Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Hotwire promise big discounts on accommodations worldwide. Many travellers consult listings on such websites when planning a trip. The information posted helps users discover available hotels at various price points and ratings. But do the offers on third-party websites really trump those available through hotels directly? Let’s take a look.
Room Choice through an OTA
Hotels reserve blocks of rooms for OTAs that they expect to sell at a lower rate. Besides the discount, hotels must also pay commissions, making the margins on these rooms narrower. Understandably, a hotel would not put forth its best rooms for such an arrangement. This does not mean you will receive a room in bad condition; differences often come down to views and amenities.
Cost Saving and Price-Match Policies
The whole point of a third-party website is to save money. But does that actually happen?
Nowadays, most hotels price-match the best public-facing rate. So if you stumble across a great deal online, it often isn’t exclusive to that particular site.
OTAs sometimes strip hotel fees from their listings, too. For example, if a city hotel charges parking, this would become an unexpected expense after booking online. When dealing direct, you learn of such fees earlier in the process. You also have more negotiation leverage concerning them.
Quality and Flexibility of Service
Staff will never give preferred treatment to a guest who books directly. That said, those who choose not to use OTAs will find their reservations more flexible. Loyalty members also earn more points and incentives per reservation.
When faced with a poor customer experience, hotels can compensate you more easily when third-party sites are not involved. Granting a future discount or reimbursing funds is quite straightforward. Likewise, switching a reservation date is difficult placed through a booking service. Not to mention, changing rooms is not always possible because only so many are allocated to online reservations.