Think you’re get the best deal for your holiday accommodation by searching on the major booking agents online? Think again, you may well be being misled!
The cheapest way to book is usually to book direct with the hotel, B&B or owner on their own website. But even then – you could find yourself tricked back to the big booking agents, because of misleading website titles, advertising and brand “hijacking”.
From our perspective at St Weonards we are still relatively new to the B&B business and have been shocked to discover the charges and tactics used by the big agents since we arrived in Paignton in July 2017. These include hefty commissions, a constant pressure to reduce prices, and some fairly underhand marketing techniqueswhich are now under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.
It’s really hard for a small business like ours to compete. And it’s really confusing for customers. If you search to book direct at St Weonards, the first 4-5 results are adverts, some for companies we don’t list with! Booking.com
also appears – which is not
direct booking.There’s even a site called ‘bookdirect.com
’ that directs people right back to the big online agents like Trivago, booking.com
There is a place in the market for big online booking agents as it helps us to reach a wider audience, but at the moment guests can be misled or totally unaware that they are booking through a third party and may be paying additional fees as a result. What we need is more transparency.Transparency about the level of commission and fees. And in particular that companies can’t use misleading websites like “bookdirect” when they don’t actually allow customers to book directly with the hotel, B&B, villa or cottage.”
There are some common misunderstandings and mistakes that people make when booking their holiday accommodation.
– People often think they are “shopping around” but might be surprised to learn that most of the big online sites are owned by only 2 main companies
– Expedia and Priceline/booking holdings. Expedia’s companies include Trivago, hotels.com
, tripadvisor, travelocity and hotwire. Booking holdings includes booking.com
, agoda, kayak, priceline.
–Expedia and Priceline/booking holdings together control 95% of the online travel market
–Searches and online booking sites don’t show customers all the accommodation available on their sites
· YOU SEE WHO PAYS MOST FIRST – The big booking sites pay the search engines (google/bing/etc) to make sure their site comes up top of the results when you search online. Even if you search the actual property name.
· YOU SEE THE PLACES AGENTS WANT YOU TO SEE: The big booking sites don’t show you all the hotels, B&Bs and cottages available. Algorithms decide which ones to show you, usually based on how much commission the site will get if you book.
· LOSS LEADING PRICES – Sometimes booking platforms give customers a lower price than the accommodation actually costs. Just to keep you using their site. The they top up the payment they make to the owner.
● Some of the big Online Travel Agents include “rate parity” clauses to list on their site, so they can say that you won’t find the room/rental cheaper anywhere else. The parity applies only to publicly published rates though. You can often get a cheaper rate, if you call, email, or respond to an email/offer you’ve been sent.
● More people now want to book direct but accurate information about what accommodation is out there is getting drowned out by the large third parties because of their high advertising spend and marketing messages. Here are some tips to help customers safely book direct with owners –
○ SEARCH BY NAME – If you find somewhere you like on one of the big listing sites, it’s always worth doing a separate online search for the name/location of the hotel or cottage to find their own website. Check for any “book direct” voucher codes, drop them an email, open a chat, or give them a call – if the prices on their website aren’t already lower than the big agents, most will provide discounts for direct bookings.
○ SKIP THE ADS – Watch out for those paid ads on search engines like google. You can spot these by looking for the small “Ad” box next to the result heading. Go past the ads, and have a look at the web address at the top of your browser. That should let you see if you’re going directly to the “official” accommodation site.
○ STAY SAFE – If you are worried about security, then pay with a credit card. That way you’ll get similar protection as you’d get using the big agents. If you also check for properties that have Official Tourist Board ratings, you’ll know they’ve been visited and vetted by the local tourist board.
○ SEARCH A BOOK DIRECT MAP – communities of hotel/B&B/Cottage owners are coming together to create some new “bookdirect” maps.
All these maps will show all registered accommodation with no added commission or service fees. You just click straight through to the accommodation owner so you can book directly to get the best price.
These are all run by accommodation owners and are a great starting point for holiday makers searching for their next getaway:
A new platform set up in the last couple of months, which already has over 300 properties listed across the world. This map is 100% location based and users can also search for their preferred dates to narrow the search.
Please share this information with your friends and family to help them find the best options for them when making their holiday plans.
Vicky and Leigh
St Weonards Hotel