With 2017 passed not too long ago, many of us should have came back from a wonderful holiday outside Singapore or even from a staycation without going beyond the borders. Booking a hotel for your holidays is inevitable, but the question this article will bring is; should you book from a direct hotel website or through an Online Travel Agent (OTA) such as Agoda, Booking.com or Expedia? Is it cheaper to book from one platfrom versus the other and are there benefits to book hotel rooms direct? In this article, I will search for 4 different hotels prices through their direct websites and the OTAs (namely Agoda, Booking.com and Expedia). You can make your choice after.
(Edit – As pointed out in one of the comments, Trivago is not an OTA per se, it is a search engine for online hotels. As such, Trivago is used in this article as a search tool for hotel comparison.)
Hotel: Taipei Marriott Hotel (23 – 24 Jan 2018)
You can see that the room rate from the Marriott website is the lowest at NT5,628 among the comparison. Expedia’s rates are in USD$ so I have converted it to the local currency in red. Even after taking away the 5% VAT from Booking.com’s NT6,190, it is still at NT5,895. Trivago shows the Marriott website as offering the lowest rate. Direct hotel website wins.
Hotel: W Beijing Hotel (4- 6 Jun 2018)
At CNY1,328 (excluding taxes), the SPG website offers the lowest booking rate. I would have thought that based on Marriott’s example, Trivago should indicate SPG as the lowest price but it is not; it directs the user to Agoda instead. Something going on here between Trivago and Agoda, perhaps? Direct hotel website wins.
Hotel: Grand Hyatt Jakarta (3 – 5 Dec 2018)
Here, there are some close fights between the Hyatt website rate and the OTA rates; both Agoda and Expedia are offering almost similar lowest rates as compared to Hyatt’s. For Booking.com the rate per night before taxes is about IDR4,097,192. Although Trivago searched that the rates from Agoda are the lowest, it somehow recommends a Cancelon.com website that is not the lowest of rates. Hmm..
Hotel: Holiday Inn Montreal Centre Ville Downtown (28 Jun – 7 Jul 2018)
The great Montreal Jazz Festival!
I thought I will make a search for a hotel in Montreal, Canada during the annual Montreal Jazz Festival. This is a great annual event that cheers up the city after a long cold winter. And you will see the rates are high. Still, the lowest rate I can find is with IHG offering at CAD298.24 (excluding taxes) that comes with breakfast. Again, Trivago shows that IHG website has the lowest rate but recommends Agoda instead.
At the Agoda site, I have a choice of paying a higher rate in exchange for 8,850 KrisFlyer miles. Effectively, that means I will be paying CAD61 (S$65) more compared to IHG’s for the number of miles. At 0.73 cents/mile, this is something most mile chasers will salivate over. However the drawback is buying the rate from Agoda will not count towards IHG status. As I am not a IHG elite member, I will go for Agoda. For me, OTA wins for this deal.
The examples above are typical for anyone who needs to make a decision when planning an overseas trip for hotel bookings. For most bookings, the hotel’s direct website may offer the lowest possible rate (see Taipei Marriott Hotel and W Beijing Hotel examples). This is probably so because hotel chains pay good commissions to OTAs for every room booked and they want to minimise that. Plus, booking direct with the hotels will earn you elite status and earn towards award night.
This is where loyalty matters. For me I value the SPG and Marriott Rewards statuses for their free club lounge access, free internet, free breakfast etc so it will be hard for OTAs to pull me over, especially more so that OTAs are not the cheapest around.
However sometimes the OTAs may offer something that can be a deal breaker, such as Agoda’s offer of KF miles for paying higher rates. Since I am not a IHG elite status member (9,000 points hardly counts for anything), I am very inclined to go with Agoda for this case. In addition OTAs provide a good snaphot of the available hotels rates at one glance because of their inventory so there is still value for a traveler regardless whether you will book with them eventually or not.
Hopefully these four examples had given you a better idea when you decide where to look around when searching for hotel room rates on the internet. Now I need to find my DBS WWMC / UOB VS…