Online travel booking websites (like Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Travelzoo, Hotwire, TripAdvisor, Kayak, and Booking.com) have exploded over the last decade. While they sometimes serve as a useful tool for searching for properties and making reservations, their fee structure automatically excludes and negatively impacts smaller lodging properties by forcing them to discount their rates in addition to charging them booking fees of around 15-20%. To break even, some lodging properties will increase all of their rates to make up for the exorbitant fees charged by booking engines. If you boil it down to value for money, it makes way more sense to spend your dollars directly with your lodging property of choice instead of donating a good chunk of it to booking engines. By talking and booking directly with a lodging property, they are often much more willing to offer you discounts.
Many small lodging properties just can't afford to list their businesses on booking engines. The discounted rates that they have to charge to be competitive plus the high commission fees result in some of these smaller lodges barely being able to break even. Many will decide just not to play the game and rely on traditional search strategies, and directories like ours, to get connected with potential guests. Long story short, booking engines don't show you all the options because their model doesn't work for smaller or independent lodging properties.
The rooms listed on booking engines tend to be the least popular or the least valuable at a property. For example, if you make a reservation through a booking engine, you might find yourself in one of the property's smallest rooms, or in a room right next to the elevator. Properties list their least popular rooms because they are barely making any money on the rooms. You are much better off booking directly with a lodging property to ensure you get a high quality room and experience.
Many hotels list a very limited number of rooms on booking engines. So if you are trying to make a reservation using a booking engine, a property (or an entire town) may look completely sold out when there is, in fact, still plenty of availability. Lodging properties would prefer that their visitors book direct because they realize more of the profits. Especially on busy weekends, it's worth going direct to the source to check on availability because what you see on booking engines is just not accurate.
Even though technology pushes us to avoid personal interaction and phone calls, it's true that you can get the best deals if you go directly to the source. Visit a hotel's website, give them a call, or pop them a quick email and chances are the hotelier or property owner will be more than willing to cut you a deal.
At AllTrips and AllBozeman.com we strive to support the needs of travelers and local independent travel businesses. We are not an online booking system and instead of commissions or booking fees, our clients sign up with us by annual subscription. We feel that direct bookings are best for travel businesses and travelers alike, saving both parties money and creating a more authentic and enjoyable travel experience.