Industry Update
Opinion Article 2 November 2018

The Truth Behind Booking Your Hotel and Plane Ticket Through OTA’s

By Lindsay Beauregard, Bachelor's Student at Conrad N. Hilton College

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In today's tourism industry, online travel agencies have become increasingly more popular for generation after generation of travelers. Sites such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Kayak, Travelocity, and many more appeal to travelers because the prices are guaranteed to be cheaper and the option of bundling is attractive for those who would like to book everything through one site. But is this the best method for booking your next hotel room or plane ticket? A majority people who work in the hospitality industry will tell you that the best way to book your room or flight is directly through the hotel or airline via their website or reservations call center. Why is this the case? Let's take a closer look into the truth behind booking through online travel agencies and the benefits of booking directly.

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One of the main disadvantages of online travel agencies is that all changes and cancellations need to be made directly through the OTA. So, this means that if a guest is checking into a hotel and has an issue with the reservation, the guest will need to contact the travel agency in which they booked through. In many cases, the hotel will not be able to make changes and cancellations without confirmation from the online travel site. The same is true for airline companies as well. When a guest books an airline ticket through Expedia, they will need to make cancellations and changes directly through Expedia instead of the airline itself. This may become a bit confusing, especially if the guest books their ticket far in advance. If the guest is in a rush to get to the airport and then finds out that there is a problem with the airline booking, they will have to contact Expedia or whichever site they booked through to fix the issue, which can take extra time especially during a high-volume call period.

Another disadvantage of booking through an OTA is that in many cases, room and seat upgrades are first offered to guests who book directly through their websites instead of online travel agencies. In addition, if a hotel or airline overbooks, typically the reservations made indirectly through another agency are more likely to be "walked" to another property or placed on a later flight. Therefore, a majority of travelers prefer booking direct that way their chances of getting relocated are minimal.

Recently, hotels and airlines have offered price matching in attempt to get ahead of online travel agencies. If a guest can find the same room type and dates for a cheaper price through an online travel agency, the hotel will refund the guest, giving them the cheaper room rate. With the airline, if a guest finds a cheaper rate through an online travel agency for the same flight itinerary, the airline will honor the cheaper rate and refund the guest. Some examples of companies that price match are Marriott, Southwest, United, and British Airways.

The next time you think about booking through an online travel agency make sure you do your homework, because in many cases, booking direct will always be the best.

Lindsay Beauregard

Lindsay is currently a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management with an emphasis in Lodging Management from the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College. She has been in the industry for five years working in various sectors, but her passion lies with Hotels and Resorts.

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