When to use an OTA (Online Travel Agency) and when not to? (Hotel edition)
There are so many websites which are popular and they act as inter-agencies, providing you access to locals by connecting them to your destination.  MakemytripGoIbiboExpediaYatra are all OTAs. They keep offering you fantastic saving of x% on booking hotel with them.  They are usually true. A lot of them give crazy cashback offers too.
(Read terms and conditions,  GoIBIBO used to give 100% cashback except you were allowed to use it only on 3 bookings for 30% of cash amount. Hence, it is totally useless cashback.)
When you don’t look out for hotel sites, a mistake I have made countless times – you miss out epic offers. (That would be my next post.)


Make your choice clear: Where would you rather stay? When I was travelling to Delhi, I was given option Rs 1900 – 3star hotel in Mahipalpur (Bad neighbourhood but near airport) or Rs 2800 – 5 star hotel? Yes those insane prices are available. Ofcourse if you really want to save every dime – you should opt for Rs 1900. For people who have variance of Rs. 1000, we would definitely opt for way superior hotel. I for fact know that I would be safe and would get much better rest than 3 star would provide.

There are 2 types of hotel
a.      International group of chain hotels
There are multiple groups out there like Hyatt, Mariott, Starwood, Intercontinental etc.
b.      Independent hotels
Local hotels which are not brand names and require OTA to do marketing and bidding for them.
When you book any of the International chain hotel, it would be absolutely a bad idea to book with OTA as you practically don’t get anything from hotel except bed. They provide you with 2 options majorly – Free Wifi and Breakfast. You definitely won’t find any other types of package available with them. You don’t get other benefits as OTA get major commissions from hotels.


Advantages you get when you book yourself into a hotel via its website or official agents: 
1.      You get points for your stay which can be redeemed at a later point of time. Technically, it is the hotel currency which they profess to reward your loyalty with certain points.
2.      You get offers such as “stay for 2 nights, get 1 night free”. If you use some credit cards, you might even score a 4th night for free as it is in the case with American Express Platinum or Citibank Prestige card.
3.      You get lot of add-ons such as late checkout, early check-in, appetizers, welcome food such as chocolates, nuts, fresh fruit, wine etc. 
4.      If you are loyal to them, they might provide you with an ambassador service. An agent shall be assigned to you to take care of your personal needs. Your agent will contact hotels on behalf of you and can reserve tables at restaurants of your choice as per your preferred budget, travel packages, your ideal bed type and usually would score room upgrades for you.
5.      Room upgrades are easy to get.
6.      Hotel treats you way nicer if they know you are a loyal customer than someone who books via OTA.
7.      Benefits you get from Hotels which are usually not available with OTAs are
          – Complimentary spa
          – Free-Wifi where you would have had to pay if you had booked one via OTA.
          – Free access to Amenities such as GYM, swimming pool etc.
          – Airport pickups/drop offs
          –  Room upgrades
          – Discounted or Complimentary evening snacks, drinks or even dinner at times.
          – Free breakfast if not included in the price.
          – Free access to clubs/lounges present in the hotel and many other things.

Many a time, just an access to following benefits covers small discount, you might get from a hotel, in a big way.
a. You can’t call them if you are overseas and stuck in any problem. What if a hotel is over-booked or if it says your reservation is not valid?
c. They usually partner themselves with low quality call centers. Some agents are notorious and hang up in middle of a call as it might affect their resolution time and call’s rating. So you would have to call them again and it might get you stuck in the loop repeatedly.
d. You are stuck in a problematic labyrinth where they ask you to talk to hotel and hotel redirects you to your booking agent.
e. If you face problems with hotel/room – There is nothing that OTA can do. At best you can write a negative review.  Unless hotel management is really horrible, chances of, your complaint being solved on-the-spot, is good.
f. Most OTA put limits on how much stay you can book with them for discount. Makemytrip allows you to book for 5 nights with discounts.  Hotels want you to book more and more nights with them. They give insane offers for long term stays like or 4 nights and you get 3 nights for free. After that you have to pay full price. If you are staying at a hotel for 5 days – you would have to book it for 5 times to avail discounts. This makes booking really a retarded and long process.
g.   Some OTAs have their own prizes to offer you, for booking with them. However, getting those bookings whenever you want has lots of terms and conditions.
h. If your refund gets stuck – good luck dealing with OTAs! It might take couple of months to get it solved. It took me 4 months to get a resolution from Makemytrip when they accidentally cancelled my booking at their end. It took me 9 months to get refund from GoIbibo. I had to consistently post on social media to grab their attention.
A.     When the website of hotel that you trying to book from, is in foreign language and no translation option is provided.
B.      When you are booking unknown small bed and breakfast hotels. You would usually get cheaper rates with OTAs
C.      Small & independent hotels where you don’t know anything about them or they don’t have websites of their own.
D.     You are going for a short trip and won’t be using anything at hotel. You just want to drop the bag and get a quick sleep. (Bed and breakfast hotel)
E.      Your hotel chain has bad reputation for refund-related issues. (But then why would you stay there?)
So basically it boils down to –

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ndependent non luxurious hotels – USE OTA.

Independent luxury hotel – Check your credit card concierge or travel group they are part of. Many times these hotels outsource their bookings to one of the chain group or independent group collections such as I prefer. Many times they even tie up with Resort chains such as Sterling, Mahindra, and Four seasons. Just look out for that.
 
 
 Problem with OTAs
b. What if your plans change and you need to get them modified?

When should you book using OTAs?
Chain of hotels –  Stick to DIRECT BOOKING with Hotel.
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Next articleReview – The Park New Delhi
Cody is a native of city Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He acquired a degree in Engineering (IT) from Rajeev Gandhi Technical University, Bhopal. He had a keen interest in the field of networking and network security and took various courses such as OWASP, EC Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Cisco Certified Internet Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching. After finishing his education, he joined up corporates to establish his career as IT Tester and Auditor. He moved up to become IT consultant and shared his expertise with IT industries. Cody loves traveling and socializing. He has traveled over 30 countries in the past two years. He enjoys flying business class and staying in 5-star hotels. He has been featured in multiple publications such as Times of India, Dainik Bhaskar, magazines such as Men’s Health. He was invited to inspire people on a platform such as TEDx.

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