Whether you’re a business traveler who spends more time in airports than at home, a jet setter with some of the most sought after passport stamps, or a leisure traveler who dusts off the duffel bag for a trip to see Granny, chances are you’ve come across a few scheduling detours.
Stuff happens. Inevitably, there’s a delay. Everyone has their stories of weather or mechanical issues that delayed or canceled a flight, potentially leaving you in a pickle with your already purchased hotel reservation. At times like that, it’s easy to feel hopeless. But there’s something you can do ahead of time to give yourself as much power as possible the next time a travel delay messes up your hotel plans. It’s simple: book direct, and here’s why that matters…
Don’t Become the Next Horror Story
Take a moment to open a new browser on your computer, phone, or tablet and Google “third-party travel.” You’ll immediately see results like Third-party Travel Site Mistakes You Should Avoid, 3 Reasons to Never Book Travel With a Third-Party Company, and Why You Probably Shouldn’t Book a Flight Through a Third-Party Travel Site.
In addition to that, we’re willing to bet that either you or someone you know has a travel horror story because the flight or hotel was booked through a third-party online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia, Booking.com, or Cheaptickets.com. For us, one of our very own tells her Hotels.com horror story here.
Unfortunately, stories like hers are not uncommon. Just search for “[insert OTA name here] horror stories,” and you’ll find more. There’s this woman, this fellow, and these folks who all had bad experiences because they booked their travel through an OTA. And when you’re stranded in the wrong airport because your connecting flight got canceled, a third-party booking site isn’t going to jump at the gun to help you rebook your hotel stay. Sometimes canceling your hotel stay through an OTA can seem impossible.
OTA Customer Service: A Myth?
When trying to understand the reason for this, you should know that these OTA sites are huge companies. In fact, many of the travel sites that you’ve probably been using for years are actually owned by one of two giant corporations. Big public companies like Expedia Group and Booking Holdings are inherently profit-driven. We’ve discussed ad nauseam how they seem to be more in it for the money than the customer satisfaction. To us, it makes sense why they promote a “book now” mentality while saving the customer service for later. They aren’t interested if your first child is born a month earlier than expected or if an illness crops up that requires you to call off your travel plans.
But good customer service is paramount, and hotel goers are catching on to the downside of booking through OTAs. Kalibri Labs, a company that evaluates revenue performance among hotels, conducted a study to observe if direct bookings have increased over the past few years. The results showed growth in bookings made directly with the hotel when compared to bookings made with OTAs, the latter of which either held steady or decelerated throughout the time of the study. It appears that the tide is changing.
Benefits of Booking Direct
We’ve written an entire article about this topic because of how much we think it matters. In a nutshell, booking direct gives you better customer service and more flexibility and security with your booking. Because you are communicating directly with the hotel, you will be able to make special requests for your room. You’ll also have an easier time modifying your reservation if you need to change your plans. On the other hand, modifying or canceling a reservation with an OTA may require you to pull your hair out. There’s not much incentive for them to work with you if they already have your money.
But hotels are in the hospitality business, and they put an emphasis on customer service. It’s easy to pick up the phone and explain your situation to the hotel’s front desk. That certainly beats wasting away your day on hold with some outsourced OTA customer service call center.
Here’s a real-life example of how booking direct—especially as a loyalty member—gives you flexibility. One of our colleagues had a free night to redeem by a certain date in order to take advantage of their IHG loyalty program reward points. So, they booked a stay at a swanky Hotel Indigo in New York City to celebrate their anniversary. However, a work-related matter came up which forced them to cancel the trip. A phone call to IHG’s loyalty program department led to a swift resolution: IHG promptly deposited 50,000 reward points (the equivalent of the hotel stay) into their account to use on a future stay. How’s that for customer service! We’re not certain an OTA would have treated them with that much understanding.
To witness firsthand the benefits of booking direct, let us help you plan your trip. We’ll filter out the nonsense so you can get on with your travel. After finding the hotel of your choice on Roomkey.com, we’ll take you directly to the hotel’s website where you’ll complete your booking right at the source.
Like what you see? Sign up with Roomkey to receive honest offers, industry insights, and great travel advice.