Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hotel Room Pricing More Complex Than Airfares

Hotels have taken a page from airlines when it comes to pricing their product. We all know how confusing airfares can be to the traveling public which has led to the recently enacted rules by the DOT, now requiring airlines and online travel agencies (OTA's) to advertise the full cost of the fares. Hotel pricing however has evolved over the years, and seem to up the ante on complexity. Major hotel chains have a dizzying array of room categories, fancy names, advance purchase requirements, non-refundable rates, upgrades, amenity packages, discounts, and endless lists of promotions that would rival anything the airlines have to offer. The explosion of OTA's and online offers will yield multiple pricing options for the same room category in the same hotel, and has become very hard for the traveler to easily judge the true cost of the advertised price. For example, one site has a hotel in Paris "listed" for 229 Euros, while another has it for $249 (USD). A traveler has to use the calculator to convert the difference and figure out a potential conversion surcharge by his credit card company while still having to navigate whether or not the advertised listing includes taxes, fees and surcharges which would not be disclosed until the very end of the process. Hotel pricing is not regulated by DOT. So the potential for misleading travelers is quite high. Finally, there is the trust factor. Some of these "scraper sites" have little or no customer service and offer limited recourse for the traveler. Hotels do not like them and often relegate the traveler to the worst available rooms. A reputable travel management company can streamline this process and offer great value without the fluff. Many hotel chains offer our clients excellent value and an array of amenities that are easy to understand and are free of any (bad) surprises. Quite often, the pricing is equal or below those of OTA's.