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Inventory Restrictions

There are several different ways to restrict what kind of reservations you receive at your hotel.  The most broad and indiscriminate is a property wide restriction or ‘House’ restriction. 
The most common are Minimum length of stay restrictions, Maximum Length of Stay, and ‘Close-to-Arrival’ restrictions, although there are other, more rarely used restrictions such as Closed to departure.

For this blog, we will focus on the most commonly used restrictions which are the Minimum Length of Stay, Maximum Length of Stay, and Closed to Arrival.   As a personal aside, I have never had to use the more exotic house policies and you will likely not need them.  They are a bit antiquated and the Min/Max restrictions will typically over 95% of the bases.

Minimum Length of Stay

Minimum Length of stay restrictions do just what the name implies: restrict which guests can arrive on a certain night, or which guests can stay through certain dates by blocking lengths of stay that do not meet the ‘minimum’ required number of nights.  There are two kinds of Minimum Length of stay restrictions, the first being a traditional MLOS which controls only the night of arrival, and the Minimum Length of Stay Through, which is a bit more restrictive but typically is more in line with a revenue managers actual intended strategy when used with shorter length of stay restrictions (MS2’s and 3’s)

The Traditional Minimum Length of Stay restriction controls only the arrival date in question.  Note that in the illustration below, a reservation that arrives on Monday 1/16th must stay 3 nights, however a reservation that arrives the night before (Column 2, Res 1) on the Sunday the 15th can stay just two nights.  Examples of brands that utilize the traditional arrival date dependent form of restrictions include Marriott Hotels (all restrictions in MARSHA follow these rules).

The Minimum Length of stay through restriction incorporates both the arrival date restrictions of a traditional minimum stay restriction along with the added protection of a minimum stay through.  This means that any reservation that Arrives or touches the date with a Hybrid LOS restriction must abide by the rules of that night.  Notice that the same 2-night stay that could book arriving on Sunday the 15th is no longer to exploit the length of stay restriction, because it activates the stay-through requirements of the hybrid LOS restriction simply by touching that night.

An Aside:

You will find that the MLOS 2 is one of the most common tools that you find yourself using repeatedly throughout your career as a revenue manager.  An interesting note is that a Traditional 2 Night MINLOS and a 2 Night MINLOS-Through achieve the same thing; you only need to worry about which to use when you begin to control longer length of stays (3 or more).  This is because guests can’t ‘cheat’ and arrive a day early to exploit the traditional LOS restriction, as they would already be staying at least 2 nights if they arrived the day before the date you wanted to guard. 

Maximum Length of Stay

Just like the minimum length of stay restriction, the Maximum LOS restriction’s function is easily discernible from its name.  At the house-level a Maximum length of stay restriction limits how long a reservation can stay at the property either based on arrival date, or based on days that touch a date that has a MAXLOS restriction. Please note that Maximum length of stay restrictions are far less common than Minimum Length of stay restrictions, and should be used with extreme caution, especially the maximum length of stay through restriction, and especially if your hotel does a substantial percentage of business that is extended stay.  It is easy to justify turning away 1 night stays for high compression events, but when you start to turn down long length of stay reservations, you are turning away the most desirable business (usually) with the lowest cost per occupied room and best stay pattern.  Remember, extended stay guests boost your shoulder date occupancy and usually require much less in the way of labor.

Note the Traditional MAXLOS example below and how the restriction only affects the date of arrival (in this example the focal point is the Wednesday the 18th. When reservations arrive on Wednesday night they are obviously limited to three nights, however long lengths of stay can stay leading up to and including the Wednesday night (such as Column 2, Reservation 3), despite the MAXLOS 3 for arrivals on that night.

The MAXLOS-Through is much more restrictive (The author cannot think of much of a reason to use one as they are simply too risky for most ordinary situations).  It restricts the maximum length of stay of any reservation that touches the date in question.  Note that a desirable 5-night stay (Column 3, Res 4) is not able to book because it includes the night of Wednesday night.


Closed to Arrival and Close

The restriction that would be used to close out potential stay-dates at the hotel would be the Closed to Arrival (CTA), and the ‘Close’.  They function in a similar way to the above Mins and Maxes, in that the more traditional model, the Closed to Arrival restriction, only affects the night of arrival, whereas the ‘Close’ is more of a hybrid that closes out the night of arrival as well as any potential reservation that would stay over the date in question.

The above restrictions should never be used as an actual long term strategy, and only as a last resort placeholder while getting more permanent solutions in place.  Note that the Close-to-arrival is only effective at closing out the nights on which it is applied, and doesn’t restrict long lengths of stay from booking through anyway.  The CTA is a heavily misunderstood restriction and often creates more issues than it solves, and should almost never be used.   It also keeps lucrative longer length of stay restrictions from arriving on the night in question.
A full closure affects any reservations that arrive or touch the date in question and is a high-risk restriction which turns down long length of stays that would typically be accepted otherwise.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the major restrictions, be sure to keep in mind that restrictions are almost infinitely versatile and do not only have to be applied to the entire ‘house’.  In the following chapter, we will be re-using these restrictions, and adding them to individual rate levels to create more complex safeguards to ensure that as we pick up rooms we are not only raising rate, but restricting different kinds of market segments.

One last thought before we move on; keep in mind that a length of stay restriction simply obfuscates or hides rates and availability from guests that do not search the acceptable stay parameters.  It’s a sort of veil that hides your 2-night availability when there is a MinLOS3 in place, and shows the hotel as unavailable when a guest shops a 7 night stay when there is a MAXLOS 5 on the house.  The point is that the guest is not ‘in-the-know’ when a restriction is in place, and there is no convenient pop-up online that says: “Hello Mr. Williams! I bet the hotel may have rooms for your corporate stay, if you are willing to stay just one more night! *Wink, Wink*”.  LOS restrictions turn down guests very effectively, and most guests are not patient or flexible enough to play around with their stay dates.  For that reason, length of stay restrictions on the house are most effective when there is unconstrained demand above supply, and the probability of a sell-out is very high.