Much has recently been written about the pros and cons of booking a hotel online via one of the many hotel booking engines and / or direct via a hotel’s own web site.

Travelling to Paris ? A simple google search on “Paris hotels” will give you thousands upon thousands of online agencies to choose from. It is overwhelming and where do you start ? And which company is reputable ? Do they want pre payment ? Are there hidden fees ? Can I speak with a person to discuss my travel requirements ?

To Book or not to Book ?

The question every traveller asks is ” where do I book this hotel ” ” who has the best rate” and “who will give me the best service” . Frankly, it can be very time consuming and also giving your personal credit card details online to a company you do not know makes travellers nervous.

Lets face it, today it’s not really about “the best rate” any longer. No one company can guarantee they have the lowest rates because they simply do not know. Even hotels do not know what rates wholesalers are selling their own hotel rooms for ? Otherwise, why would a hotel offer $50 off if you book direct with the hotel or offer a discount if you can find a lower rate at their hotel ? Not even the hotels are in control anymore of their own inventory anymore.

Most online travel services offer approximately the same rates at hotels in most of the popular destinations. A FBT can waste a lot of time in searching to save $10-$15, especially if the trip is long and spread across the world and the FBT has no real idea which hotels to select in each city. Where the hotel is located in relation to where they need to be. Easy if your a booking one hotel in one city, but most often this is not the case.

You can read all the articles saying that travellers are booking hotels direct more now than ever before. Why is this ? Confidence is one reason, and by dealing with a hotel ‘s web site directly they think they will get the best rate and service. Well this can be true, but mainly only if the hotel is relatively empty. Ever tried to negotiate with a hotel for some discount or preferential treatment when they are nearly full !! Try to speak with the General Manager or Reservation Manager when the hotel is near full ? Hotels block out the internet free sale service and voice (phone) reservation service via their central reservations when they are near to full capacity. This enables them to manage the last few rooms they have left and get the highest rates possible. Normal practise of supply and demand. But how time consuming is all this for the FBT. Don’t you just want to hand this over to a experience travel planner or alternatively go to one internet web site offering a choice of hotels in one site with the least stringent terms to book.

In addition, you are hearing about top travel bookers entering into a war of promises, gifts, discounts, best rate guarantee or your money back ! Is this what the FBT wants ? If a hotel is offering “best rate guarantee or your money back” then aren’t they overcharging in the first place ? If a booker is offering $50 discount vouchers if you book through them or gift certificates, then where is this coming from ? Someone somewhere has to pay. They will get it back some way. Perhaps in hidden surcharges which are small and not always obvious. Ever seen that amount at the end of the voucher + $12.45 taxes, surcharge, tax recovery ??

Why can’t hotels simply just offer a fair rate, good service and a added incentives to repeat guests, for loyalty ? That is how it used to be. Bookers should lure their customers via a good selection of hotels internationally, good service which means the ability to contact ” a live person ” for advice and assistance and of course good rates with added benefits. What will always prevail is “service” a commodity which has sadly become almost a thing of the past. And “good service” remember that ? is a benefit that will always ensure your customers return. It’s not all about the biggest. Sometimes small is beautiful too. And of course small does not mean less inventory or less in the way of service. Sometime the reverse can be the case.

So back to basics, people who will answer a telephone, not a call centre, not a recorded message ” your call is important to us” how important can that call be if there are only robots there to service the loyal customers. Do we want super supermarkets, super factories to provide our travel services. After all we all know that the bigger the market, the more people will go through , the more products sold and more money made. But in this process it is simply not viable to “care” and spend time on customer “complaints” because in the process of the bigger the better the big companies know they will lose some along the way. But lure them in, sell them in bulk and move on.

So what is it all about then ? Confidence and service ! Time is the one commodity that we are all short of. So we need the confidence in using a broad, all around international service that can offer a good selection of international hotels worldwide, with good rates, and a personalised service that will make all bookings personally for those who do not want to waste the time on a long itinerary to do it themselves, personalised service when things go wrong, help in dealing with the hotels, ensuring all special requirements are met. A service that will always be on call, dealing with a person, not a call centre. Confidence in knowing that the booking will be confirmed with all the special requirements requested and not the worry of arriving at a hotel to find there is no room waiting.

If a FBT visits a city on a regular basis they will most likely select their preferred hotel and stay at the same hotel each time. By now the FBT will know the staff, have a preferred rate, and most likely book direct to the hotel.

However today a FBT can travel the world frequently and often visit cities they may not be familiar with. Here the traveller will most likely try to find a hotel near to the offices/companies they are visiting for convenience. They will then select a hotel based on first location, then budget. They will of course want a five star property at the best available rate. They will most likely select a brand hotel that they are familiar with. To find this hotel they will most probably go to a hotel booking site which offers a selection of hotels in a given city base on location and price.

Remember, if you visit a hotel’s own web site you will of course only see their hotels, so the FBT will not be offered a choice of other good brands. This could then be the reason some well known international hotels are now becoming online travel agents/bookers without declaring their own brand name and of course pointing travellers in the direction of their brands.

So a international hotel booking service that offers you the choices of all major hotel brands and also smaller boutique hotels and at the same time the very important “personal service” is the way to go. But which one ? Some offer a good selection in USA but limited hotels in Europe, Asia and Middle East. Others give a broad selection of hotels worldwide but their conditions are such that pre payment is required, charges for changes and some cancellation terms are strict. So whilst a FBT may feel more confident booking direct via a hotel’s own web site, they still want the choices of all the hotel brands.

Is there a international hotel reservation service which offers choice to the FBT, and is not linked to a hotel or large travel conglomerate:

Can you find:

  1. a choice of all international hotel brands from 2* to 5* in almost every city in the world ?
  2. the ability to view the hotels and still be able to via the hotel’s own web site or the hotel’s
  3. selected booking service, offering the same inventory as the hotel’s own web site ?
  4. book a hotel without pre payment ?
  5. book as many destinations, rooms as required at one time ?
  6. amend bookings at no charge, and with no limit to the number of changes ?
  7. use the personalised service for special requests, assistance, a complaint and deal with a qualified person, not a call center, and no you are dealing directly with the company ?
  8. have confidence in using a company that has been servicing FBT for over 25 years and is recognised in the industry ?
  9. search for international airlines, schedules and get quotes immediately ?
  10. book rental cars worldwide from a broad selection of international car rental companies ?
  11. find the best quotes on a range of travel insurance for worldwide and domestic trips ?
  12. have all your bookings controlled by one person who will retain all relevant information/confirmation numbers
  13. car transfer information and action your unique travel needs i.e. late check / early arrival etc.

The company is Association of Business Travellers (ABT)

ABT has been servicing travellers for over 25 years with a membership base of over 55,000 frequent international business traveller. The ABT concept is to provide personalised service, savings at hotels worldwide plus additional benefits and incentives for its members – the frequent international business traveller. Members join on a annual membership basis to enjoy special rates at partner hotels.

Become a full member and enjoy extra services like tracing lost luggage, receiving a personalised membership card, receiving personalised hotel check in stickers (save time filling in those hotel registration forms each time. The check in stickers contain all your personal information and are self adhesive, just fix it to the registration form and sign! Members can book airport transfers, enjoy automatic enrolment in the ABT Bonus Point Programme, offering leather travel goods as gifts redeemed by simply booking your hotels via ABT.

If you prefer not to join as a full member, you can still enjoy the ABT hotel reservation services and book your hotels with the confidence that you will be getting the best available rates and often even a complimentary upgrade at no charge. No pre payment and no hidden fees. You do not need to become a member for this service alone.

Written by:
Luisa Parker
Travel Editor