Over the long weekend of the first of November, my DB and I decided to go on a motorbiking road trip around Auvergne. The weather was set to be fabulous, a change from the last time we were there when low clouds obscured views of everything, and especially the volcanoes we had hoped to see.
We went onto Trip Advisor to look at hotels in Clermont-Ferrand where we wanted to have a base. It was a busy weekend and lots of hotels were full. However, we found two that had rooms available, and looked at the prices. We decided to book one and take pot luck with the other.
After looking at the plethora of prices through Trip Advisor's partners, we went onto the Hotel Oceania's own website and found a good deal that included breakfast.
For the first night, Friday, we went to the Best Western Hotel Gergovie near the Parc des Exposition. There we had a chat with the receptionist. We had seen on Booking.com the price of €63 for the room. When we asked the price of the room, we were quoted €75. I said that I had seen the lower price on the internet and asked if we could have the same rate. The receptionist told us that, no, that was impossible because Booking had access to their reservations software, and they were not allowed to offer the same price! Not only do they monitor reservations, but they also observe who is looking at a hotel on their website and then goes onto the hotel's website (definite shades of Big Brother).
If that wasn't shocking enough, she went on to say that booking websites take 20% of the amount paid. Twenty percent! That leaves a measly 3% margin for the hotel. How can they survive with such a small cushion of security?
She said that while she couldn't offer us a lower price, she could throw in breakfast. I was pleased to hear the way the negotiations were going because I love hotel breakfast buffets. My DB agreed and we checked in.
It was very nice and they did a very tasty truffade in the restaurant at dinner.
When we arrived at the Oceania the next morning, we were given two tokens for a free drink each as we had booked through their website. A nice touch and much appreciated.
The good thing about all this is that competition makes businesses work harder. Breakfast is included in a price, and/or the client is offered a free drink.
I wondered if it was just Booking/Hotels that behaved so greedily, and found that it was not. A quick search on Google (more megalomania) brought up a blog by someone who had investigated Expedia.com. His experience was that the website took 25% of the fee! You can read about it, and see the photo he took of the reservation received by the hotel (and not for the client's eyes) here. In the comments section, a hotelier writes about his experience with Expedia and the pros and expensive cons of having a contract with them.
While it is useful to see what people have thought of a hotel, and it's definitely convenient to be able to book a room in the same place, we will not be making reservations that way any more and encourage these sites to take even more control of booking systems with their mucky fingers. I can just imagine them ultimately wanting to make it obligatory to go through their central system, and then, of course, put the prices up, and the hotels would not be able to do anything about it.
Keep hotels free from plunder! Use their own websites to make your bookings. Before it's too late...