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Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Shares Reasons Why the Fellow in the Travago Ad Had a Cheaper Room Rate

Accommodation with glamorous bath may make a difference in room price!

I’ve noticed a commercial promoting the value of booking room rates with TRAVAGO and it appears that the challenges of telling a story in :15 to :60 seconds may have gotten in the way of clear explanation so I’d like to take a couple of  minutes of your  time to give you some insights into understanding why two people checking out of a hotel at the same time after each had spent one night  at the  hotel could be checking out with different room rates charged.  In this commercial, you see a man and a woman both checking out and the front desk clerk serving each announces the total of the bill for each. The woman’s bill is, as memory serves, about $120. The man’s bill is $90.

Firstly, no front desk is going to announce the total of anybody’s bill for a myriad of obvious privacy reasons as well as in the interest of not starting any wars at the front desk!

Next, the woman turns to the man who paid about $30 less than she did and makes “I just got ripped off” noises. The man whips out his cell phone and shows her how Travago provides a search for the best rate and that’s where he got his room reservation.

Someone checking out of Northern Ireland’s Galgorm Resort and Spa’s  sexy suite with fireplace will certainly have a room rate different from someone in a standard room. . .but it’s worth it!

And now, for a reality check:

  1. While there are a zillion hotel room night booking engines with varying prices for the same hotel, every one of them earns a commission for selling that room that is bundled into the room cost. Check with those hotel comparison sites and then contact the hotel directly through their own official website booking engine where you will frequently find  that the rate is 10% to 15% cheaper, which, in essence, represents the commission they would have been paying the OTA (online travel agent) which you are now earning for yourself.  And there’s another overriding reason to book with the hotel directly and that is that you now have a direct relationship with the hotel who sees YOU, and not the OTA, as their client. So if you need to make any changes or have special requests or needs, you have a direct line to the hotelier. If you’ve ever needed to cancel a reservation with an OTA who says  that the they’re not charging a cancellation fee, you may still find that the hotel IS charging a fee for cancelling, or vice-versa and by booking directly you may find a more sympathetic ear and, perhaps, more relaxed cancellation policies, different from what is in the  fine print when you book with an OTA.
  2. It is the rare hotel that has only one room type. Even at hotels that attract travelers who are on one-night-stay itineraries, there are multiple room types, often with standard, deluxe and premium packages. For example, even at roadside hotels you may find the following room types: (1) one queen-sized bed; (2) two queen-sized beds; (3) one king-sized bed; (4) one king-sized bed plus a sleep-sofa; (4) at least one of the above rooms elevated to a studio/suite complete with mini-frig, coffee-maker, and/or microwave; (5) any of the above accommodations with an amenities package which may include morning newspaper, breakfast, bottles of branded water, access to the fitness center/pool, ‘snack-pack’ of microwavable popcorn, cookies, trail mix, whatever!  Each of the above accommodations/service levels is attached to a different room rate point so you could have a small army of people checking in on the same day for one night who will be checking out with room rates that may range, on the low end, over a $70-$100 span and in luxury hotels spanning a difference in rate for hundreds to thousands of dollars ranging from standard rooms to deluxe suites.
  3. The identical rooms, regardless of comparing two standard rooms to two deluxe rooms or even deluxe suites, for the same night booked on the same day will have differing rate options. Some of the variables may be the floor they are located on, the  view they face, such as parking lot, garden or mountain view, ocean/sea view or ocean/sea front. No two floors or view are created equal! For those who understand and appreciate the feng shui of a gorgeous view from a hotel room, and whose budget can afford to pay for that privilege, it’s well worth the investment in another wonderful travel experience. Clearly, this is another example of how differences  in room rates happen for two travelers in two different rooms in the same hotel on the same night booked on the same day.
  4. Let’s assume that both of the people at the check-out desk of the hotel made their reservations for the same room for the same night on the same date and got the same rate of $120.  It’s still possible for the 2 guests to check out of their 2 identical rooms with different balances due on their accounts if, for instance, one of them had a gift voucher or possibility paid  for the accommodation, in part, with rewards points earned on a credit card or from frequent stays at that hotel’s brand.
  5. And then there’s the question of when the room was booked! There are ‘flash sales,’ ‘book ahead’ rates, book far enough in advance when projections for occupancy are low and get another low rate, or take a chance a day or two before the arrival date that occupancy rates are down and, even lower after 6pm the day before arrival, and book then. For most of us, the luxury of waiting until the very last moment to buy into “distressed merchandise” isn’t practical if we must be in a certain place at a certain time and the risk of the cost going up as demand increases and supply decreases. If you can book a room well in advance at a price you are willing to pay and that you can cancel as you get close to the date without penalty, that’s the best route to go to give you the insurance of having an affordable room that meets your needs while hoping to find what you need for less than the reservation you are holding.
  6. Just remember to always check the price at the hotel before you finish your booking at some OTA. More and more hotels will be offering the lowest price out there.  By agreement, most contracts do not allow the hotel to sell rooms for less than the lowest OTA rate. But you may be able to get an upgrade from the hotel for that lowest rate that you will never get when you by from the OTA. And that upgrade will either be publically made available online or, by human contact with the hotel by telephone before arrival or upon arrival, if it’s late and there are plenty of empty rooms, you may be able to get that upgrade complimentary, for a small increase in cost, or by using some loyalty points you have earned by keeping your purchases within your favorite brand(s).

Think about all of the above the next time you hear someone got a  cheaper rate than you did. Just maybe their room was at the intersection of the elevators, the ice machine and had a view of the parking lot!

--Gotta Fly Now!sm
Your Personal Travel Expert
Nationally syndiated radio show host
Stephanie Abrams

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