On Line Travel Agencies? Not For Me.

I usually start my day with Christopher Elliott. He is, as some of you probably know, a travel writer who has found a niche: reporting on and resolving consumer complaints against various segments of the travel industry. These days, that seems to mean the airlines most of the time. If you’re a traveler, you’ll find it interesting. To take a look for yourselves, you can click here.
Christopher has recruited a number of volunteers who read the complaints and decide on which ones they will attempt to intervene with the airline or the hotel or the tour company on the complainant’s behalf .
Having run the City of Honolulu’s complaint Department for almost ten years, I find this web site very informative. After a while, you can see a lot of travelers making the same mistakes. In particular, after reading many complaints about On Line Travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia or Travelocity or Priceline, booking through one of them often seems to turn out badly.
For example, when travel arrangements are made through one of those popular OTAs and things go wrong, the airline or the hotel involved will often just shrug and say you must take your complaint to the OTA that did the booking for you. You may eventually get some satisfaction. Some. Eventually. But when you book direct, if there’s a problem, you’re dealing one-on-one with the person who can fix things.
Here’s another reason: These days, you seldom save any money. Check the room rate you’re offered at a specific hotel through any of the OTAs and then go direct to the hotel’s web site and see what rate you’ll get there. Almost all the time, it will be the same, to the penny.
Furthermore, if you book direct on the hotel’s website chances are you’ll get a somewhat more desirable room when you check in. Why? Because the hotel doesn’t have to pay a commission to the online travel agency for that room. So, as a hotel employee at the registration desk, which guest would you give the larger room to? Or the room with the better view. Or the room closer to the elevators. And which guest asking for a late check-out would you be more inclined to accommodate?
I do use a couple of the OTA web sites to research hotels in a city I’ve not visited before. And I do read some of the reviews, although I do study the photos taken by prior guests or customers. But I no longer book through them.


  1. Like you, I use to book hotels through OTAs, but no longer do so. I noticed their prices are the same or higher than the hotel’s own website. I’m also able to take advantage of the hotel’s frequent guest programs by booking through the hotel’s website (can’t do that with OTA’s!)

    1. Quite right. Furthermore, many hotels–Hilton is one–give an additional discount on the room rate to members of their loyalty programs. It’s not very much, but it all helps and, of course, that discount is not available through the OTA.

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