Are Hotel Chains and Auto Rental Firms Holding Back Their Best Products from OTAs?
By Arthur Frommer
(Editor's comment: Perhaps additional reasons to not just blindly book your vacation on line.)
If it had happened only once, I would have thought it an oddity. But twice in the past month, I've been able to obtain better prices and available accommodations by going directly to a hotel instead of to the hotel online travel agencies that claim to represent the world's hotels.
To obtain reservations at a British hotel for a trip I will be making later this year, I went to not one but two major hotel online travel agencies, both of which responded that the hotel was full on the dates I had requested. They had also earlier listed rates for that hotel that seemed unusually high.
On the brink of giving up, I decided to phone the hotel in question. And immediately, the hotel's reservations staff not only accepted my request for a reservation on the dates in question, but at a price considerably lower than the online travel agencies had earlier quoted. I was left with the inescapable impression that the hotel was closing out the various OTAs for desirable dates when the hotel felt it could rent its rooms without paying the large commissions (sometimes as much as 30%) that some of the famous OTAs demand.
Is it possible that smart hotels are working with OTAs only for dates of stay when the hotel is anticipating widespread vacancies? I'm ready to believe that. And henceforth, I will call the hotel directly in place of wasting my time on the internet OTAs.
In the world of car rentals, I used to believe that a particular auto rental website was capable of performing near-miracles in responding to my request for a car; that they were finding car rental companies -- including the biggest of them -- that had slashed the rates dramatically for the dates when I needed a car. I am not totally certain about this, and have only conjectures to make (although I have made a couple of test bookings that confirmed the worst), but I have also been told that persons making a recent real use of that website are claiming that the major auto rental companies (Hertz, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, National, etc.) are no longer giving their dramatically discounted products to the internet firm.
Whether this is the case will need further tests, but it appears possible that the biggest rental companies are no longer cooperating to the same extent as before with the bargain-seeking website, and that users of the site are being offered cars from secondary firms only.
So here's a major turnaround in the ability of internet online travel agencies to produce unique bargains in hotel rooms and auto rentals. It's as if the luddites--the people unwilling to hand over their businesses to those modern, new, electronic services--have decided to do battle with the internet. There's never a dull moment in travel. And it is possible that by going direct--by phoning the hotels or the car renters--you'll often do better in terms of availability and price.