Holidaymakers can get a better deal if they book directly with their hotel rather than through an online travel agent like Booking.com or Expedia, according to a report.
Consumer body Which? contacted 10 hotels in the UK to ask if they could offer a better deal than the price offered by online travel agents on the same room. Eight of them responded with better prices, various incentives, and other benefits that make contacting hotels directly a much better way of booking a room, said a new Which? Travel investigation.
Which? Travel checked the offer of 10 different UK hotels on Booking.com, which is a traded company, and then phoned each of the hotels directly. Eight out of ten hotels were able to offer better prices, one of which even included a £20 discount, thus providing researchers with a 12% lower price than what the website was offering, as well as a free upgrade. Other hotels also included discounts on spa treatments, food, free parking, free breakfast, and more.
Which? Travel found that booking hotels through online travel agents is more expensive than doing it directly because of a combination of the commission they charge, and the so-called ‘rate-parity clause’ that can be found in online travel agents contracts with hotels. These clauses prevent hotels from offering lower prices on their own website than those that online travel agent’s websites are offering.
Hidden fees between online travel agents and hotels
Online travel agents charge hotels with high commission, which usually sits between 15% and 25%. The commissions are included in every booking, which is quite damaging for smaller properties, and as they cannot afford the cost, the cost is passed on to customers.
However, Booking.com and Expedia denied that their commissions are the reason behind higher prices. But Which? found that hotels are usually able to offer a better rate if they are contacted directly, as the clauses do not apply in those situations.
These clauses are banned in France, Italy, and Austria because they are deemed to prevent competition. However, the same rules do not apply to the UK.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “Customers shouldn’t be duped into thinking they’re getting the best price from a hotel booking site when more often than not, they can get a better deal by avoiding its commission and booking directly with the hotel.”
He added: “Hotel booking sites might be a good place to start your search, but you should always call or email the hotel for the best chance of getting the cheapest deal – even in cases where they can’t offer a better price, there’s a good chance they’ll throw in a freebie or two.”