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Protecting Your Business: How to Handle No-Shows and Cancellations (Part 2)

Last updated on December 11, 2023
7 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Create a detailed cancelation policy that covers many scenarios.
  • Consider whether there is flexibility to accommodate customers in certain situations.

Skill Level

Beginner, Intermediate

No-shows and last minute cancellations are disruptive to your business and can negatively affect your revenue, customer experience, and employee schedules.

Although there are plenty of ways to reduce no-shows and cancellations (read our top strategies here), they are sometimes inevitable.

That’s why it is absolutely vital to have a plan in place when this situation arises. 

This guide will walk you through how to manage no-shows and cancellations when they happen, no matter why they happen. 

You Have a No-Show. Now What?

How much a no-show affects your business depends on several factors. For instance, if one or two people are missing from an activity that accommodates a larger number of people, it likely won’t have a huge effect on the experience. And with a strong cancellation policy set up, your business is protected from loss of revenue.

However, if a whole group does not show up at their ax throwing or escape room reservation, you are left with an empty lane or room that you need to fill. Furthermore, if you were relying on the additional revenue from food and beverage purchases on-site, larger or more frequent no-shows and cancellations begin to take their toll. (Check out part 1 of this series to learn about preventing cancellations in the first place.)

Regardless of the situation, no-shows and cancellations can be stressful to your team if you’re waiting on someone and delaying the tour or reservation. This can also hurt the customer experience for those who made it on time and want to get started.

This is why communication is key for both you and your customers. Life happens. Customers can get caught in traffic, bad weather, or other tricky situations. And while you’d certainly appreciate them giving you a call to make you aware, that doesn’t always happen.

So how do you handle the situation?

How to Manage Guest Cancellations & No-Shows

When You Have a Guest Cancellation

Try to respond to guests who contact you about cancellations as quickly as possible. If a guest calls or emails saying why they have to cancel or will not make it on time, be receptive to the conversation and try to offer assistance or a solution based on your cancellation policy and typical practices.

You could:

a crowd of people walking down the street

  • Book them onto a later tour.
  • Add them to a waitlist for later tours.
  • Refund them using a gift card they can apply to a future activity. 
  • Refund them completely if you are willing. 

For guests who miss the cancellation deadline (e.g. customers must cancel by 48 hours before the tour to be fully refunded), you may choose to handle this on a case-by-case basis, depending on how flexible you’re willing to be.

For example, if you have a customer who is really upset about missing the tour, or there is a unique situation at play, you could decide to rebook them or offer a gift card, as this goes a long way toward your brand reputation. 

On the other hand, if you prefer to stick to your cancellation policy — that’s what it’s there for! 

Ultimately, how you handle cancellations is up to your discretion and likely based on factors that may be unique to the specific situation.  

When You Have a No-Show:

How do you typically handle no-shows? Most of the time this depends on your policies and usual practices. But it’s smart to consider if there are scenarios in which you would delay the experience, wait for the person, or try to get them onto a later activity.

In many cases, you will end up following your cancellation policy or allowing them to rebook. There’s only so much you can do, especially if you don’t hear from the customer.

Pro Tip: Monitor your reviews. If there is someone angry about not receiving their money back for a cancellation or no-show, stay on top of your review sites in case they take to the internet to complain. Prepare a response that explains the situation as well as your clearly communicated cancellation policy. 

What Happens When Your Business Has to Cancel an Activity?

Sometimes you have to cancel, and it’s imperative to communicate with your guests as quickly as possible. Here are a few ways to get the word out:

  • Send a message to the email or phone number connected to the booking.
  • If time allows, give a call to each customer.
  • Create a website banner or social media post with the announcement.

Remember to include a reason for the cancellation as well as next steps. In case of a weather-based cancellation, follow along with this guide

When your business does need to cancel for whatever reason, there are plenty of ways to maintain customer satisfaction. 

You can offer them:

  • A refund
  • A gift certificate
  • A chance to reschedule the tour
  • An upgrade like a referral discount to share with friends, a discount, another tour or activity free of charge, or a free add-on

Cancellations and no-shows happen, so it’s best to be prepared for any situation. Here are a few other ways you can increase guest satisfaction.


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