Booking over the internet this day and age is a simple process. 3rd party websites (Wotif, Booking.com, Expedia etc) have made the process very attractive with the ability to allow the consumer to facilitate their own research and inevitably book and pay for accommodation making these websites the most popular means to book accommodation superseding travel agents. So is this a best way to book accommodation? I will argue that booking accommodation through a 3rd party website can be fraught with pitfalls so the consumer must be aware!
3rd party websites have revolutionised booking accommodation and in some cases rental cars and airline tickets. They have given the consumer choicem, and ease of booking which is power to the consumer, so what can be wrong with that?
Selecting a hotel room is not like booking a seat on a flight or a ticket at a show. Firstly the airlines and ticket booking agencies now have the ability to allow the user to select a specific seat based on a seating plan. This is an advanced feature that is not available when booking hotel rooms. When selecting a room type I would be confident in saying that most people would be far more discerning in the decision making process as you are more than likely to be utilising this facility for at least one night or more. Bearing this is mind accommodation preferences and comfort requirements will have a higher degree of consequence, and hence require careful attention.
Booking with 3rd party websites can be like rolling the dice! Do you think a 3rd party website is an authority on the property? Do you think a representative from any of the websites has ever laid foot, let alone slept a night at all in the properties? Although the consumer is given generic information and an understanding of the room type and expectations, even these can be misleading. How do you know that you have not booked the very last room facing the car park and situated next to the elevator! Your faith is in the booking process, and based on a general assumption that the property will match the marketing speak of a 3rd party website. This raises another issue as many of the 3rd party websites do not allow the property to script their own room information. For example, Navigate in the past used to call rooms on the side of the property with easterly views adjacent to the waterfront a “Seaview Studio” and included a comprehensive description that these rooms had a glimpse of the waterfront and did not face directly towards the waterfront. One of the major third party websites would interpret this title and advertise as a “Studio with Sea View” which was not accurate. The website would justify the room title change as the title has to fit into a generic room name as these are translated into many different languages. Navigate then had to completely rename this room category to a generic list that the website had in order not to confuse consumers. How can a property be responsible when they do not have full access to a 3rd party website to keep room and property features identical to their own website?
How can the consumer minimise confusion and increase the chances of a positive outcome? The simple solution is where ever possible try and use a properties own website and even go one step further, use email or phone to outline your requirements and special requests. I often get feedback that people are sometimes reserved to give special requests as they feel they are being a potential burden or high maintenance. From my opinion this is far from the truth. One of the primary responsibilities we have as a host is to marry your requirements up to our facilities and special requests can assist the reservations team a long way in achieving the best outcome. So to summarise, use 3rd party websites with care and where possible deal directly with the property to ensure the best possible outcome. Do not be shy in coming forward with any special requests as this only minimises any potential disappointment.