What does it mean to Book Direct? Isn’t that what any online booking is?
Well, maybe! You are always welcome to book many ways but Booking Direct means that you are booking on the individual property’s personal website or by talking to them on the phone. As innkeepers of bed and breakfasts or small inns in Walla Walla, we take reservations from many sources, including the OTAs. We know that many of them incentivize the travelers to book through them by offering repeat rewards to their customers. We get that.
Others of you may not even know what an OTA is and frankly don’t care. You are just making a booking at the first reference that caught your attention. But did you know that there are many benefits to Booking Direct which may not apply when you book through the OTAs. Keep reading to discover what an OTA is and how to tell the difference when you are booking as well as some of the very significant benefits of Booking Direct.
First let’s begin with a description of an OTA:
- What is an OTA?
OTA stands for Online Travel Advisory. Some of the notable ones are TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, HomeAway, Bookings.com, Trivago, Travelocity, Kayak, Airbnb, etc. Many of the local inns and bed and breakfasts in Walla Walla who are affiliated with WWBBIA, our local bed and breakfast association, in order to increase their to you the consumer, have their inns listed with these OTAs and willingly accept reservations through them. The surprising part is that, in some cases, even though the name of your chosen inn appears at the top of the search results, you may still be booking through the OTAs and not know it. That is because OTAs often bid upon individual hotel’s and inn’s names with PPC (pay per click) sponsored ads which are intended to draw naïve guests into booking through them, which is a legitimate booking, but it is certainly not a Direct Booking.
- So how do you know when you are booking through an OTA?
Easy! Look for the domain name in the URL. It will be right after https: // sometimes after the preface letters “www.”, but not all URLs necessarily are using the “www.” preface. In either case, it will always be before the extension, usually, “.com”. For example, let’s say you are searching for Green Gables Inn in Walla Walla and the search results show the following:
Green Gables Inn $199 ($̶2̶1̶0̶). Walla Walla Hotel Deals…
https://www.kayak.com › Hotels › United States › Washington › Walla Walla In the URL http://www.kayak.com, the domain name is kayak.com even though the name in the search results in bold, above the URL, are identifying the inn as Green Gables Inn. This is the IP address not for Green Gables Inn but Kayak.com. Therefore if you proceed with a booking using this link, you are not Booking Direct with Green Gables but you are making an online booking with the OTA named Kayak.com.
So what are the advantages of booking direct?
- First and foremost, the price is often cheaper.
You can expect that the price will be the same on all online directories (OTAs). Price parity is very important among all the OTAs directories. But here is something you may not know. There are specials and rates when dealing directly with the inn that often cheaper because price parity with Direct Booking and the OTAs is not governed quite the same.
- Clarity of the policies, packages, & services.
The web listings of each inn under the OTA umbrella will never be as full and explanatory as the personal website of the inn. It may not be in their interest to do a full disclosure of all the services you offer and even the policies are sometimes abbreviated into their proprietary vernacular. Of course you can always go to the inn’s personal website to check out for yourself about the detailed policies, packages, and services your chosen inn is offering, but who is going to do that when you didn’t book it that way in the first place? For instance, as an example, it sometimes happens that guests who book with the OTAs show up for their first reservation with children or pets, though the inn may have a clear policy against it. Not a position you want to find yourself in, either you or the receiving inn.
- Opportunity to choose “added value” items
The unique services some destination inns offer such as on-site restaurants, romantic packages, extended hours of arrival or departure, spa services, and shuttle services are not allowed to be displayed, or certainly not in detail, on the OTA web listings so incoming guests, who do not know about them, are not able to take advantage of them. This example of the loss of potentially desirable added value to you as a traveler and to the inn as the purveyor of guest services can have a huge impact upon the quality of your upcoming stay. Always Booking Direct provides the guest the greatest opportunity to clearly know the policies, packages and services your chosen inn offers.
- More Flexibility: Changes to your reservation are much easier when you Book Direct.
When you book through the OTAs, you are their customer. Individual innkeepers, though they hold your reservation in their books, are not free to modify or cancel the reservation you made through the OTAs. When guests can’t reach the OTA, they call the inn to plead with the inn to change this or that on their reservation. The OTAs you booked through own that reservation. You will need to contact the OTA, probably by phone, to make any changes and they in turn, must contact the inn. This is very frustrating to tourists when changes need to be made to their reservation since it is seldom easy to make changes to OTA reservations. And the innkeepers and owners are less likely to grant any exemption or a policy leniency when it applies to OTA bookings because of the discount they pay to accept those reservations in the first place.
Why does that matter? Less emails are good, right? Actually in this case, the answer is usually no. You are likely booking a romantic getaway and you will want every detail to be perfect. So does the inn. They are great concierges of the services and attractions in the area you will be visiting and their aim is to insure that you have a 5 star experience which begins long before you arrive
- Since the OTAs do not share with the inn your email address, we cannot personalize your stay.
But since the OTA does not share with participating inns the guest’s email address, you receive no confirmations from the inn with tips for the traveler, no notifications, no reminders, no invitations for romantic packages, no offers for shuttle services, spa services, or dinners, etc. because the OTA does not permit the inn to showcase these packages and services on their website and the innkeepers have no email address to send them to you. Only Booking Direct customers will receive courteous emails suggesting places to dine, tourist attractions, or things to do while staying in their area. Sometimes, when we are tourists, we actually want emails to make sure that we are prepared and have thought of everything.
- In-house repeat rewards are probably better than OTA’s.
Often times, local inns may have very attractive repeat rewards for loyal customers that are not extended to heavily discounted OTA bookings. So you have a choice: The relatively meager reward from the OTAs or the oftentimes much more generous reward from the individual owners who want to secure forever your repeat business.
- OTAs often are listing only the lowest priced room.
There is a reason some rooms are lower in price. Because the OTAs want to remain very competitive, the price they advertise is always the lowest priced available room. With OTAs bookings, guests are not usually given the opportunity to a free or purchased upgrade to a better room.
We at WWBBIA pledge to provide always provide gracious “Hospitality that Exceeds your Expectations” from a diverse group of innkeepers, each with a very different style of inn, a unique location, and varying personal backgrounds and personalities of the hosts.
We can do that much better when you decide to Book Direct!