The days when travel agents would sell flight-and-hotel packages are deader than the dinosaurs.
These days, just about everyone and their grandma books holiday accommodation online, or at the very least gets a hotel’s phone number or email address from their website and then contacts them directly.
But should you always make your hotel reservations on a third party site or is it better to contact the hotel directly? Turns out, third party sites aren’t all rainbows, unicorns and everything good. There are some downsides alongside the benefits. Here’s what to consider when making your next hotel booking.
One of the biggest advantages of booking accommodation a third party site is the fact that they make it super easy to compare accommodation, with a huge database of hotels sorted according to area, price and rating.
If you just want the cheapest possible place, you can sort according to price. Going to a big city and want to live in a particular area? On Agoda, you can view hotel locations on the map, so you can be sure you’re booking in a convenient area.
Hotel prices tend to be cheaper on third party sites than if you book directly with them. That’s because you can take advantage of sales on these sites to book rooms at certain hotels at a deep discount.
Third party sites also often tie up with banks to offer credit card discounts. For instance, Agoda has frequent promotions that enable DBS and POSB card holders to enjoy 5% to 8% off their bookings.
Do note, however, that some hotels have the policy of matching the best rate you can find online. This makes sense for the hotel since they get to avoid commission fees to the third party site. It could thus be a good idea to do price research for your particular dates, and then contact the hotel directly to see if they can offer you the same rate.
Loyal customers of third party sites can often get vouchers or freebies by participating in their rewards programmes.
Agoda’s rewards programme lets you accumulate points which you can use to redeem vouchers you can then use to book accommodation on the site. Expedia also has a rewards programme that lets you accumulate points to spend on hotel bookings.
Certain hotels may give you lousier rooms or poorer customer service
Some customers report being allocated lousier rooms or receiving poor customer service when they book on third party sites.
That’s because hotels pay a hefty commission to Agoda for their listings, in addition to any discounts listed on the site. That means they might be earning a lot less from you than a customer who books through them directly.
Even so, it really varies from hotel to hotel. I’ve gotten free upgrades in hotels that I booked on third party sites, so don’t assume you’ll be automatically ill-treated. On the other hand, I was once allocated a windowless room when the picture on the third party site showed a window—the hotel simply allocated me the worst available room at that price point.
Harder to change dates
Changing your dates or cancelling a reservation at a hotel you’ve booked a stay at directly is easy. Just phone them and get them to amend your booking.
When you book on a third party site, on the other hand, all changes have to be made through the site. I once booked a hotel stay in Bangkok on Agoda, only to discover upon arrival that I had actually reserved the wrong dates. Although I was already at the hotel, I had to wait almost an hour while they tried to call the website’s customer service department in order to get them to amend the booking on their end.
When you book your stay directly with a hotel, you usually pay only upon leaving. Although you might be asked for your credit card details, you are usually not charged even if you cancel your stay within a reasonable time frame or change your dates.
On the other hand, booking sites sometimes require you to pay for your entire stay upfront, or a deposit of a certain percentage of your total charges. This can cause problems if you decide halfway through your stay that the hotel looks like the setting of a horror movie, or if your plans change and you need to cancel your stay.
Do you usually book hotel stays through third party sites or do you prefer to book directly through the hotel? Tell us in the comments!