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Things don't always go to plan. There will always be times when a customer has a family emergency, a scheduling conflict, or simply changes their itinerary. So when the unexpected happens, you need to make sure your customers are aware of their rights, and any fees associated with a cancellation. On top of that, you need to make sure you protect yourself, giving enough time to fill that now vacant spot, along with collecting enough of the booking fee to ensure you don't lose out financially.

That's why it's so important to implement a simple, clear cancellation policy for your campground. To help you construct the best possible policy, here are a few tips and examples to follow.

    1. Determine your cancellation fees.

      Airlines and hotels do this to not only cover the costs associated with a cancellation but to also discourage customers from cancelling before their trip. Whether you decide to refund the entire amount of the reservation or provide a partial refund to a customer who cancels within a certain timeframe, you should impose some type of cancellation fee to handle the request. This fee would cover administrative time to process the request, credit card or debit card transaction fees, and any other costs associated with cancelling a booking.

      2. Draft your cancellation policy.

      Your cancellation policy doesn't have to be complicated, but it does need to contain key details about how much the customer owes you to proceed with the cancellation, what type of time window they have to cancel without any fees, and what their options are for proceeding with the cancellation process.

      When drafting your cancellation policy, be sure to include the following key details:

      • Time window that you will honor a cancellation
      • Time windows for various fees charged for a cancellation
      • Whether reservations are non-refundable at the time of booking
      • Security deposit policy
      • Acceptable ways to cancel — over the phone, via email, or through an online booking program

      For example:

      Georgia State Parks details both its cancellation and transfer policy, and its policy about security deposits on its website. If you specialise in extended stays, you may consider requesting a security deposit and determining whether that deposit can be partially refunded based on when the cancellation takes place:

      Cancellation/Transfer Policy: Cancellations/Transfers must be made at least 30 days prior to scheduled arrival date. A $10 handling fee per reservation is charged for cancellations. Reservations made within 30 days of arrival are non-refundable and non-transferable. Reservations can be changed one time, at no charge, provided a 30-day notice is given.

      (See Also: How to Develop a Fool Proof Cancellation Policy)

      3. Post your cancellation policy in several visible locations.

      In addition to outlining your cancellation policy in great detail on your website, have customers agree to the cancellation policy at the time of booking. This can reduce liability on your part when a customer decides to cancel and has to pay a fee. You can include a small blurb of the cancellation policy in your terms and conditions section, or simply have it listed somewhere on your booking page so that customers can view it when they check out.

      4. Train staff to handle cancellations appropriately.

      When a customer calls to cancel their reservation over the phone, make sure your staff is prepared to handle the situation with professionalism and explain exactly how much the customer will be charged for initiating the cancellation.

      Be sure to have staff members follow up with the customer to see if they would like to re-book for another day and time, or when they plan to travel again so that a staff member can follow up with the customer again to confirm the booking later. The goal, if possible, is to retain the customer.

      If you accept cancellations via email, make sure you have a dedicated staff member to handle all online communications so you can process the cancellation and open up the reservation to another customer in a timely manner. This might require setting up a separate email account specifically for cancellation requests and having a staff member monitor this account multiple times a day to handle all incoming messages appropriately.

      5. Revise your cancellation policy as needed.

      You may need to revise your cancellation policy when you add more reservation options at your campsite and need to elaborate on policies for different types of reservations (e.g. group bookings, long-term stays, etc.). Make sure to update and revise your campground cancellation policy frequently so that your customers are well aware of their rights to a refund (or forfeiture of a deposit), and you are fully disclosing your policy upfront.

      (Looking for cancellation policy templates? Check out our blog on 6 Cancellations and Refund Policy Templates.)

      Developing and implementing a cancellation can improve customer service and even deter customers from cancelling at the last minute—thereby increasing the risk you lose another potential booking. Use these tips to develop and impose an effective cancellation policy for your campground reservations.