like a pro? Start your FREE 21-day trial or book a demo session with us today.

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