We’ve all been there. Say you’re looking for a room at the Hilton Orlando. You’re going to be there for 5 nights, and it’s a last-minute trip; say, for about a week from now. You want a room with two queen-sized beds for your family of four. You don’t care about the view, so a standard room is fine. You don’t have enough points, so you’ll be paying cash. You’re not a member of their loyalty program (you should be! It’s free and you get cool benefits for it!). And let’s say you also don’t have access to any sort of special discounts.
If you do your homework and use Google to check all the online places where you can potentially make hotel reservations, the prices you’ll be quoted will vary from $95 (via Travellergram) to at least $196 (via Hilton’s website. Hotels.com, Expedia, etc.) per night. That’s all for the same dates, same hotel, same room, etc.
Why is there such a difference?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the hotel’s main goal is to sell hotel rooms. If a room is empty by 11:59 pm on any given day, it’s not as if they can sell it another time. They need to “get it out there” as much as they can. So they make sure they have a lot of exposure.
Years ago, the only option was to call Hilton and make your reservation over the phone. Nowadays, they offer rooms on multiple different websites. There’s their own website, of course. But there’s also Expedia, Hotwire, Booking.com, Orbitz, and several others.
If you call the hotel chain’s main number, chances are you’re going to get the highest rate. However, there are some perks with that which you won’t have access to any other way. Joe wrote a great article, Is it Worth The Extra Money To Book A Room Directly From The Hotel Website? that can help you navigate that. But in a nutshell, if you book directly with the company, you’ll usually pay more but get the greatest freedom with your reservation (i.e., cancellation policy, how close you are to the construction across the street, etc.).
But hotels know that just as some people want to make a reservation and be done with it, regardless of cost, many people are price sensitive, and that’s where all those online booking companies come from. Hotels use third parties to help them sell rooms for less money. But even those will have differences in prices.
Online booking companies are paid fees and commissions for their services by the hotel. So if one charges more than another, hotels may raise the price to make up for what they’re losing in commissions. In return for charging less, an online booking company may charge a cancellation fee or not allow cancellations at all, could take much longer to send you refunds, and might have crappier customer service. In other words, you get what you pay for.
By the way, if you speak with the hotel directly, you might get a better rate, especially for a last-minute reservation. Maybe they had a block of rooms held aside for an event and there were some last-minute cancellations. Perhaps they’ve had a bad month and they’re trying to do anything to fill up rooms so they have special pricing just at that location.
Of course, there are lots of variables in what price you get. Discounts such as AAA, AARP, military or even the Entertainment Book. If you’re a member of their aforementioned loyalty program. If a place includes a resort fee or not. If they charge for extra adults in the room. And I’m not even getting into location, time of year, popularity, special events, etc.
So yeah, there are LOTS of variables that go into hotel pricing, even for the same room on the same date(s). You can do something about some of them, but definitely not all. Your best bet is to book with points rather than money. Here’s a basic primer on how to get started with that.
Feature Photo: Pixabay
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