Booking.com offer an (optional) risk-free cancellation program for hosts. You can learn a little more about the program here. On the surface it's positive, Booking.com accepts a reservation on your property. If that guest cancels their booking, Booking.com will still pay you and will attempt to search for a replacement guest. If no replacement is found, you still earn the same amount.
What's the issue?
Unfortunately Booking.com's back-end has not yet caught up to their program. Without getting too technical this is flow:
The original reservation is synced to Uplisting (or any channel manager).
The guest cancels the reservation.
Unlike a regular cancellation which results in Booking.com alerting our system that this booking is cancelled and can be removed (opening dates on your calendar) - Booking.com don't alert Uplisting as they keep this original reservation as a placeholder for a potential new reservation.
If no replacement guest is found the reservation remains in place which leads to confusion on your behalf when at check-in time no guest arrives and automated messages are still sending to the guest.
If a replacement guest is found, the guest name is updated, however, the "link" we (and any other channel manager) use to send guest messages remains tied to the original guest. This means the original guest receives any automated or manually sent guest messages.
It makes us look bad
We've attempted on a number of occasions to alert Booking.com to the issue, however, it's been a few months and nothing has changed unfortunately. From our perspective these are the two key issues meaning we can't provide you with a reliable service for risk free cancellation bookings:
We are not alerted to risk-free cancelled bookings. This means if a new guest is not found, the booking remains on the calendar and you think a guest is arriving. Things like scheduling cleaning, check-ins etc may still be carried and it's frustrating for you to then learn no guests are appearing.
We cannot send messages to risk-free cancelled bookings. This is an issue especially when a new guest has been found. This means when you attempt to send a message on Uplisting or use our automated messages they fail to send, or send to the original guest. It's a terrible experience and makes our platform look unreliable.
What is the solution?
The only solution is to disable risk-free reservations on Booking.com, at least until their back-end can handle the program.
How do I opt out of Risk-Free Reservations?
"We understand your business model might not be a perfect fit for this program. If you don’t want to offer Risk-Free Reservations, just sign in to the Extranet, go to the Property menu, then click Policies. Scroll down to Risk-Free Reservations and opt out. If you want to rejoin the program at some point in the future, you can use the same process to opt back in".