Is it cheaper to use a middle-man when booking an hotel?

22 November 2013

Bitterwallet - Tune hotel room photoBitterwallet readers are, on the whole, a savvy bunch who like to shop around and know all the tricks of the trade when getting the best deal. So what of the theory that you can get cheaper prices on hotel rooms if you book directly with the hotel, rather than through a booking site?

But special offers aside (like this morning’s De Vere £10 deals that saw thousands queueing for up to an hour just to get on the website), are hotel websites actually cheaper, or can the power of the multiple booking lend comparison sites some extra weight and earn a few pounds off the room rate? Some seem to think so.

A new comparison engine that links to the major booking engines (,,, etc) has done some research and claims that consumers could save 15% by not booking directly.

They quote such examples as a night’s stay at The Cleveland in Torquay which cost £55 through and, as compared with £110 when booking directly, saving £56 or 51%.

Or one night at the Cotswold House Hotel in Oxford, which costs £108 through instead of £200 directly, saving 46%.

Finally, a night’s stay at the Savoy Hotel in London costs a pricey £774 booking direct, but is still pricey at £400 through online travel agents Expedia and, saving 48%.

Overall, they claim that out of 100 hotels randomly selected, a one night stay in a double room on 7 December 2013 was cheaper booking through an intermediary site in 71% of cases. That’s quite compelling evidence.

However, all the best research is replicable, and in our completely non-scientific test, we also checked room prices on a double room stay on 7 December in 4 different UK cities. Unfortunately, 100% of our sample fell within the 29% of hotels who are not actually cheaper through an intermediary, but are, in fact, exactly the same price. Either that or this particular new site completely made up  their figures tried very hard to locate the examples that might have been cheaper in order to get some free publicity. Which is why we aren’t giving them any.

Telling savvy consumers like you to shop around for the best price is akin to introducing a maternal ancestor to the pleasures of not chewing ova, so just keep doing what you are probably already doing. Our advice? See which website (hotel or intermediary) pays the most back in terms of cashback or loyalty scheme benefits and go for that.

You're welcome.


  • badger
    SHOCK NEWS: Price comparison site uses its own data to discover that their service is occasionally cheaper, in some instances. Consumer blog then copies/pastes this "research" as incisive definitive FACT.
  • br04dyz
  • sfjnet
    ^^^ +1
  • Tim
    I'm here for the an hotel
  • Andy
    It depends quite a lot on the market as well as the agreement between the hotelier and the middle-man. Having allotments can guarantee the hotel a certain amount of revenue over the flexibility of selling the rooms for themselves at their own rate. This guarantee means that the negotiated rates between hotelier and middle-man can be advantageous for the guest. Any unsold allotments are returned to the hotel a few days before the check-in date with a negotiated release fee/percentage from the middle-man (guaranteed revenue part). Any returned allotments or guest cancellations that were sold by the middle-man can then be sold by the hotel as a 'last minute' deal, at which point, having received release fee from the middle-man, the hotel could undercut the middle-man and still remain profitable. After all, a booking from the lobby is better than a booking over wifi in the lobby with commission due.
  • Sixfields M.
    110 - 55 = 55 55/110 = 0.5 or 50% Basik Mat iznit
  • blagga
    an hotel is correct, buffoons.
  • Inspector G.
    I actually want to know what this website is that compares comparison sites.
  • Not l.
    @blagga: only if you are less than 3o years of age. Someone, somewhere suddenly thought they could change the use a "a" to "an" without anyone noticing. It's a load of bollocks.
  • Captain.Cretin
    I feel sorry for anyone under 40, schooling has been so marginalised in favour of passing exams that they dont do things in High School that I did in primary school. Even in my day you could see the rot setting in, my math teacher was useless if his Ti calculator broke down - which it did at least once a day, and by the 90's the University I attended was teaching math the way you enter it into a scientific calculator!! I also blame the BBC for allowing excessive amounts of slang and regional accents on childrens programs.
  • Kevin
    Depends on where you are trying to stay. Go to any of the major chains and it will be cheaper through Hotels/Booking etc
  • Captain.Cretin
    @Kevin. Not always, and certainly not everywhere in the world. I got married in Nanning, China, and my family flew out and stayed at the local Marriott; using various online booking companies they were quoted £110 per person per night; the rate at the desk was £60 PER ROOM per night. I have also had several bad experiences booking through Experia; TWICE I have turned up and the hotel had no record of the booking. In France I was OK, they had space, but in Moscow I was stuck with nowhere to sleep. I eventually ended up in a hotel on the far side of the city, paying more than twice the price of the room I was supposed to be in.
  • bittertraveller
    @Captain You were in Russia! Do you seriously expect things to be easy there?
  • Jaff
    I misread the title thinking it was: "Is it cheaper to use a middle aged man when booking a hotel" I don't know how this would work. I could get my dad to do it, but he's shit with computers...
  • Tim F.
    Until the hotels adjust booking through the OTA"s is definitely the way to go. Will continue to use Expedia, BookingHotelStay, and Booking until the hotels give consumers the best deal directly. Cut the middle man out!
  • Dick
    Phone the hotel, tell them the price, and ask for 10% cheaper. They pay between 15-25% commission to If they refuse a discount, book with

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