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Hotel Booking: A Short Guide to Making an Informed choice

Hotel Booking is one half of booking a holiday/business trip/short stay, the other being your mode of transport whether it by plane/car/bus/etc.  As the world becomes increasingly connected from a transport point of view, more and more people are keen to visit all corners of the globe, even in these times of financial difficulty.

Traditionally, anyone wishing to book accommodation would have visited a travel agent on the high street and spent time with a travel consultant, working together to find a hotel which suited the customer requirement as well as their budget.  As with all lines of business and commerce, the internet has revolutionised the way someone makes a hotel booking.

People now have a wealth of information that allows them to search for their ideal accommodation in the comfort of their home.  Just as someone would search for a new TV on the internet, customers can just as easily hunt out last minute hotel deals.As well as the factual data (room rates, locations, hotel facilities), there are also forums where all things regarding a hotel can be discussed: the quality of the rooms, the service received from staff, pros and cons of the location, etc.  This can be a very powerful tool that can sway the customer into paying for a room at a hotel, but conversely divert potential custom elsewhere if the reviews and comments are negative.Ultimately, the customer wants to feel they have got a good hotel deal: they have paid the right price for the right place after reading all the information available to them when they make their hotel booking.

Information overload: Where do I Begin when Making a Hotel Booking?

There are countless websites providing live price feeds facilitating hotel booking globally, but there are always those with the largest advertising budgets and smartest websites that attract the most attention.  One way to compare prices between these large on-line booking agents is to use a comparison website.  These comparison sites take your basic hotel requirement (date and length of stay, location, number of people, etc) and send them to affiliated on-line agents which then return prices for you to review.  This provides a snapshot to the customer indicating if there is room availability that matches their requirement and who is offering the cheapest price, but this is only part of the story.

These“comparison” sites make it very easy for the customer to make a quick comparison between websites to determine the best price, but the savvy customer will not necessarily choose the cheapest website when making a hotel booking.  Just as people have opinions about a hotel, there are also opinions about which on-line agents generally offer the best “value” when making a booking.  By “value”, we must incorporate not only the pricing element, but address other questions such as…

Is there a phone number available to discuss the booking if you have a question?  What hours are the phones manned? Are you going to be directed to a call centre, or will you be speaking to a local contact?  Are complaints dealt with efficiently?How easy is it for me to make changes to a booking if my circumstances change?What looks like a straight forward purchase becomes are lot more involved when you consider the customer requirement may change after they make a hotel booking.

How do I Know I’ve Made the right Hotel Booking?

To answer the above question, we follow the rule:  Right hotel + Right agent = correct hotel bookingUltimately, the only way the customer will know if they’ve made the right choice of hotel is when they have returned from their stay.  They are then in a position to determine if all the information they used to determine their choice of hotel matches what they experienced.  Of course, it’s impossible to say if they would have had the same experience if they had stayed in a different room/ during a different period of the year, we can only focus on this specifichotel booking.

Corroborating experiences with other people solidifies a hotels reputation:  if more than one person states that the rooms are small, then that piece of information gains more weight, never mind the fact that everyone’s idea of a “small” room will be different depending on where they have stayed previously.  A much simpler method of providing an accurate idea of room size would be to state the actual floor area in square feet, but not all hotels publish this information and customers are hardly going to measure this themselves!   Potential customers are looking for patterns to build up a picture of what to expect from a hotel.  This has a direct impact on their hotel booking.

Typically, the only time a customer will need to assess if they have chosen the right agent to book through is if there are unforeseen circumstances that affect their stay e.g. nature disaster affecting the hotel, changes required to the booking, assistance required to resolve problems at the hotel.  This is where the customer begins to appreciate true “value” offered by the agent.  It can be argued that agents sign up to a code of conduct which highlights their responsibilities to the customer and standards that must be adhered to, but the real question is how far will the agent go to give you a helping hand when you need it if you have used them for a hotel booking.

The Hotel Booking Feedback Loop

The information available on the internet is only as good as what is being reported back by customers who have returned from their stay and take the time and effort to publish what they experienced, and how truthful hoteliers are about their residences. As feedback for a particular hotel begins to age, so does its relevance. Customers are looking for recent reviews and remarks about their potential choice of hotel. They also want constructive opinion which they can assess: someone who complains of a lack of a golf course was either misled or simply didn’t do enough research themselves. More importantly, does the next customer care if there is a golf course when making their hotel booking?
The feedback received is just as important to the hotel and agent as it is to the customer. It allows hotels and agents focus on areas requiring improvement, as well as promoting the positive aspects of their service hopefully increasing the number of people making a hotel booking.

Hopefully this provides you with enough information make an informed choice and helps you make a hotel booking with confidence.