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discerning independent travellers. Hotels with character for all
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value quality boutique hotels.
any online hotel booking site offer guaranteed lowest rates,
lower than the others?
There is a simple answer to this question, and it is "no".
It would really be great if there were one website on the
Internet where travellers could go, in order to find all the cheapest
rates for all hotel bookings at whatever time. Unfortunately, and
whatever claims certain websites may make, that website does not exist.
And never will
I've spent some time recently checking out a whole
lot of potential hotel bookings in Europe, using different methods
including direct booking, online booking agencies (such as Booking.com
and others), and comparison sites, which claim to compare the offers
made by all of the above; and the answer has to be that there is no
single way of getting the best deals all the time from any single
Very often, most if not all best price searches
for a given hotel will show exactly the same rates from several
then some higher rates for the same room on the same dates, through
other methods. Occasionally, one of the methods - and it can be the
hotel's own website or an online booking agency - will turn up a
marginally better price; but this is rare. And when one online site is
offering a room at a price slightly lower than the others, one has to
ask why? Where's the catch? See below....
of Price comparison sites
If you are planning a trip, have hours of time to spare, and want to
make sure you find the lowest possible rate for all your hotel bookings
in several different hotels, you can probably manage to do so. You can
book each hotel using a different method, and get yourself hopelessly
confused by different bookings with different terms using different
But let's face it; most of us are not going to
spend five frustrating hours on the Internet to be able to say, at the
end of it, "I think I've saved about ten dollars or ten euros overall
and got the best rates for every hotel." Most of us will prefer to find
one or two sites, and use them for all our bookings.
Often, the first stop will be a price-comparison
like Trivago or Kayak. But be warned, the prices quoted on
price-comparison sites are not
, and may also differ
from the price that you actually get quoted
once you've bothered to
follow your proposed booking through to the actual reservation site. As
an example, a price quotation site I am looking at as I write
this article shows a price of "$ 114" for a given night, available
through booking.com: but when I click through to Booking.com
I see different prices (and a wider choice of rooms and
In addition, price-comparison sites do NOT
necessarily show all the deals on offer from all hotel
reservation sites, and more importantly, prices compared are not
necessarily comparable. Indeed, the process of
cheapest offer can be
. Clicking the apparent best offer
price comparison sites for certain bookings we wanted to check, we even
found cases where one website was getting promoted as a better rate
than others, because the price quoted did not include VAT (sales tax)
whereas every other price listed did
as is the norm in
Europe, where retails sales prices are always quoted with VAT included
- unlike in North America. In addition, for hotels in France,
instance, some prices will be quoted inclusive of "tourist tax" (taxe
de séjour), others will not
Other searches showed up cases where the price
quoted as a best deal on the Price comparison website simply did
you clicked through to the website that was supposed to be offering it.
Presumably the idea is just to confuse the customer, and hope that the
customer makes a booking anyway, either not noticing the difference, or
else imagining that it is the best rate possible.
Finally – and this is perhaps
side of price comparison sites – for many hotels they do not
all the offers available for a given booking on a given date, and
sometimes the rates offered do not cover the same service. We came
across cases where, by simply looking elsewhere, we found better rates
than any quoted on the price comparison site we were using as
a reference; and other cases where a marginally cheaper rate offered on
one site was actually a "pay now no change no cancellation" rate,
whereas other sites were offereing, for just a few euros more, a "pay
later no deposit fully refundable" option.
And let's be honest: price comparison sites are
taking a commission on the sale, and so are the booking sites they send
you through to – meaning that between them they are charging
a hefty commission on the sale. Not surprising therefore that for the
cheapest rooms at least, some hotels set aside their smallest and least
attractive rooms for people who book this way.
Booking through an online booking site
Sites like Booking.com
all claim to offer the best rates possible, and guarantee to reimburse
the difference if you can find a lower rate. Not surprising therefore
that in the majority of cases, they will all offer exactly
the same rates. When their rates are different, it's often because one
site has followed up on a special offer, and others have not; or
alternatively because one site is still showing rates that are no
longer available because all the rooms at that price have now been
booked. It's most
to be because one online booking site has
access to rooms at a cheaper rate than others.
Evidently, if one online booking site could offer
lower prices across the board than other sites, that would be common
knowledge, and the others would eventually be forced out of the market.
But that is not the case. Each of the many online hotel
booking sites will occasionally offer better rates than the others for
a specific hotel on a specific date. Even hotel booking sites, like
supermarkets, can use the sales tactics of "loss leaders" or "cost
price sales", special discounted items to make the customer think that
their site is cheaper than the others. But behind every
amazing bargain, there'll be - unannounced of course - other offers on
which they will have slapped an extra mark-up.
Most of the time, hotels offering direct online booking will post the
same rates as the online travel agencies. Often, it is part of their
contract with the online booking sites that they, the hotel, cannot
undercut the rates offered by the online booking sites. This is notably
the case with independent hotels.
On the other hand, research has shown that groups such as
IHG (that's Intercontinental Hotels Group, who run among others the
Holiday Inn hotels) or Accor (Ibis, Novotel, Mercure, F1 etc.)
sometimes have special low rates that undercut the lowest rates
available on Booking.com
; but this is by no means always the case, not by a long chalk. When
they do exist these special low rates tend only to apply to their
cheapest bargain-basement offers, and come with strings attached.
Unless your aim, as a customer, is to get absolutely the cheapest room
avaialble, then it probably makes no difference whether you book
directly or through an online booking site. Additionally, if your aim
is to get the lowest rate possible, then you will in fact often do
better to choose a cheaper hotel, rather than the cheapest room in the
hotel you are looking at. Individual hotel sites will not
usually give you any way of checking out the local competition; online
booking sites will do so. So will the corporate websites of the big
chains – but only for alternatives provided by their own
So to the question; where
can I go to always get the best deals on hotels bookings
the answer has to be that there is no one-stop solution. Each
of the online hotel booking methods has its bargains and its pitfalls,
especially where booking with internationally branded hotel chains is
concerned. "Special low rates" and "unbeatable bargains" are marketing
tools, and each bargain hides
something that is less of a bargain. The "lowest available rate" is
used to lure the potential customer onto the website; once the consumer
has started a booking process, then the website often tries to push him
or her away from the bargain offer by pointing out its disadvantages
(no refunds, no change of date, no cancellation, no breakfast, small
room, noisy room), and suggesting more attractive and safer (flexible
and fully refundable) alternatives. Obviously, these are more expensive
options, and often well above the price of the bargain deal
that originally attracted him to the hotel's booking page or booking
site in the first place. But that's marketing.
good and calm independent hotel in France, Spain, Italy or the UK.
If you run or have stayed
a small independent hotel that you think ought to be in this directory,
iHi is a website specialising in small friendly hotels in a quiet
environment, offering good
value to travellers. Good value hotels are not necessarily cheap
hotels; they are hotels where prices are not above average for hotels
of their category.
40 rooms - slightly larger for city hotels.
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