The Agony and Ecstasy of Online Hotel Booking
Finding a room at an inn online isn't as easy as you might think. The economy is doing well, which means more travelers and less room discounts.
Online room reservations are among the fastest growing trends in
the travel industry. And while hotels are finally catching up with the airlines
and car rental companies by offering weekly email discounts, there are so many
choices for online bookings that it boggles the mind. Sites like Smarter
Living have taken the confusion out of the process by listing the weekly
discounts by city - a true time saver. But what if you are like most travelers
and want to book in advance? What are your options to finding the best possible
While trying to find a good deal on the web for a room in Las
Vegas for October, I became a victim of online motel agony. I used Travelocity's
hotel database to find a room. Most discount rates were few and far between for
the dates I needed. Plus, it looked like many hotels were selling out on those
dates. There was, however, one rate that caught my attention.
A $39 'Great Rate Sale' was showing to be available at Sunset
Station, a two-year-old casino resort located in the Green Valley section of
Henderson - just 5 miles off the strip. As a former resident of Las Vegas,
staying on the strip wasn't a priority for me. I knew (and liked) the hotel.
Plus, compared to $150 a night at many strip hotels, it was a great bargain. I
proceeded to book the room by entering in all the necessary information. Then I
received a notice that the room couldn't be booked for technical reasons. So I
went back and re-entered my information. Once again, the room couldn't be
booked. I looked for a customer service 800 number at Travelocity, but it was no
where to be found. At Travelocity, you must email them with questions. They say
they will get back with you within 24 hours.
Frustrated and knowing 24 hours was too long to wait, I went
over to Expedia
to see if the $39 room rate was available there. Sure enough, it was. So I
proceeded to book the room, only to get the message "we cannot complete
transaction." Expedia listed several reasons. Thankfully, Expedia offers an
800 customer service number for questions. I ended up speaking with a friendly
customer service agent named Connie. She wasn't sure why I was unable to book
the room, but told me I should try again in an hour. "Sometimes there is a
glitch in the reservations system," she said. Glitches aside, I knew I
needed to make a reservation soon before the $39 rate disappeared completely.
(Incidentally, Expedia recently launched a new service called Hotel
Price Matcher, which is similar to Priceline.)
I decided to call Sunset Station reservations directly. I asked
a representative if she could find the $39 'Great Rate Sale' quoted
online at Expedia and Travelocity. The lowest rate she could find for the nights
that I wanted to stay there was for $129, the standard rack rate. Rack rate! No
self-respecting experienced traveler pays rack rate if they can help it.
Still fully determined to find the $39 deal, I surfed on over to
to see if there were any specials there. It led me to a discount travel company
Travelscape is a subsidiary of Las
Vegas Reservation Systems (LVRS). LVRS currently has contracts with the
premier hotels in Las Vegas, including the Luxor,
York New York, Monte
Hilton, plus many others. I ended up finding the $39 rate and booked it
right away. While I didn't receive immediate confirmation, I received a
confirmation notice by email a short 45 minutes later stating that my
reservation had been successfully processed. Phew, what a relief!
So why was I able to book the $39 room rate on Travelscape's
LVRS (now part of Expedia) and not Travelocity or Expedia? Simply put,
Travelscape's LVRS is a hotel booking company, also known as a consolidator. A
hotel booking company/consolidator provides discounts ranging from 20-70% off
rack rate. They are able to offer these rates because they guarantee a certain
number of bookings for the hotels they represent. Hotels, in turn, provide the
discounts for the guaranteed business.
Travel are, for the most part, online booking engines. Booking engines are
different because the hotel pays to be in the service. Most engines will show
corporate, family, promotional, senior citizen, or standard rates. They are
useful for scanning for discounts, but you will probably not be able to book
them for various unknown reasons. While some of these services have teamed up
with tour operators to provide great package deals, their best hotel deals won't
be available to you if you don't book the package with airfare.
So how can you avoid the online motel abyss? Know your options
in the quest for discounts. You could end up saving hundreds of dollars.
Related Hotel Discount Sites:
Hotel Price Matcher Customers simply tell Expedia.com
their dates of travel, the class of hotel they prefer (from one to five stars),
and their destination, including the neighborhood of the city in which they want
to stay. They then submit the price they are willing to pay for a room, and
within moments they're told whether their request has found a match. Hotel Price
Matcher bookings are non-refundable and cannot be canceled. However, if a
higher-class room is available at the customer's requested price, they'll
receive an automatic upgrade.
The first nationwide discount hotel booking service available directly over the
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