Booking Hotel Reservations Online – Do you know who you booked through?
The World Wide Web (www) is only getting bigger and more confusing, and this is especially true for the casual user. There is no denying that the one entity out there that dominates the web is the mighty search engine known as GOOGLE. There are other search engines but they pale by comparison. GOOGLE has risen to the the point that they control much of what we see and how and when we see it. Like it or not, we have to play the game if we intend to survive and thrive in the world of online marketing and commerce. It also provides consumers quick and easy access to a wealth of information condensed into a small space.
Booking your lodging is only one part, albeit an important one, of a vacation. Type the words “hotel”, “lodging”, “cabin”, “cottage”, etc. and the location into the search bar in GOOGLE and see what happens. As stated, there are other search engines, Yahoo, …, etc, and discussions on their merits, but we’ll consider that beyond the scope of this post. GOOGLE sets the gold standard for internet search engines.
We could devote a lot of material discussing GOOGLE searches but we want to zero in on the confusion GOOGLE has caused with a graph they have created for businesses in the last few years. While it can be a very nice tool for both consumers and business, it can be a source of great confusion if you don’t understand how it works.
When searching for a business in Google, often times you will see an information box that displays on the top-right of the results page (see image below). This box is called the Knowledge Panel and can be misleading when making reservations with a lodging business.
How the Knowledge Panel Works
“Book A Room” Button
The image above shows the Knowledge Panel for Tall Pines Inn after performing a Google search. The confusion is with the “BOOK A ROOM” button. It is understandable how one might think that by clicking on this button they will be directed to the website for the business. In reality, clicking on that button will actually take you to the website of the Online Travel Agency (OTA) that displays below the “Check Availability”. In the case of Tall Pines Inn, it will take you to Booking.com.
As with many lodging properties, Tall Pines Inn has listed some (not all) rooms with the Online Travel Agencies in order to have a greater internet presence. These OTA’s claim to be able to find the “lowest” rates available. This is not necessarily true, as it is a comparison to other OTA’s. Additionally, OTA’s charge commissions to both the traveler as well as the property owner. The amount of these commissions will vary by OTA. To be sure you are going to the website for the business, click on the “Website” button immediately below the business name.
When you commit to booking direct, you will enjoy many perks and amenities that you would not have access to when booking through a travel agency. Not to mention, you will pay less!
Lowest Price… Guaranteed!!
The OTA’s have done amazingly well with their marketing and partnership with GOOGLE to dominate the vacation industry. Why have they been so successful? Success is not necessarily based on the actual best service and price, but more the perceived best service and price. For example, an OTA may claim “lowest price guaranteed”. If you take the time to call the lodging directly, you may find the exact same room is cheaper and with more options if you book direct with the property. OTA’s may be comparing themselves to other OTA’s pricing. Keep in mind the OTA is a “Middle Man” and you pay a commission for that.
This is another perceived perk that guests look for. Read the fine print and make sure that you truly can cancel anytime with no penalty. Again, compare room rates between the OTA and booking direct. The convenience of “cancel anytime” may be costing you as much as 10% more per night!
Why can the OTA’s offer the “cancel anytime” and property owners have more stringent cancellation policies? OTA’s and even large hotels can double book units or simply have a very large pool to draw from. Small property owners can only rely on the highly valued reservations that come in over many months. Late cancellations are difficult to fill and can devastate a small lodging business.
Why You Should Consider Booking Direct
- You usually are guaranteed the lowest pricing available.
- You work directly with the property in case of changes, delays, or cancellations. (Our property has one phone number and you speak to the same person every time!)
- You typically will not have to pay additional booking fees.
- You will enjoy exclusive benefits.
- You can take advantage of special deals or amenities.
For more information on #BookDirect CLICK HERE.
In most cases, we find the public simply doesn’t know. GOOGLE has managed to create a seamless process that is incredibly convenient through just about any electronic media you can imagine. GOOGLE has partnered with most of the OTAs and has been pushing out smaller businesses by forcing lodging to take up to a 30% cut to lodge their guests and wait several weeks to get paid. But bigger is not always better when guests become educated about ALL of their options and just where their money goes.