The Benefits of Direct Booking
There is a misconception that OTAs (Online Travel Agents) are the best way to book time away from home. The travel industry has undergone mammoth changes, just as all other industries have, when business is conducted solely by price or the appearance of “best price comparison”. While focus is on the “ease” of booking, travelers are often mislead by the process and don’t realize until too late, they have missed many free services or the flexibility offered when booking directly with a lodging provider. Giant OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com actually end up costing more as hotels, bed and breakfasts and other lodging establishments recover exorbitant fees (anywhere from 15% to 22% of the total) in some way. An attempt by the OTA to convince travelers to comparison shop is nothing more than comparing their own brands with one another. Memberships and “points” work further to widen the gap when the traveler believes he/she is benefiting for loyalty. This may work for hotel chains with thousands of rooms, but not for the small, independent luxury booking.
“The hospitality industry is being exploited by Google for its own profit. (Posted on July 6, 2018 by Tim Capper,) To be clear this article is not about regular search results where thousands of pages compete in an algorithmic mash up; this is for the actual brand or name search of the business and the associated Google business listing that the hotel manages within the Google My Business product. OTA’s have become so powerful in the market place that they regularly dictate to small and independent properties the commission that they will pay, not what they can allocate. Equally they have their own type of algorithms, the more commission you pay, the higher you appear in their own results. Google denies hotels the tools available to other businesses when Google denies hotels the other features available to maintain their business listing because they do not want the user to click on any other button that will prevent them from earning money.”
Annually in the month of February, #BookDirectDay, created by TripTease (https://www.triptease.com) is an online movement bringing together independently owned B&Bs, inns, boutique hotels and vacation rentals to educate and spread the word that booking accommodations directly with the property has numerous benefits and advantages. Here are some ways to have a more comprehensive experience while away from home.
1. Often the best rates, special offers or discounts are only available directly through the property. Special packages and add-ons (like flowers for the honeymoon couple or a therapeutic massage) can be added quickly and easily on the property’s website. The manager or innkeeper can answer questions about the local experience and guide you to the best choice of lodging based on your wishes or requests. They can also assist with special requirements and offer more flexibility and explain policies. Details and further information that will make your dream vacation a fuller experience are often provided if you book direct.
2. Booking through an OTA often has hidden fees. Very high commissions that put billions into the OTA market have to be recovered somewhere. Often properties release only select rooms to the OTA. Travelers are not informed about special offers or discounts. There is no way to add special packages and there is much less flexibility with booking dates. Often, the OTA publishes rates that are not correct or that availability is non-existent when the lodging facility has open rooms. When travel plans change, rather than a conversation with the owner/manager, the experience of contacting and adjusting the travel plans are in the hands of foreign agents in a call center. Good luck!
3. When visiting the property’s website, take a few minutes of your time to review the posted information. Often, you will see an entertainment guide to area activities, local restaurants with links, policies explained in detail for more clarity, directions, availability and informational blogs. Meet the owners via the site and discover who they are, their history and passions. See photographs and room descriptions that tell more about the property than Expedia or Hotels.com will provide. After all, it is YOUR experience and knowledge makes the decision easier. OTAs only care about the bottom line and volume of sales around the world. You are a statistic, not a valued guest regardless of what their marketing professionals will tell you.
4. Most lodging property websites will provide an easy experience to book directly on line. Be sure you see the https://www.propertyname.com to verify you are on the actual property site. Often guests believe they are on the lodging website but have been redirected by OTAs to their paid advertising sites with lots of marketing dollars to list first on the search engine (from the commissions paid by the lodging partner). This redirection is the game played to have power over your decision making. If the property doesn’t pay enough for the privilege of being listed, they often label the property as having no availability or not providing inventory.
5. Let the property owner or manager know that you saw their property on an OTA site but decided to book directly. They may be able to offer a better rate or be more flexible with policies or provide an extra for a discounted price. Not only do they appreciate your business, it is a win-win for all small lodging establishments and their guests.
You might ask why small inns, b&bs, boutique hotels would list on these OTA sites in the first place. Simply put, it is because they have no choice in today’s internet environment. They cannot rely on traveler’s finding them among the thousands of listings. It is impossible to pay for enough advertising to compete again the giants. The old adage of “if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em” is a wise alternative. The next best is to been seen, then educate guests to take a closer look, do a bit of easy research, then book directly.
There is a time and place for the convenience of booking with OTAs. When traveling and the goal is to find a reasonable, clean bed for the night, by all means using Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com or Priceline makes the search easier by showing a lot of choices and locations. Large hotels have empty rooms and are willing to take a deep discount to simply fill the bed. Small properties, however, already work with small margins to provide a special experience. Knowing when and where to book direct for that special Inn or Bed and Breakfast will make your downtime a much better experience and may save you money in the long run.
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