The pandemic has caused hotel occupancy rates to plummet and forced countless changes with regard to travel. But some small boutique hotels and bed and breakfast inns in California have found a silver lining with hotel reservations: a rise in direct bookings. Instead of booking a hotel room with a few clicks with an online travel agency (OTA) website like Booking.com or Expedia, more travelers seem to be contacting hotels directly to book their rooms. The California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns (CABBI) has compiled a list of top five reasons to consider booking your next reservation directly with a boutique hotel or B&B.
1. Better room rates and better rooms
While the rates on an OTA and the hotel’s own reservation system may look same, the similarity ends there. Hotels pay high commission fees for OTA bookings that result in hotels valuing direct bookings over OTA bookings. Direct bookings are more likely to receive a more favorable room or even an upgrade, while OTA bookings generally will not. Calling the hotel directly guarantees you’ll receive the best available rate (sometimes lower than what you’ll find online) and without the hidden fees of an OTA. If you’re considering booking with OTA: Call the property, ask for the manager, say that you’re considering booking with an OTA, and ask ‘What can you do for me?’
2. Better cancellation and change policies
Booking through an OTA may work just fine when things go according to plan, but it’s a different story when you have to change or cancel your plans. When travel ground to a halt in the early days of the pandemic, reservations made directly with hotels were better positioned to receive refunds or be cancelled or changed without a fee. In most cases, travelers were speaking by phone with live reservation agents who were willing to help their guests through a stressful and unprecedented time. Reservations that had been booked through an OTA were not always afforded the same degree of flexibility and were subject to additional OTA-imposed change or cancellation fees. Hotel cancellation and change policies for direct bookings will always be more flexible than those involving an OTA middleman.
3. Better customer experience and more perks
Hotels are in the business of providing hospitality, OTAs are not. In addition to providing more flexible cancellation and change policies, hotels are invested in ensuring you have the best experience possible. They have the latitude to offer a range of perks (room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, and more) that OTAs cannot. More than that, hotel staff can custom-tailor your stay by assisting with special requests and offering personalized recommendations for local restaurants and attractions. With OTAs, just trying to reach customer service rep by phone—much less anyone with local knowledge of a hotel or destination—is nearly impossible.
4. More guest room types, date options, and special deals
Small boutique hotels and bed and breakfast inns rarely include all of their inventory and available dates on OTAs. They reserve their best rooms and most popular travel dates for booking through their own website. Another benefit to checking availability on hotels’ individual websites is that you’re likely to find last-minute deals, specials, and packages that can’t be found on an OTA’s website.
5. Supporting local business and the future of tourism
In the case of locally-owned boutique hotels and bed and breakfast inns, booking directly ensures that the hotel receives the full amount of your bill. OTAs can scrape off as much as 20 percent in commissions, making a significant impact on the hotel’s bottom line. With many hotels and B&Bs struggling financially amid the ongoing pandemic, your direct booking better supports their ability to stay afloat.
Do you favor booking direct for hotel stays with the hotel itself or through other services and platforms?