How to benefit by booking directly your hotel room
The Online travel websites, called "OTA" from the initials of the words "Online Travel Agency", such as booking.com, expedia, or hotels.com, have the resources and the ability to provide their customers with a wide range of options for accommodation, thus enabling them to make a decision taking into account factors such as price, quality of facilities, and make a comparison between different hotels. They also have the ability to show pictures of hotels and hotel-rooms to their customers, and such details as offers, rates and guest reviews. All this information makes it easier for travelers to choose the best hotel for their individual needs.
However have you ever wondered why on-line booking agents do not make a charge to the customer? The reason is quite simple, as online travel agents always charge a commission fee for each sale, which is usually between 15 - 30% of the gross cost. These fees paid by hotels are ultimately added to the total cost of the room, so the cost of lodging rises for everyone.
On-line booking engines show primarily a daily price multiplied by the number of nights, without taking into consideration the discount that the hotelier could possibly offer you if you wanted a reservation for several days. So if you plan to stay a lot of days in the hotel, usually 4 or more, it is in your best interest to contact directly the hotel.
Also from the visitors who make hotel reservations through an online portal, the OTA gets access to a large number of personal customer data (email address, home address, credit card and any other relevant information). So not only the OTAs shall receive the commission attributable to them, but also acquire valuable customer data, which the hotels do not have at their disposal.
So, taking this into account, is it smarter to book a hotel room directly with the hotel, or with an online travel agency? While booking through these sites has become quite popular in the travel market, there are substantial benefits for the customer, associated with making direct bookings with the hotel. As any hotelier would tell you if you ask them, they undoubtedly prefer your direct booking. This is natural because of the burden of the commission charged, specially since the highest rate paid is by small, independent hotels that have little bargaining power.
Larger rooms with the best view usually go to direct bookings with the hotel. The best room, price, service and accommodation, accompany the direct booking. Also direct booking ensures privileges ranging from providing special treatment to a more advantageous arrangement in case that something goes wrong. Remember that hotels prefer direct reservations, because it saves them the added cost of commission.
Another benefit of booking by phone or e-mail, is that by cutting out the middleman, you can request a specific room or a room in a specific part of the hotel. This usually can not be done with on-line booking. Simply by booking directly you support the hotel and you will see the benefits as a guest on the experience you receive. Contact the hotel before you book on-line through the agency, even if the price is the same, book directly. Increasingly, hotels and airlines offer special packages that you will not find on third party websites. It is worth spending a few minutes to check it before your purchase.
Some contracts between hotels and the major OTAs may include a clause which supposedly ensures that you will not find a cheaper price for a room in a hotel than in the OTA. The reality is that the term applies only to publicly published prices. This means that a hotel has the flexibility to offer a lower price if you call by telephone, if you send an e-mail directly, if they answer via email, provided they are not published on a public website. Even in the case that the property does not have the capacity to offer you a better price if booked directly, they can still offer gifts like a discount on dinner, spa services, free parking, and a priority for an upgrade to a better room.
Apart from this, hotel guests have many times found that though the hotel appears as "full" on the website, when they call in, they find that there are rooms available. This happens quite often. Smart travelers are increasingly aware that the best benefits are available to those who make direct reservations.