Are you thinking of visiting the Isle of Wight and The Royal Hotel? If so, it serves to book direct.
Doing so will spare you from:
- Search results ordered according to which hotels pay the biggest commission
- False impressions of availability designed to trigger panic buys
- Misleading discounts that offer little to no value
Holidaymakers everywhere have long flocked to online booking agents such as Booking.com and Hotels.com, believing these websites deliver choice, transparency and above all... value. A recent investigation has put paid to that myth however, exposing tactics designed to both mislead and mis-sell.
Its findings should leave you in no doubt that reserving rooms directly brings greater value for money.
It was the Competition and Markets Authority that called time on a web of underhand tactics. The independent watchdog uncovered practices that short-changed consumers and undercut hoteliers, crippling the hotel industry in the process.
Among damning conclusions were details on how agents sought to inflate takings through a combination of pressure selling, misleading discounts and hidden charges. Moreover, we learned they have been anything but upfront about how commission impacts listings.
CMA chairman Andrew Tyrie said it best when labelling the tactics ‘unacceptable’ and promised to instigate change.
So, what now?
Rather than challenge the report, those in the firing line have accepted its verdict. While the CMA can enforce changes under the Enterprise Act of 2002 the likelihood is there will be no need for such escalation. Not yet anyway.
Indeed, having assumed all responsibility, Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago respectively have all agreed to change their ways. They have until September 1st 2019 to do so.
Firstly, all have committed to outline how their search results are aggregated. The upshot of this concession is customers will learn why Hotel X ranks so highly. The likelihood of course, is they pay the biggest commission, but this will now be declared from the outset.
Similarly, this mischievous group have promised to stop giving false impressions as regards to availability. Ever clicked onto a hotel listing only to be greeted with a message warning someone is doing likewise? In reality this is unlikely, and nothing more than a shock tactic intended to spark panic buys.
Indeed, we have learned online agents sound the alarm when a visitor is viewing an entirely different room for an entirely different date, not lying as such but evidently stretching the truth.
Finally, dreamt-up discounts will become a thing of the past. This should spell the end of promotions that compare dissimilar stays; a weekend visit at peak season compared to a weekday in quieter times for example. These are bound to be priced differently and do not constitute a reduction.
It should be noted that the aforementioned websites have not – officially - broken consumer protection law. That said, the evidence makes for grim reading and shows the depths to which they will stoop.
Furthermore, the charge sheet has caused many to speculate how they will now avoid sanctions as opposed to towing any line. Trust has certainly been eroded.
Between them online travel agencies account for half of all European hotel bookings and are unlikely to go quietly into the night. Fears persist they will throw big money at legal challenges and argue over interpretations. This could give rise to yet more misinformation and tourists being denied the best deals, again.
Always Book Direct
All the more reason then for those same people to book direct. Securing your stay through hoteliers themselves will not strictly give you a better rate but likely a better package. This is because hotels can throw in extras that OTA’s are prevented from offering.
An offer inclusive of breakfast could be one add-on for instance, along with free parking or – in the case of The Royal – priority free upgrades.
Undeniable is the fact better value can be found by cutting out the middle man and going straight to the hosts.
This is why we encourage all patrons to contact us when planning their stay. We both value and respect our guests and endeavour to give them the best package possible, no matter the season.
A great holiday is of course priceless but ensure you never pay over the odds again!