OTA commission charges mean it is usually cheaper to book a hotel direct, a Which? Travel investigation has found.
In eight of 10 cases, the magazine found better deals going direct to the hotel than via an OTA or the hotel’s own website. Each of the eight offered a cheaper price or another incentive such as free breakfast or room upgrade.
Which? Travel’s research found clients “are paying up to 12% more for their rooms than they need to”. It compared rates at 10 UK properties with those on Booking.com.
Which? said: “In eight out of the 10 instances, the hotels were able to offer a better deal, with one hotel offering a £20 discount – saving 12% of the cost of the same room booked online – as well as a free upgrade. Offers from other hotels included discounts on food and spa treatments, free breakfast, and free parking.”
The magazine also criticised rate parity clauses that prevent properties from offering lower prices on their own websites than on those of OTAs. It said: “OTAs charge high levels of commission, typically between 15 and 25%, on every booking, which hotels – especially smaller properties like family-run B&Bs that cannot afford to absorb the cost – often have to pass on to customers.”
Which? published an email from Booking.com to a B&B owner that warned: “Having consistently lower rates on your property website… may impact your performance on Booking.com. Over time this could lead to lower visibility and slower business growth.”
Booking.com denied the magazine’s claims that commission rates were “driving up prices”. It said: “Properties choose whatever prices they want to list on Booking.com, which they can do at will and free of charge.”
Which? said rate parity clauses had been banned as anti-competitive in France, Italy and Austria but the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority recently chose not to follow suit. The magazine said it had shared its findings with the CMA and urged readers to book direct.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “Hotel booking sites might be a good place to start your search, but you should always call or email the hotel for the best chance of getting the cheapest deal – even in cases where they can’t offer a better price, there’s a good chance they’ll throw in a freebie or two.”