Online travel agencies (OTA) and low-cost hotel room consolidators have become rather popular in the Indian hotel and hospitality scenario, particularly in recent times. Despite the promise of lower rates, guests booking through OTAs miss out on a number of advantages. Booking online through the hotel websites, on the other hand, has some tangible advantages for guests –
Room Tariff and Commissions – One of the main reasons travellers prefer to book through OTAs is to find the lowest room tariff, thus saving on the cost of accommodation. It is, however, important to remember that hotels pay a 25% to 30% commission to these OTAs for their services. Booking directly through a hotel’s website will give the traveller the added advantage of saving on room cost, since most hotels prefer to pass on a percentage of the commission saved to the customer. Hotels also come up with special discounts from time to time. These are only available on direct booking through their website and not through OTAs.
Customer Loyalty Programs – Most major hotel chains offer customer loyalty programs for travellers who prefer to stay with them. The benefits of these programs can only be availed by those who book directly through the hotel’s website. These programs allow frequent guests to accumulate points on their spends and to redeem them periodically. Direct booking through the hotel’s website also allows guests to convert their frequent flyer miles from various airlines into discounts on room tariff, food & beverage, spa, other services, etc.
Accommodating Special Requests – Hotels are rather keen to accommodate special requests made by guests who book directly through their website. This means that if you’re shortlisting hotels for first wedding night in Delhi or for your wedding anniversary in Goa, it is likely that the hotel will accommodate special requests and offer added services if you book directly through their website. This advantage may be lost if you book the same room through an OTA. Many hotels like The LaLiT New Delhi also accommodate guests with special dietary requirements when the booking is made online through their own website.
Better Packages and Add-Ons – Hotels are always known to incentivise booking through their own websites by providing better packages. For example, a business traveller booking directly online can expect free of cost airport transfer, concierge services, or spa and gym membership for the duration of the stay. Booking through a third party does not allow the guest to avail of these advantages and add-ons. In fact, hotels packages in Delhi and other metro cities include gift coupons to guests booking directly with them. These maybe redeemable at the hotel gift shop or at the restaurant.
Realistic Hotel Tours – One of the greatest advantages of booking a hotel directly online is the ability to take a virtual tour of the hotel and its rooms before booking. Most of the major hotel chains these days offer 360° virtual tours of their rooms, restaurants, lobbies, and gardens making it easier for guests to choose. Most OTAs and travel agents, on the other hand, rely on the images provided by the hotels themselves or on subjective reviews by guests who have previously stayed in the hotel.
No Cancellation – This may not be a very frequent occurrence but on and off we do hear about hotels turning down a booking despite a confirmation from the third-party or the OTA. This will never happen if the booking is done online directly with the hotel. If the hotel seems to be overbooked, it is likely that a guest who has booked directly will be offered a free upgrade but will never be turned away.