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Why you should be very wary booking accommodation through hotel comparison sites

Travel websites like Expedia and Wotif take the legwork out of booking your holidays, but a lot of the time you may be better off without them.

Hotel comparison websites are the go-to for most travellers – they’re simple, they’re easy and they ‘guarantee‘ you the best possible price.

But Australian consumer affairs show The Checkout has done an investigation into the industry and found a lot of the time you might actually be getting a raw deal.

You’re not always getting the cheapest price

The reason these websites claim to have the best prices is because they slap on a ‘parity clause’ when the hotels sign up – meaning that they can’t offer cheaper prices through any other channels – even their own.

The thing is, a lot of the time the hotels still do.

If you call Australian hotels up, the report found you can often save around 25 per cent on the listed price. 25 per cent!

This is even more applicable if you’re booking a trip to Europe.

Regulators in big tourist destinations like Germany and France have banned or softened these parity clauses, meaning hostels and hotels are free to offer cheaper prices on their own websites. If you want to stay at a particular place, it makes sense to hit them up direct.

Hoteliers are also able to get around these websites restrictions by offering lower prices through reward and loyalty programs, so these are definitely worth a shout if you’re a frequent traveller.

They could be bad news for consumers and hotels

The industry is essentially a duopoly, with Expedia and Priceline dominating about 80 per cent of the market share between them thanks to their brands, and all the little brands they own underneath, including former Aussie start-up Wotif, now owned by Expedia.

As hotels are eventually forced to sign up in order to compete, they are forced to raise their prices in order to cover the cut they have to pay to third-party sites.

The fact that these sites provide consumers with an easy way to compare all their options is a good thing, but the rising cost of accommodation might suggest it’s not being reflected in lower prices.

This is not to say that you should never book through Expedia and the like – they offer a sleek, valuable service, and their package deals and ‘mystery hotels’ can save you a bunch of cash.

But you should definitely check out all your options before booking.

Like this guy did!

The Checkout

Ps. One other thing, if you’ve kept reading, is that hotels are more likely to upgrade you based on two things – your loyalty status with them, and if you’ve booked direct or not. When you book direct, you saving the accommodation of your choice 15 per cent on the booking. That can work in your favour, as the management may prioritise you over a booking that they’re not getting as much from.

We’ve heard it works, and that’s anecdotal evidence more than anything, but it makes sense.

We bloody love travel hacks here at Techly so you should 100 per cent check out other ways to make your trip a belter.

We’ve figured out the best way to overcome the most common hotel problems, as well as seven tips to ensure your next holiday goes off without a hitch.

About the author

Riordan is Techly’s News and Social Editor. He promises to tweet more at @riordanl

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