Should I book direct with Club Orient or use an online site (Orbitz, Travelocity etc.) or travel agent to book my reservation?
While everyone has their own reasons for making hotel, air, or cruise reservations the way they do; there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In general, it is always advantageous to book directly with the airline or hotel, so that you have a direct line of communication. How you make reservations, however, depends on many factors, such as where you are going, the level of complexity surrounding your travel logistics, and what your requirements are during your trip.
From a hotel/resort perspective, over the last few years, hotels and resorts industry-wide have featured a statement on their reservation page guaranteeing the lowest rate (as we do here at Club Orient).
“Why would they do that? Aren’t they losing some of their customers?”
The short answer is “maybe”, but the cost to the hotel from the big online travel agency (OTA) sites — to get a preferred placement, for example — more than wipes out any additional revenue generated from the bookings.
A travel agent’s typical commission in North America is between 15 and 20%. In some European countries, that percentage is even higher When a hotel makes an agreement to “move up the listings totem pole,” the OTA generally makes them guarantee one or more of the following: a cheaper rate than can be found elsewhere; a higher than standard commission; and/or that they will not offer that rate to any other OTA.
Most hotels have quickly tired of, or could no longer afford, the OTA games, which produce lower revenue per room and result in basically giving away every 4th or 5th night free, due to the added commission. The OTA commission also ultimately drives up your travel costs, since hotels need to make a certain profit in order to maintain their operations – so they are forced to raise their rates to make up the difference.
This topic has been the subject of countless seminars at hotel industry conferences each year. So, beginning a few years ago, hotels and resorts began not “giving away the store” to the OTA companies and offering guarantees and specials only available directly through their own site.
“But what about my travel agent?”
If you have special needs, are going someplace unfamiliar, and/or need to speak to someone knowledgeable about your trip to a new destination, travel agents can be a good resource. If you know where you want to go or are simply booking the same trip each year and staying at the same place, they could actually be a hindrance, by creating an unnecessary middleman in your communications with the property.
When you call or email a travel agent (TA), they simply go to the hotel website, click on “Reservations”, and make your reservation, just as you would yourself…that’s it! For that, they receive a 15 to 20% commission from the hotel. Occasionally, they do have to pick up the phone or send an email, but that is increasingly rare these days.
The commission paid is an expense to the hotel and who ultimately pays those increased costs? You, the consumer, as always.
“But, if I really need to get a last minute room, or something special, etc., aren’t I better off with someone who sends the hotel a lot of business?”
Actually, quite the opposite may be true. Think about it. If a hotel can choose to accept a direct booking with no commission, or accept a booking and pay 15 or 20%, what do you think the hotel will choose, all things being equal? And who do you think they will value more financially and possibly be willing to grant special requests to?
Remember when there used to be telephone operators, or when you booked your flight by calling the airline and receiving paper tickets? That went away with the advent of the Internet, because no one wanted to pay the extra fees associated with these cumbersome manual processes. This is what is happening to the travel agency business, other than with large corporate accounts or specialty travel with complicated or unusual trips.
There is one agency located in France that emails Club Orient every time they get a reservation to simply ask us what the price is at that moment. When we respond, they email their client and tell him the price and ask if he’d like them to make a reservation. If they say “yes,” then they email us back and make a reservation.
Unfortunately, what can occur is that the price will have increased before we hear back, or a room is no longer available. When that is the case, the process begins all over again.
We often get questions about events on the island, weather, special needs, accommodations and specific information on a wide range of issues. The best source for current and accurate information is from the people who live and work at the destination, who will be here when you arrive – not someone on a distant continent.
The bottom line is: if you are more comfortable using an OTA or an Independent travel agent, you should continue doing so. But, if you would like an immediate confirmation on your booking, at the guaranteed lowest rate, and participate in Club Orient Specials (which can only be done by calling Club Orient or booking direct on our website), then we encourage you to book direct.