Why you should never book with booking.com

Never book at booking.com. This is my advice to travelers, whether you are a private traveler or a travel agency.

For years I have been booking accommodation through booking.com and I have now reached the point where I cannot further tolerate their exploitation and dishonesty.

Not only have I been using them to book accommodation in my personal capacity, but my wife and I also own a guesthouse that has been listed on booking.com. Additionally we also own a successful travel agency and have been booking accommodation for our clients through booking.com on the odd occasion.

In the beginning, the idea was great. The rates were good and the convenience of booking through them outweighed the increase in cost. Over the years they have become extremely arrogant and far too powerful. Today, their objective is not to make it more convenient, but to fleece you and the property owner for every cent they can. There are literally hundreds of thousands of complaints from consumers and properties alike.

Here are the reason why you should never use booking.com again.

Property owners suffer terribly under booking.com

Booking.com charges up to 20% commission on a booking. This is a massive margin for doing absolutely nothing except for getting the client to book. Procuring the client is a big deal I agree and they should be compensated for that but 20% is extortion. Due to these high commissions that they charge they have been the biggest culprits in the global increase in accommodation costs. All that has happened is that the properties have increased their rates by 10-20%. At the end of the day the consumer is footing the bill to pay off booking.com.

Booking.com has very onerous booking mechanisms that place a lot of strain on the operations of a property. Their payment and cancellation policies are onerous and cost property owners a bundle. For example, the property owner cannot cancel a booking because a client did not pay a deposit. They have to wait until the arrival date and only if the client was a no-show are they allowed to “request” a cancellation. This fee is then recovered from the client but only after booking.com has taken their commission or part thereof.

The vast majority of property owners that I have spoken to acknowledged that they would drop their rates if booking.com was not in the equation.

Consumers have very little recourse with booking.com

One of the big gripes with booking.com is the fact that their so-called “free cancellation” bookings are in many cases not free at all. You make a booking and it says you will not pay anything to cancel the booking before a certain date. What booking.com does not tell you is that they send your credit card details to the property even if it’s a “free cancellation” booking. In many cases the property then charges the card when the booking is made and when you cancel you have to try and recover your money from the property owner. Booking.com just shrug their shoulders and refuse to accept any responsibility.

The rating and property descriptions are in many cases one fat lie.

We all know that booking.com ratings are a sham. Properties have multiple ways of boosting their ratings. You can even buy reviews online. The images and property descriptions are a sham.

I have stayed at properties that look totally different from what is displayed on the website. Do not believe what you see. “Beachfront” in many cases means 200m from the beach behind a 30-floor apartment. “Sea views” in many cases mean you need to stand on a chair and twist your next at a 45-degree angle out of the toilet window to see the ocean.

So how should you book?

Use a travel agent. Yes, a traditional travel agent that knows your destination. They can tell you everything you need to know and they know how to find the perfect property that meets your needs. Travel agents are still the most effective way to ensure that you have a hassle free holiday.

You also have recourse if you use a reputable travel agency. The notion that you save money by booking online through services such as booking.com is absolute nonsense. In fact you are paying more. Up to 20% more. This is the lie perpetuated by these online booking agencies. If you use a travel agency the commission is never more than 10% and included in the rack rates of the property.

Use other sites to do your research. Tripadvisor.com is a great resource to find accommodation. Do you research and then Google the property. Call them directly or email them. Insist on a discount because you are booking directly.

Many properties only make a certain number of beds or rooms available to booking.com. So, when you see that the property does not have availability, if you call them directly you would most likely find that they have availability for your dates.

Marthinus Strydom

Marthinus is a venture capitalist and private equity investor. He is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the MJS Capital Group.

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