BE ETHICAL - BE RESPONSIBLE - BE SMART
The big boys dominate the web presence & are getting sharper with the affiliate system which has rocketed. No competition means higher rates.
With so many "best price guarantees" showing online, how can you be sure you really are getting the best deal on your hotel booking? According to a lawsuit filed in August 2012 , the answer is disappointingly simple: You never will because the online booking. com's have agreed to fix prices, removing competition from the market.
The lawsuit is seeking class-action status and financial damages from the hotels and booking agencies based on the presumed higher prices which customers paid because of the agreements. This is not the first pricing scandal to hit the online hotel booking space. In late June, Orbitz admitted that they would lead customers using certain web browsers to higher priced properties than other users saw.
What are these cases really about? How does the scam work? Because "booking on line.com's" have been able to convince consumers that they’re getting the best possible rates on hotel rooms, a growing number of bookings are now being done via these travel websites. This has made the hotel chains extremely dependent on Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, and others for their business. It’s that dependency that has led to price-fixing, according to plaintiffs.
Travel agencies have been around for a very long time, and the majority of agents offer a valid contribution to the industry for the customer and accommodation businesses alike. But, while ‘offline’ travel agents charge around 8% commission for every booking they pass on, online travel booking companies are now charging almost double that, with further plans to take an even greater cut of hotel and accommodation industry earnings.
Not content with taking 15% of the hotel room value, many online sites now want 15% commission on breakfasts, meals and drinks sold in the hotel – not to mention 15% commission on extras like flowers or chocolates in the room. They call it “added value” but in reality this is a really transparent bid to squeeze a lot more money from the hotelier!
Millions of Pounds/Euro’s/Dollar’s are taken from local communities all over the world for the gain of corporate giants and their shareholders. With little in the way of overheads, profits for the online marketing players are huge! When you consider the nature of a market which includes only a few large, global businesses each operating multiple online booking brands then you really start to get a feel for the cash cow these guys are milking for all its worth!
While 15% per booking might not seem a great deal, when you multiply this across the number of hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and so forth involved in your local community, then in your province or state and then in your country… you can see that the impact on the hotel and accommodation sector and the wider economy is quite astounding.
A few things to remember & consider when planning a vacation.
- On line booking.com companies are the "third party", they have no incentive to please you. Their main objective is to ATTRACT NEW CLIENTS not to keep old ones.
Be aware of those commercials which air for these websites, they usually set you up with high expectations, promising to deliver a level of service that far exceeds the same services offered by hotels and rental cars agencies. Free internet - computer in the room - extra beds - sea view - free gas? Don't be a sucker.
- When they offer you a voucher for $50,00 or a "good deal" at a certain hotel don't expect the staff from the hotel to suck up to you.
When you book directly you are helping local economies, the same people who will be serving you, you will help improve those same premises you will be staying at. Your visit will be more appreciated from the people you will be staying with and they have many ways to show you that appreciation, starting from the clerk at the desk, and you wont be referred to as the "budget tourist". Upscale hotels especially don't like to have you around.
- On line booking companies who bids for the lowest deal are causing workers to lose income and even jobs. Hotels are reacting to this low balls bids by sending workers home. Hotel managers do not care about the number of people coming through their doors ("heads in beds"), their goal is to maximize their ADR - average daily rate. This means there's a level at which they call in staff and send home, especially the casual temporary or seasonal workers, those who need a job the most. Some smart hotel managers have chosen to have 25% less occupancy than other hotels in the area rather than lower the rate and use the staff accordingly. Chances are the "great rate" you think you are getting at on line booking.com would be matched by the hotel if you called them directly.
Some online-booking companies are paid a commission from the hotel or car rental agency after the service is rendered. Others will charge your card right away. This means that when you are a no-show, you have little recourse. The on line booking.com already has your money. Calling the hotel for a refund, no matter what your reason, will do no good. Direct bookings with the hotel are a different story, and they have much more leeway.
- What happens when there are some discrepancies about what is included in the price charged to you by the on line booking.com and what the hotel is offering you? Depending on the time of the day the desk clerk might be able to get on the phone and solve the problem for you, but expect to step aside if there are other people behind you. You wont get a room until the problem is solved.
If there's a problem with your stay - or a problem with the car you just rented you will also need to take it up with the online booking.com company. Only they have your records.
- Rooms might be sold by the on line booking.com but unavailable for that particular date.
The descriptions of the rooms listed in the on line booking.com can be erroneous, the room might feature a view of the beach when in reality the hotel is no where near it.
- When you enter a request for two connecting room it's just that.- a request, notes that are entered by guests when they make their reservation get automatically overwritten by the online booking.com.
If your request does go trough you are still not a priority when rooms are assigned. First priority is given to repeat customers of the hotel. Next is members of the brand's frequent-stay program, especially the higher levels. People who book through booking on line.com are pretty low on the totem pole.
- Guest booking thru third party website literally have no chance for early check-in.
Hotels make little or no efforts to please the guest when guest have request like early check-in, late check-out or change of room. This is the hard fact even though hotels claim that they treat every guest the same.
- As rooms are already pre-allocated for all bookings thru third party websites, there are no opportunity to request to change room unless the room is seriously not functional. Most rooms allocated for third party websites booking are less desirable rooms like low level, no or poor views.
It is more easier to seek redress from the hotel than thru third party. Easier to maintain loyalty with hotel chain. Third party website tends to do more to attract new guests rather than keep existing guests. Although third party website have launched loyalty program, they have more to gain to attract new guests/members rather than to maintain their loyalty.
- Third parties website can be deceptive. Lowest prices is often quoted without taxes. Add that and you get the same or end up paying higher than what hotel website would have charged you. They also often highlight the huge discount offered from the rack rates. A lot of times, if third party offer "pay 2 nights for 3 nights stay", chances are it is also offered at hotel own website. It is nothing exclusive to third party.
Hotels tends to offer more varieties than third party. Third party tends to restrict themselves to room only or room with breakfast and the occasional stay 3 nights pay 2 nights. Hotel own website tends to have more variety including late checkout, executive room rates, buffet dinner included.
- Hotel own website these days have price promise where if you find the same for the same price within x days anywhere they will be glad to do the refund the differences. It is quite safe to book at hotel own website given this price promise.
If you want to enjoy your vacation and you want to know what YOU ARE REALLY GETTING you best bet is to book directly. Being old fashioned I still use the services of my travel agent, often, due to lack of time I do book directly.
Do as I do - visit on line booking.com web sites, find those hotels in the area you are interested in, pick the ones you like, check their prices and reviews, check their web sites and once you made a decision contact the one you picked by E - MAIL - to establish a contact with a REAL PERSON - put down a deposit and ...have a good time. (Acting on a suggestion from the person I was in contact with, I was able to save almost $CAD 500 x 3 on a Lisbon to Rome flight.)