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Sabah Karimi

What happens when you have to cancel a boat tour because of an oncoming rainstorm? Or a guest gets sick a week prior to the event and wants to reschedule their tour? Take the lead on maintaining good customer relations by ensuring guests know what their rights are when things go awry.

To communicate your policies effectively, outline exactly what your cancellation policy is somewhere on your website and contract, and also have your cancellation and refund policy clearly listed on your Terms and Conditions page—the section that all guests are required to read before authorizing the booking or making a reservation. (You can also check out some best practices for developing a cancellation policy.)

To make sure you're effectively communicating your policy with clients, take a look at these six cancellation and refund policy templates.

1. Requests for Refunds

First things first: decide whether you want to issue a partial or full refund. Consider what many tours and activities operators do and issue a partial refund when the tour is cancelled close to the event date, and a full refund within a certain time frame. For instance, take a look at this example from Denali Zipline Tours:

Cancellation Policy

  • If you cancel more than 48 hours before your scheduled trip departure, a fee of $25.00 will be charged for each participant.

  • If you cancel within 48 hours of your schedule trip departure, no refund fees will be provided.

  • No shows are responsible for 100% of trip fees.

Tips for Creating Your Own:

Make sure to address specific time frames for full and partial refunds . You will need to decide whether you abide by a 14-day full refund policy and 7-day partial refund policy, for example. A simple bulleted list with a breakdown of refund policies and exceptions can state your position clearly.

Also, be sure to check with your booking system to see what options merchants have for implementing a cancellation policy. For example, with ZOZI Advance, only merchants are authorized to cancel, reschedule, and issue refunds directly through the system—the customer doesn't have the option to make changes without contacting the merchant.

2. Cancellations for Larger Parties

When it comes to handling larger groups of 20-plus people—be they wedding parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or other private functions—things become a bit more murky. That makes it all the more important to have a clear cancellation policy for group bookings.

Take a lesson from how Miami Culinary Tours outlines how it handles cancellations for parties of 30+ people:

Parties of 30+ people: if a reduced number of participants are notified and acknowledged by Miami Culinary Tours in writing (by email) up to 72 hours prior to the tour, a refund of the difference but not exceeding 90% of the total dollar amount for the number of people given at time of payment (14 days prior) will be refunded. If a reduced number of participants are given within 72 hours prior to the tour, no refunds are granted. No refunds for no shows. Refunds are made by company's check.

Tips for Creating Your Own:

Since you will be making special arrangements to accommodate the entire group, consider requesting all requests for a cancellation in writing and requesting a non-refundable deposit at the time of booking. You can determine how many days of notice you need for a full refund minus the deposit, and what your policy is for cancellations within 72, 48, or 24 hours of the tour.

3. Imposing Cancellation Fees

You may want to impose a trip cancellation fee to cover any administrative costs associated with changing the reservation. For instance, Classic Journeys, a small group tours operator, posts a schedule of fees in their Cancellations & Refunds section based on the trip price and flat fees depending on when the cancellation was requested prior to the trip start date.

Tips for Creating Your Own:

Indicate what your cancellation fees are, per person, for all cancellations requested over a certain time frame leading up to the trip—up to 90 days or more, depending on the type of tours and activities you offer.

4. Handling Inclement Weather

Something you can never predict, but can plan for: bad weather. If your tours take place at a destination at risk for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, or other types of severe weather during certain times of the year, this needs to be addressed in your policy. Adventure Cat Sailing Charters addresses this issue succinctly in its FAQs page:

Severe weather in this area of California is rare and cruises will proceed as scheduled in light rain and other mild weather conditions. Both our boats have 360-degree, protected viewing areas! In the rare event that we have to cancel a cruise, you will have the opportunity to reschedule your tickets (subject to availability) or receive credit towards a future event.

Tips for Creating Your Own:

Explain what types of weather you will make accommodations for and how you will handle it—either by rescheduling, offering a credit for a future booking, or by extending a full refund. State different weather issues relevant to your location so you address all possible inclement weather situations, including flooding, hail storms, brush or desert fires, or other emergency weather situations.

5. Requests for Rescheduling

Sometimes customers may change their minds or itineraries and will need to reschedule a tour or activity for a later date. If you offer cooking tours or other specialized tours, it may not be possible to reschedule since you have already paid your tour guides and made arrangements to set up the tours at various venues. In situations like these, you may need to state that tickets are non-refundable if a cancellation is requested within a certain timeframe. The Booking & Pricing section from Eating Italy Tours states this clearly and is a good example to follow:

What is Eating Italy Food Tours' Cancellation Policy?

Within 3 weeks of your tour or class date, tickets are non-refundable and cannot be rescheduled. Tours run regardless of weather conditions.

Tips for Creating Your Own:

Decide how many weeks you need to reschedule a specialized tour or activity so that you are not losing money on deposits and other fees because of a guest cancellation. Make it clear that certain types of bookings cannot be rescheduled for any reason so the booking or reservation is non-refundable.

6. Handling Deposits

If you request a deposit upfront, you need to make sure there is a clause about what happens in the event the trip is cancelled. For example, FishMonster Charters states that they collect a 20% deposit to reserve the date and time slot for one of their charter tours and that the deposit is non-refundable unless the fishing trip is cancelled by them. If the customer cancels their trip, they forfeit the deposit.

Learn how deposits work in ZOZI Advance

Cancellation Policy

▪ We collect the 20% deposit to reserve your date and time slot. This deposit is non-refundable unless the fishing trip is cancelled by the Captain due to bad weather or unforeseen boat problems. This cancellation is made at the dock on the day of the trip, only at the Captain's discretion. All other cancellations forfeit the 20% deposit.

▪ Our booking policy is to meet at the boat at the agreed time and place on the day of the trip. If the fishing trip is cancelled by the Captain due to bad weather, we will try to re-book your fishing trip for a better day if the customer's schedule allows, otherwise we will cheerfully refund your entire 20% deposit.

▪ Cancellations by customers with less than a 48-hour phone call notice and no shows at the dock by customers on the day of the fishing trip will be charged to their credit card the full amount of the length charter slot they have reserved. When you reserve a fishing trip, we do not book anyone else for that time slot.

Tips for Creating Your Own:

Indicate what your expectations are for the deposit and what the customer can expect if the company cancels the tour for various reasons — you can indicate all possible reasons, such as bad weather, staffing issues, maintenance problems, or simply state is up to the 'company's discretion' to cancel the tour so you are covered on all fronts.

Maintain good customer relations by breaking down exactly what your cancellation and refund policy is for all types of situations your tour and activity business may encounter. This will vary significantly from business to business since some tours and activities may take place indoors or outdoors, be seasonal, or be a specialty events that are only available during a specific time of the year. Use the tips above to develop your own cancellation and refund policy.

Now that you've got a toolkit for creating cancellation and refund policy templates, let's focus on reducing those no-shows! Check out our complete guide: