You’ve searched hotels and rental properties in your dream destination, compared amenities, prices and locations, and you’re finally ready to book. But hold on, and check the URL. Are you shopping directly with the property, or is it a third party? The answer to this question can have a big impact on your trip. When you’re traveling, it’s best to book direct.
Online Travel Agents, or OTAs and third-party booking sites like Airbnb, Expedia, VRBO, and Booking.com first became popular in the age of the Internet with steep discounts for customers. But that doesn’t necessarily hold true today. Many hotels and rental properties have listings on these sites because so many people still use them, but there aren’t many benefits to the customer anymore.
Third-party booking sites stay in business by taking a commission on each sale. So that means if you book with Booking Site X for $100, they take a 10% to 30% cut, leaving the hotel with just $70 to $90 of the original $100. So of course hotels prefer to have customers book directly with them. But guests might prefer this route too.
Basically, you are going to get the same rate booking direct. It’s no longer true that these third parties can get cheaper rates. That’s the bottom line. But it goes deeper than that.
When you book through an OTA, the website is essentially the guest of the hotel, and the agreements about your stay are between the website and the hotel and you and the website, not directly between you and the hotel. That means that in order to change rooms, extend your stay, cancel, or make any special requests, you have to go through that third party, not through the hotel.
Starry Night Lodging owners had this come up at their vacation rental in Glacier. “A guest booked on a Tuesday and wanted to cancel on Wednesday because she saw that the Going-to-the-Sun Road would be closed. I couldn’t cancel for her. She had to spend hours on the phone with Booking.com to get them to cancel. They still charged her a fee.”
Hotel staff and property owners want to be able to help their guests as much as possible, and they would go far out of their way to do it. But they’re bound by these contracts with the OTAs which can make that difficult, especially when there are problems with a reservation.
Booking directly with the property is the easy solution. Even if you use these third-party sites to search for a place to stay when you’re planning your trip, it’s simple to swap over to the property’s site when it comes time to book. It can save you a lot of headaches, and money, in the long run.
Starry Night Lodging’s website is a hub for all things regenerative tourism and exploring spectacular destinations sustainably. And it’s easy to navigate to the direct booking sites for each property, like this garden oasis on Kauai or this campground at the gateway to Glacier.