The one question we often get from people is that why don’t their hotel stays booked with an Online Travel Agency (OTA) get them similar benefits versus when they book a stay directly with a hotel.
It comes from the fact that hotels usually pay a very high commission, sometimes up to 35% to OTAs like MakeMyTrip and Expedia for hotel bookings that come through them. This is very different for airlines where airlines pay just a 1% commision to travel agents.
Over the past few years, hotels have been trying to cut down travel agent commisions by passing on the benefits directly to the consumer. Some hotel chains like IHG are even offering extra incentives to travellers who book direct. Now booking a hotel stay via an OTA comes with its own set of benefits like you can compare multiple hotels on a single web page, you can filter hotels by price and you can look at hotels by star ratings.
However, booking a room directly with a hotel has its own advantages that a lot of travellers are not aware of. Here are 5 benefits you get when you book your stay directly with a hotel.
1.Hotels’ Best Rate Guarantee feature ensures that you do not pay a higher price – Most of us assume that the cheapest prices are offered only by travel agencies. However, hotel chains offer the Best Rate Guarantee which basically assures you that you get the cheapest rate by booking directly with them. If someone undercuts them, the hotel would match that price. The rationale is that hotels will rather pass on the discount to customers and induce a behaviour to book directly next time rather than head to an OTA website.
For example, Taj Hotels state that if you find a lower rate with an agent not only will they honour that rate but also give you an additional 10% discount.
Similarly, Hyatt offers guests an INR 3,260/ USD 50 credit along with matching the lowest rate published on another site. If you haven’t tried it yet, just call up or write to your preferred hotel the next time you find a better rate with an OTA and see them match it.
Here’s another example of December stay rates published on various OTAs Vs the price for booking directly with Grand Hyatt Goa.
2. Booking direct helps you earn loyalty points – While you can always earn air miles for your flights booked via agents, hotel loyalty programs work in a very different way. Most hotel brands like Starwood, Marriott, Hilton and IHG neither award points nor do they count stays booked via OTAs towards elite tier qualification.
Also, programs like Starwood Preferred guest offer their elite members a welcome gift on arrival. This is again not given if a booking is done through an OTA. Essentially booking via an agency does not get you any return for your stay.
3. Booking directly enables hotels to take care of your stay preferences – There is no way your travel agent can take care of individual stay preferences like twin room Vs king room, getting a room on the higher floor. However hotels today have sophisticated ways of remembering your preferences.
As a Marriott Rewards member, all I have to do is update one time my preferences in my profile right from the type of room I prefer to if I want extra towels in the room, to if I like a room on a higher floor. If you are someone who has specific choices then it’s always better to book directly as hotels will always go out of their way to accommodate your preferences.
4. Booking direct helps you take advantage of special members sales – From time to time hotel loyalty programs run special offers only for their members. These sales sometimes include bonus points earning and sometimes are fare sales.
For example, booking a night at the Hilton Shillim resort directly with Hilton hotel’s 35% member sale saved me INR 1350/ USD 20 vs the rates that were offered by the OTA.
5. Elite status with hotels gives you access to multiple benefits – Once you reach an elite status with a hotel loyalty program you get access to many benefits like complimentary breakfast, access to the club lounge, etc. For example, a buffet breakfast at a luxury hotel at W Goa or the JW Marriott in Bengaluru costs an average of INR 1200/ USD 18 per person in India. Hotel elite benefits usually include complimentary breakfast and lounge access for two people.
While some lounges have such a scrumptious evening spread that it suffices as dinner. Paid lounge access at the Hyatt Regency in Chandigarh costs INR 2200/ USD 34 per guest. An elite status easily gets you access to benefits worth a few thousand rupees on every stay.
Another benefit of status is room and suite upgrades that come with it. Hotels generally go out of their way to pamper their loyal customers by upgrading them to better category rooms and suites.
The primary advantage of booking through an OTA is that you get multiple options together in one place. Although one of the biggest disadvantages of booking through an agent is that you don’t get any return on the money you spend on the booking.
Another reason I like to book my stays directly with hotels is that more than once when we have celebrated special occasions at hotels they’ve gone out of their way to surprise us and accommodate our requests.
I would only book a hotel online when the price difference is massive and the hotel is unable to match it directly for me.
How do you book your hotel stays? Through OTAs or directly with the hotel?