With a dizzying array of discounted vacation packages floating across the web, securing a bargain seems like a simple task.
But with online travel agencies like Expedia reportedly tweaking search results to promote certain hotel listings and a rising number of book-direct initiatives from major brands such as Marriott and Hilton, price shopping isn’t always easy or straightforward.
To add fuel to the fire, metasearch sites and apps, such as Google Hotel Finder and Hopper, showcase rates from a variety of hotels and airlines (though some companies do not disclose prices), making it hard for savvy bargain hunters to know if they’re netting the best deal.
And while there are key advantages of going straight to the source and unique benefits of using an online booking site, the reality is the role of OTAs is changing, and many commonly held beliefs have become outdated. U.S. News spoke with industry experts to dispel common OTA myths.
Myth: There are myriad OTAs to choose from.
While hotels and airlines have been duking it out with online booking sites for years, there’s been increasing consolidation among OTAs, explains Clem Bason, CEO of hotel booking site goSeek.
While Expedia has acquired Hotwire, Travelocity, Hotels.com and Orbitz Worldwide, Priceline owns Booking.com and Kayak, among other sites. Yet in spite of increasing consolidation among booking sites resulting in fewer online travel agencies, there is a silver lining for budget-minded travelers: There are still cost-effective accommodation options.
According to Bason, the rise of vacation rental sites such as HomeAway (owned by Expedia) and home sharing networks like Airbnb translates to “even more low-cost [lodging] options for consumers.”
Myth: You’ll always get the most competitive rates with an OTA.
While we often hear about attractive promotions on online booking sites, they are actually not the only sources to snag a good deal on airfare and lodging . “It’s why people originally went to [OTAs],” says Steve Cohen, the vice president of research and insights at MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing company.