Opinion | Why booking rooms directly may be your best option

Work travel and holiday planning always end up in the middle of a vast time-consuming paradigm, which is about how to get the best deal on your hotel room reservation. There are different meanings attached to the term, as well, under different circumstances.

booking rooms

On work travel, most business travelers are running an expense account. So, they are not really looking for the cheapest hotel room but with the most flexible policies and the best benefits. Most global firms, such as IBM, have preferred hotel chains and preferred rates negotiated and informed to employees. The better terms could include benefits such as breakfast and free cancellation on the day of arrival for the traveler. In this case, travel desks or the travelers themselves would do better to book directly with the hotel via their website or corporate travel agent.

Those who don’t have a corporate contract with a hotel chain can still discount the hotel chains for booking directly. Most chain hotels will offer a prepaid rate (non-refundable) for paying ahead and a slightly higher rate for a postpaid booking. Further, they offer member rates, which can be availed if you sign up and log in with a loyalty number for the hotel chain. For instance, IHG (ihg.com) and Marriott (marriott.com) provide up to a 5% discount, while Hyatt (hyatt.com) provides 10-15% off for those who book directly after logging in.

Booking directly with hotels is usually backed with the Best Rate Guarantees of these hotels, where you can be assured that you won’t find a better price elsewhere, or the chain would be willing to give you a discount or a free night, and so on. For booking your holidays, apart from booking directly, you can also seek the services of a professional travel agent, who can drive the best deal for you. Most hotel chains have created travel agent programs that give better perks for select hotels. For instance, Hyatt has Hyatt Prive, and Shangri-La has Shangri-La Luxury Circle, both of which offer some great benefits in the form of upgrades, spa or dining credits, and late check-outs the hotel.

Some travel consultants also have their own curated lists of hotels where you get better benefits by booking, for instance, via a Virtuoso partner agent. The Virtuoso website (virtuoso.com) has the most updated list of agents. There is the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection (americanexpressfhr.com) for American Express Platinum cardholders, which has over 1,000 hotels across the globe for those who prefer to live in luxury. For instance, you would get complimentary breakfast for two every day for a stay at W Goa, a complimentary dinner for two once during your stay, and room upgrades apart from a late checkout. For those holding Visa Credit Cards, they can head to visaluxuryhotelcollection.com to get similar benefits.

Apart from these options, if you would like to book online, almost every online travel agent gives out cashbacks or discounts in tandem with some bank these days. However, these discounts come with a rider and are non-refundable usually. Also, you would usually not find the big brands being undercut in this case, given they have all made stern agreements with the OTAs not allowing them to discount their rates.

Google has also entered the fray to offer hotel search and bookings recently. At google.com/hotels, you can put in your dates, and you will get the rates of all the hotels in the vicinity. Not just that, Google will also tell you the trends, such as if the prices you are getting to see are the usual prices, or lower or higher than the usual. You can then decide if you want to proceed with your travel on those dates or not. The other feature Google hotels offer is the ability to find deals. You can set the filter only to tell you about the deals in a particular city, and it will show you all the hotels offering discounts during your stay there.

Eventually, that good deal means different things to different people.

So, people should move on from spending days searching for the best discount on various online travel agencies to the metasearch engine such as Google in the future to get rate comparisons. Otherwise, booking direct has held everyone in good stead for many years now. It just reduces surprises such as your booking not being passed on to the hotel or being assigned the worst room possible in the hotel’s inventory.

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My current pet project is developing sauerkraut in Minneapolis, MN. Managed a small team working on carnival rides in Nigeria. Spent 2002-2007 testing the market for velcro in Naples, FL. Spent 2001-2005 working on tinker toys in Cuba. Spent several years researching carnival rides in the financial sector. Spent the 80's supervising the production of shaving cream in Deltona, FL.