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Sponsored by TRVL – a peer-to-peer booking platform where YOU get paid the hotel commission! 

Opinions expressed in this article are my own.

Booking hotels via Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) like Expedia and Booking has become very easy and convenient. Meta search websites like Kayak and Trivago have become so mainstream that they’re household names.

Before the internet, being able to find any information about hotels was the problem, and the above mentioned websites emerged to solve this. But now, 20 years later, shifting through the information is the problem, and the same websites are doing very little to help.

In fact, a closer look reveals that they are doing the opposite. Actively working to make the booking process confusing.

From misleading claims about discounts, to giving a false impression of room availability, and rushing you into booking decisions; in some cases OTA’s have become so bad that government authorities have stepped in to take action.

Especially for those of us who are passionate about travel and booking our own trips everyday, booking hotels online has become frustrating.

Here are the top 5 frustrations about booking hotels online (don’t worry, there’s a solution!)

The Top 5 Frustrations When Booking Your Hotel Online

Booking hotels Online Laptop TRVL

Advertising Fake Discounts

2018 has seen a massive abuse of power from big name travel websites re advertising fake hotel discounts, and claiming that they offer the best price.

As travelers we’re constantly bombarded with pressure sales messages that don’t feel realistic, and as a result we’re often making buying decisions based on inaccurate information.

The ACCC is taking Trivago to the Australian Federal Court, alleging the hotel comparison site made misleading price representations.

And a June report by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that over a quarter of Brits have booked the wrong hotel or selected incorrect dates due to pressure from comparison sites, and misleading claims about discounts.

For example, claims about discounts are often based on a higher price that was only available for a brief period, or are not relevant to your search criteria, ie comparing a higher weekend rate with the weekday rate for which you have actually searched.

You’re being tricked into thinking that the rate you’re being shown (the same rate that ‘expires in 5 minutes!’) is an incredible discount when it’s not. And it works; 85% of consumers said they booked with an OTA “to get the best price”.

Misleading Urgency Statements

Booking.com

As an exercise, see if you can identify how many pressure messages appear in the above screenshot from Booking.com. There are 10 in total over the two listings.

Another pressure tactic to rush us into booking decisions is giving a false sense of urgency to make a booking. And OTA’s do this all the time. 

Wording like ‘one room left’, ‘ten people are viewing this page’ and ‘in high demand’ create a false impression that we’re going to miss out, and this is really effective in making sure the room gets booked there and then.

Most of the time these claims are completely untrue, but they mean that travelers have jumped into a booking potentially without having had the time to complete due diligence and proper research, which makes it impossible to make good decisions.

More often than not when you book the ‘last room’, more inventory will be added the next day, and you’ll probably find that the price is exactly the same.

Even though this is a massive breach of trust, they know you’ll continue to book with them anyway. To the OTA’s getting our business is a game.

Hidden Fees & Charges

Money RF

Ever gone to book a hotel thinking the price was a certain amount, but realized upon payment that it’s a lot more than you were expecting?

The extent to which sites include all costs in the price they first show customers varies greatly. Most of the time the price they advertise is a hook, and you’re later faced with unexpected fees, such as taxes or fees for making the booking.

They also go to great lengths to promote the idea that it’s easy to cancel bookings when it might not be so easy, or even though cancellation fees may be due.

The cancellation rates on OTA bookings are often a lot higher than if you were cancelling directly with the hotel. Though a central message of Booking.com campaigns is often: ‘book what you like – you can always cancel it later.’

Your Search Results Are Skewed

When you’re searching for a hotel room, adjusting your filters, and entering your search criteria, you assume that the results will be an unbiased overview of the full range of accommodation. At least I do.

But the search results you get from OTA’s are manipulated. Hotels are often ranked based on the amount of commission they pay; higher commissions are displayed at the top of the page, and more suitable accommodation might not appear because it’s less profitable to the OTA.

There might be an illusion of offering well though out search results, but the truth is that nothing is personalized.

When search results are manipulated to make the most money, this means that we’re not being given an unbiased choice of accommodation, and even worse, there’s no transparency when this occurs.

Additionally, “the OTAs use their vast financial power to buy the top places on Google search, so they appear under the hotel name in search results, and all clicks on the name yield commission to the OTA” said David Weston of the UK Government’s Tourism Industry Council.

No Passion for Travel!

Bear in mind that when it comes to stress, it’s not the short-term issues that are the problem. It’s the long-term ones.

Online Travel Agents like Booking and Expedia are nobody’s ‘agent’. Of course, the prime concern of any business will always be about turning a profit, but at what cost to the traveler?

Tactics that rush us to make a decision mean we’re not shopping around, even though most OTA’s sell themselves as the best way to find the right fit, and search transparency isn’t something that exists.

It’s obvious that there’s absolutely no passion for travel, and it’s frustrating that the above behaviors make the experience more stressful, result in uncertainty about your decisions, and making mediocre travel booking decisions.

It’s heartening that consumer watchdogs throughout Europe and Australia are starting to take action to ensure more honesty in OTA practices. But how can we as individual travelers take a stand and not put ourselves at the mercy of giant OTA’s?

One of the best ways is to book with hotels directly, or at the very least, being aware that the above practices happen. But the better solution is making your bookings on a platform like TRVL; a platform specifically created to solve these frustrations, that actually pays you the hotel commission.

The Solution to Our Frustrations: TRVL

TRVL mobile search

Created by Jochem Wijnands (travel photographer for National Geographic, and creator of Prss, which became Apple News), TRVL is a peer-to-peer booking platform that wants to correct the power imbalance between the OTA and the traveler.

They have a mission of becoming the only real online travel agent, and are challenging the agent commission model by paying the hotel commission … wait for it … to you.

In terms of appearance and use, it looks and operates in exactly the same way as you’re used to, with a hassle free search engine, and ability to compare the best hotel rates. But there are a few very key differences between TRVL and other platforms.

What Makes TRVL Different

TRVL has been created with 3 main goals; to offer travelers personalized travel advice, transparent information, and cut our costs as much as possible.  They’re the convenience of the internet and the convenience of a travel agent combined.

It’s totally free; there are no sign-up fees, no subscription fees, no booking fees, and no administration fees as a TRVL member. And a free membership gives you access to all of TRVL’s inventory.

Their search engine has access to 2 million hotels, the combined inventory of the 5 biggest travel brands, so they find you the best price. They also have access to industry rates (just like a travel agent), so the hotel discounts you’re offered aren’t fake.

When you make a booking, they pay you the “travel agent” commission as a reward for doing all the work yourself (the commissions are paid after your stay); instead of seeing pressure messaging in the search results, you’ll see how much commission you’ll be paid.

How do they make money if the platform is totally free, and they pay you? They take a small cut of the commission, while passing on the lion’s share to you. After-all, their business has to be viable too!

Earn Money: Anyone Can Be an Agent

by State Champs via GIPHY

Wijnands shared: “Our own research shows that more than 50 per cent of all bookings are done for others. These are people that book for their family, friends or colleagues and truly act like an amateur travel agent.”

While you get cash back from every hotel stay after the commission is paid, you can also earn money by recommending hotels. If a hotel is booked through the link you provide someone, you receive the commission for that booking.

When you sign up for free you have the option to create your own homepage; this is your own travel booking website with access to 2 million hotels in 177 countries. You earn a commission on all bookings through your site. In essence, you’re now an amateur travel agent.

You can customize your homepage to tell visitors who you are and how you can help them plan their trips, or you can share direct booking links. When you find a hotel that you would like to recommend, there’s a “Share” button with options to share via email, social media or by copying and pasting the link.

What are you waiting for? ➡ Sign up for free now.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    8 Comments

  1. All common annoyances Meg. Lying agitates me and these are generally grounded in lying. Be honest, hotels. Be clear. You make more money being honest versus lying because fear repels dough and love-honesty attracts dough.

    • Absolutely Ryan, when you boil it down, a lot of the above comes down to blatantly lying. Which is really sad that they continue to get away with it; hopefully not for long! We as travelers can switch to honest platforms, and while the government inquests go on!

  2. I usually laugh at booking.com’s urgency claims, but I can see how people can get sucked in. If we use any hotels we prefer small family run places. Often you get a better price if you book with them directly. It saves them the commission and allows for an extra margin.

    • Yes, I think you come to realize the bull $#* behind the urgency claims after you’ve spent a while traveling, but for a lot of people they have no clue.

      It’s fab to hear that you prioritize small family run places, and saving them the commission by booking directly is a great way to support the local economy and travel responsibly. Thanks for sharing Juergen 🙂

  3. All common frustrations faced by many of us, to an extent that we dont even book from Expedia or Booking anymore.

    We have a solution to this as well: blubyn where you get the results – actually personalized for you – without all the urgency creating clutter. We value the anxiety you have, and thus want you to have a calm experience rather than benefiting at the expense of that anxiety.

    • Thanks for the tip Ankit, it’s really fabulous to see the travel community taking the initiative to provide viable alternatives 🙂

  4. I routinely book through 2 chains. Directly. And, I routinely check for lower prices on OTA’s. If I find them, I notify the chains- who match the price.
    To me, that’s a win.

    • Definitely sounds like a win to me, thanks for sharing your booking strategy Roy 🙂

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