Booking a room: Tips for paying less

A large majority of travellers book their hotel rooms through central reservation systems such as or Expedia. These booking centres make it simple, easy and quick to select one or more hotels.

However, 3 questions arise: 

Is the traveller sure to book at the best price?
Is the quality of the information collected reliable?
Is cancellation easier than with other sales channels?

Is the traveller sure to book at the best price?

No, when booking through a central booking office you will usually pay around 10% more than if you book directly. There is no charge to the traveller regardless of the website where they make their booking. 

Online booking centres are intermediaries who charge hoteliers 15-20% of the value of the booking for their service. What appears invisible to the traveller is paid for by the hotelier and, as no company can sustainably deprive itself of 15% of its turnover, this charge is passed on to the room rate.

In short, on the price of a €100 room that you book on an online booking site for two nights, you will indirectly pay €30 in booking fees. Is that a lot? You be the judge. For your information, the commission rate of a travel agency is generally 5%, i.e. 3 times less expensive for a service that is provided by a human.

You will therefore understand that it is in the hotelier’s interest to have his client book his room directly rather than through an intermediary. This is why you will find that the difference between the rate charged on a hotel’s website and that of an online reservation centre is generally 10%.

It is also common for hoteliers to run promotions exclusively for their direct sales to build customer loyalty.  Lastly, over-classification, a practice which consists of allocating a room of a higher category to a customer when it has not been rented, is rarely offered to a customer who has booked via a central reservation system where the margin is lower, but rather granted to a customer who has booked directly, which will also have the advantage of building loyalty.

Is the quality of the information collected reliable?

Not entirely. Two types of information collected on an online booking site should be treated with caution: 

  • The order in which the hotels are presented does not always correspond to an objective criterion (price, distance, customer rating, etc.). One of the players in online booking clearly states on : “The amount of commission paid and other factors can affect the ranking of an accommodation”.
  • The availability of rooms on a central reservation system does not necessarily correspond to real availability, as it is not necessarily in the hotelier’s interest to allocate all of his stock to central reservation systems.

Is cancellation easier than in other sales channels?

Purchasing comfort is standardised: with a few exceptions, the security of transactions and the flexibility of cancellation are the same on the website of a central booking office or the hotel’s website. Almost all direct hotel bookings are made via specialised service providers who offer optimum security and guarantee a cancellation free of charge if it is made at least 48 hours before the date of stay (less so since the COVID crisis) and the cancellation conditions must be consulted at the time of booking.

In short, the smart traveller will quickly understand that he can take advantage of the power of the major online booking operators to offer him a comfortable search, easy comparison, customer reviews, multiple selection keys to help him identify the hotels that hold his attention. He will then be well advised to go directly to the hotel’s website to get the best rate, to know the real availability of the rooms and to get all the additional information he is looking for.

Have a good search!