Using booking sites to research and choose a hotel when traveling has become the most convenient way to find accommodations and discounted rates, but are these sites the best at providing information or capable of offering the best deals on rooms? When you look for a place to stay on your trip, you want to know that you're getting the most for your money and you hope that you can avoid paying top dollar to get it.
How Hotels Handle Reviews
The booking sites are thought to be reliable given the customer generated reviews on their sites and their insider knowledge of hotels and the rooms they have available. But have you ever noticed how some hotels seem to have five times more reviews than their competitors?
Many hotels rely heavily on their reviews to book guests. Some hotels are now utilizing specialized online reputation management software that follows up with each customer after their stay and proactively asks for a review. This simple system is how they are able to get more reviews then their local competition.
Your Booking Method Matters
Booking sites would have you to believe that they offer the absolute best deals available on room rates and they often imply that they can give even better discounts than you'd get directly from the hotels themselves. But this implication is misleading, in fact its common practice for hotels to give their best deals as well as their best rooms - i.e. rooms with great views, in ideal locations, or quieter areas of the hotel - to customers who book through the hotel website.
This goes double for customers who have enrolled in their loyalty programs. Customers who call the hotel directly can even negotiate a rate with the front desk staff. And just as they reserve better rooms for customers who book directly with them - online or by phone - hotels relegate guests who book with booking websites to rooms in less ideal locations, far from the entrance and elevators and near high traffic areas like the ice machine.
You Can't Trust Every Review to Be Unbiased
Popular belief about customer reviews is that they're trustworthy because the people making them are individuals without a stake in the product or service but who have experiences with it that they share for no personal gain but to inform others. In reality, there are some unscrupulous hotels that pay contractors to inflate their reviews. While the review sites do their best to filter these reviews out, it’s good to be aware of. Be wary if you see a hotel with a lot of very vague reviews that contain only short comments, are all 5 stars and/or have no details about the property.
Review Sites Are Also a Marketing Tool
Booking websites allow hotels to buy into programs that give them preferred placement in site searches. Some booing sites also don't say much about room decor, hotel location, business amenities or nearby attractions other than a few basic details - so you really have to trust your judgement or do your own research to get a feel for where you'll be staying. Keep in mind that pictures posted on these sites can be misleading since they allow hotels to post pictures that have been photoshopped to look more appealing.
Review Sites Are Convenient - But Keep in Mind How They Work
Hotel review sites are a very convenient way to get information and book a room. Just keep in mind that many make money directly from the hotels themselves to stay in business, so take a few extra minutes to make sure you are getting the best deal possible.