Travelers forced to sleep on the floor as hotel overbooking in hotspots for vacations mounts

Despite securing a bed in a Croatian hostel with a credit card deposit, Jason Underwood arrived to check into Split’s Goli & Bosi, only to be told there was no room at the inn.

“I was told on two previous check-in attempts that the bed wasn’t ready. So I went out and came back at midnight and they finally said there were no rooms available,” the 36-year-old said. “They said we can give you a refund so you can go somewhere else, or we can give you a pillow and a blanket and you can find a place on the floor.”

Instead of a €38-a-night dorm bed, the Sydney engineer and three other travelers found themselves sleeping in a makeshift “tent city” in the hallway of the hostel.

“The other guys made a pretty good tent city. Mine was a bit of Scandi minimalist; a table with a sheet over the top and the legs hanging down,” Underwood said, laughing. “Although it’s a good travel story.”

Underwood, who booked through Hostelworld, said she felt bad for the staff who were forced to deal with a problematic reservation system.

“The guy at the counter said he could see when it was oversold, but there was nothing he could do to update it,” Underwood said. “They were on Hostelworld, Tripadvisor and a few other sites, and he said none of the sites talk to each other, and it’s a constant mess.”

Split, on Croatia’s southeastern coast, is one of many Northern Hemisphere vacation hotspots that are doubling down under rising summer demand, with average occupancy levels topping 95 percent for the first time in years.

Reports of overcrowded hotels have surfaced in places like Mallorca and Split, and summer travelers are warned to prepare for the possibility of being turned away.

Hotels overbook to close gaps caused by late cancellations and no-shows, according to Canstar’s Steve Mickenbecker.

“Of course there can be genuine errors caused by hotels’ own systems or communications between the hotel and various booking agencies,” he said.

Another problem is that major hotel chains were once able to predict no-shows with a high degree of accuracy. That is no longer the case. Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said: “Booking patterns have changed. There are more leisure travelers than corporate, weekends are busier and this will change again as we see corporate and leisure travel internationals start to come back after November.

So what should you do if you find your accommodation doesn’t have room for you?


Arriving on time for check-in gives you an advantage. Mickenbecker points out: “the last one to arrive will be the one to be lost.”

Also, opt to pay in full before you arrive. “If you have confidence in the provider and that your plans won’t change, this is one way to secure your spot,” Mickenbecker said.

As with airlines, it doesn’t hurt to join the hotel’s membership scheme before your stay: it’s free, and guests with a history of customer loyalty may be viewed favorably.

MY HOTEL IS saturated. NOW WHAT?

If you have booked your stay through a third party website, your first step should be to contact the platform’s customer service team. Staff can relocate you, according to Expedia.

Consult the policies of the hotel and the reservation platform to know your rights. This usually involves arranging alternative accommodation in an equivalent or higher category and paying expenses such as taxi fare and phone calls.

A sensible approach is to arrive with cash reserves and a list of nearby hotels, in case hotel staff are unwilling to help. If you run out of money to arrange another stay, Mickenbecker warns you may be in an intense negotiation for full compensation.


Under the Australian Consumer Law, when a business accepts payment for services, it must provide them within the agreed time frame. If they cannot, the remedy will depend on the circumstances and the terms and conditions of the booking.

If you have booked through a third party, the terms and conditions of the property and the booking platform will apply.

These protections may still apply to hotels abroad, as long as they were booked in Australia.

If there is any problem with the reservation, please contact the accommodation to solve the problem in the first instance. An ACCC spokesman said: “If they are unable to resolve their dispute with the company, they can file a complaint with their state or local territory consumer protection agency.”

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