When to use an OTA (Online Travel Agency) and when not
to? (Hotel edition)
There are so many websites which are
popular and they act as inter-agencies, providing you access to locals by
connecting them to your destination. Makemytrip, GoIbibo, Expedia, Yatra are all OTAs. They keep offering you
fantastic saving of x% on booking hotel with them. They are usually true.
A lot of them give crazy cashback offers too.
(Read terms and conditions,
GoIBIBO used to give 100% cashback except you were allowed to use it
only on 3 bookings for 30% of cash amount. Hence, it is totally useless
When you don’t look out for hotel sites, a mistake I have made
countless times – you miss out epic offers. (That would be my next post.)
Make your choice clear: Where would you rather stay? When I
was travelling to Delhi, I was given option Rs 1900 – 3star hotel in Mahipalpur
(Bad neighbourhood but near airport) or Rs 2800 – 5 star hotel? Yes those
insane prices are available. Ofcourse if you really want to save every dime –
you should opt for Rs 1900. For people who have variance of Rs. 1000, we would
definitely opt for way superior hotel. I for fact know that I would be safe and
would get much better rest than 3 star would provide.
There are 2 types of hotel
International group of chain hotels
are multiple groups out there like Hyatt, Mariott, Starwood, Intercontinental
hotels which are not brand names and require OTA to do marketing and bidding
When you book any of the International chain hotel, it would be absolutely a
bad idea to book with OTA as you practically don’t get anything from hotel
except bed. They provide you with 2 options majorly – Free Wifi and Breakfast.
You definitely won’t find any other types of package available with them. You
don’t get other benefits as OTA get major commissions from hotels.
Advantages you get when you book
yourself into a hotel via its website or official agents:
You get points for your stay which can be redeemed at a
later point of time. Technically, it is the hotel currency which they profess
to reward your loyalty with certain points.
You get offers such as “stay for 2 nights, get 1 night
free”. If you use some credit cards, you might even score a 4th night for free
as it is in the case with American Express Platinum or Citibank Prestige card.
You get lot of add-ons such as late checkout, early
check-in, appetizers, welcome food such as chocolates, nuts, fresh fruit, wine
If you are loyal to them, they might provide you with an
ambassador service. An agent shall be assigned to you to take care of your
personal needs. Your agent will contact hotels on behalf of you and can reserve
tables at restaurants of your choice as per your preferred budget, travel
packages, your ideal bed type and usually would score room upgrades for you.
Room upgrades are easy to get.
Hotel treats you way nicer if they know you are a loyal
customer than someone who books via OTA.
Benefits you get from Hotels which are usually not
available with OTAs are
- Complimentary spa
- Free-Wifi where you would have had to pay if you
had booked one via OTA.
- Free access to Amenities such as GYM, swimming
- Airport pickups/drop offs
- Room upgrades
- Discounted or Complimentary evening snacks,
drinks or even dinner at times.
- Free breakfast if not included in the price.
- Free access to clubs/lounges present in the hotel
and many other things.
Many a time, just an access to
following benefits covers small discount, you might get from a hotel, in a big
a. You can’t call them if you are overseas
and stuck in any problem. What if a hotel is over-booked or if it says your
reservation is not valid?
They usually partner themselves with low quality call centers. Some agents are
notorious and hang up in middle of a call as it might affect their resolution
time and call’s rating. So you would have to call them again and it might get
you stuck in the loop repeatedly.
You are stuck in a problematic labyrinth where they ask you to talk to hotel
and hotel redirects you to your booking agent.
If you face problems with hotel/room – There is nothing that OTA can do. At
best you can write a negative review. Unless hotel management is really
horrible, chances of, your complaint being solved on-the-spot, is good.
Most OTA put limits on how much stay you can book with them for discount.
Makemytrip allows you to book for 5 nights with discounts. Hotels want
you to book more and more nights with them. They give insane offers for long
term stays like or 4 nights and you get 3 nights for free. After that you have
to pay full price. If you are staying at a hotel for 5 days – you would have to
book it for 5 times to avail discounts. This makes booking really a retarded
and long process.
Some OTAs have their own prizes to offer you, for booking with them.
However, getting those bookings whenever you want has lots of terms and
If your refund gets stuck – good luck dealing with OTAs! It might take couple
of months to get it solved. It took me 4 months to get a resolution from
Makemytrip when they accidentally cancelled my booking at their end. It took me
9 months to get refund from GoIbibo. I had to consistently post on social media
to grab their attention.
A. When the website of hotel
that you trying to book from, is in foreign language and no translation option
B. When you are booking
unknown small bed and breakfast hotels. You would usually get cheaper rates
C. Small &
independent hotels where you don’t know anything about them or they don’t have
websites of their own.
D. You are going for a short
trip and won’t be using anything at hotel. You just want to drop the bag and
get a quick sleep. (Bed and breakfast hotel)
E. Your hotel chain has
bad reputation for refund-related issues. (But then why would you stay there?)
So basically it boils down to –
Independent non luxurious hotels – USE OTA.
luxury hotel – Check your credit card concierge or travel group they are part
of. Many times these hotels outsource their bookings to one of the chain group
or independent group collections such as I prefer. Many times they even tie up
with Resort chains such as Sterling, Mahindra, and Four seasons. Just look out
b. What if your plans change and you need to get them modified?
When should you book using OTAs?
Chain of hotels – Stick to
DIRECT BOOKING with Hotel.
Labels: Accommodation, check in, Courtyard Mariott, Crowne Plaza, Delhi, Entertainment, Goibibo, Holiday Tips, Hotel, Hyatt, IHG, Makemytrip, Mariott, mariottrewards, phone, Radisson Blu, SPG, Starwood, travel, Travel tips