Is it cheaper to use a middle-man when booking an hotel?
Bitterwallet 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 (Hotels.com, Booking.com, Laterooms.com, Expedia.co.uk 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 Booking.com and Hotels.com, 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 Booking.com 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 Lastminute.com, 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.