With cut-offs (which are very similar to release dates), a hotel simply sets a time limit upon when a reservation is made, and the guest’s actual arrival. Used a lot for group and tour operator business. They will hold a block or allotment in the hotel as per their contract.
As with most Hospitality Industry terminology, the best way to explain a cut-off is to use an actual example…
So, imagine that on a Thursday afternoon, a prospective guest rings up Reception at a hotel in Helsinki (Finland), or contacts the hotel through their brand website, wishing to make a reservation for the Friday; but Friday’s cut-off days are set to two days. Alas, the reservation would not show on the hotel’s computerised reservation system as being bookable to the prospective guest since it was not booked two days prior to the arrival date.
Cut-offs can be used all year round, or only for certain periods.