Why you should never book with booking.com

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.

Booking online is not cheaper


With the proliferation of online travel services one can easily forgive people for thinking they are clever consumers by booking their holidays online. Online travel services including airlines aggressively punt their online booking services as the future of travel.

With online travel services I am of course referring to booking your holiday without the assistance of a travel agent. There are a myriad online travel services such as booking.com, Expedia and many other. Most hotels across the world offer direct booking to consumers through their websites. All the airlines offer direct booking through their websites as well.

It’s very easy to book your own holiday. All you need is a credit card and Internet connection and for all intents and purposes you are a travel agent. Or so you think. Here are some fallacies about booking direct.

Booking direct is cheaper

What you don’t know is that despite all the marketing hype trying to convince you otherwise, it is still much, much cheaper to book through a travel agent. The travel agent has, in most cases, preferential rates with the hotel or airline. Hotels have two sets of rates. “Rack Rates” are the rates you find on their website. If you book direct you pay Rack Rates. Travel agents get “STO” rates. STO stand for “Standard Tour Operator” Rates. The agent then adds commission and you will pay the same or less than booking direct.

So why would you book through a travel agent? Because the travel agent offers you all her expertise in exchange for the commission. The agent will do everything for you and make sure that you get what you pay for. Now, you may think that you can do that yourself but what you don’t know is that the travel agent knows the destination and knows exactly where to book and more importantly not to book.

You look at the Booking.com ratings and believe that if a hotel has a good rating then it’s safe to book with them. Unfortunately most of the reviews on these websites are fake. Created by a thriving industry created exclusively to manipulate and create fake reviews. You actually have no idea if your holiday is going to be a good holiday. By booking through a travel agent you pay the same but significantly reduce your risk.

Booking direct is safe.

If something goes wrong then what do you do? Believe me, things go wrong, all the time. The hotel burns to the ground. They have unscheduled renovations, the hotel doesn’t exist or they have double bookings and no availability. I have heard of clients arriving at the hotel (booked through Booking.com) and the hotel physically does not exist. Where it’s supposed to be is nothing but empty land.
Who do you turn to when things go wrong? Good luck calling the Internet! When things go wrong it’s a life saver to have a real person at home who can sort things out. Believe me, being stuck in some foreign country trying to find a place to stay on short notice is not a joke.

Booking direct with airlines is cheap and safe.

Go online and you will be sure to find great deals at the airlines. The problem is that the lay person has absolutely no idea what they are buying. Airline ticketing is hugely complicated. Each aircraft has a myriad of classes. These are essentially seat categories. There are many more categories than just economy class and business class. In addition there are categories for the different channels that tickets are sold through. Some tickets are refundable and others are non refundable. If you don’t have access to a GDS (global distribution system) that travel agents use you have no idea what you are buying. You may think you got a good deal only to find out that you can’t do a date change or even if you have an emergency you could end up losing all your money.

If you find a flight online that is cheap it’s normally for good reason. There are many, many potholes when buying tickets online and timing is one of them. If you need to catch connecting flights knowing the airports is very important. Some airports are so big that it can take you an hour just to get from one terminal to another. Many, many people that think they can do this without a travel agent learn the hard way that it’s not that simple.

Over the many years that I have been in the industry I have heard horror stories of clients losing large amounts of money. The biggest fallacy out there is that you can save money by booking direct. That is just not true. In fact it is almost always more expensive to book direct. You are just replacing one intermediary (the travel agent that actually does work) with another intermediary (that does absolutely nothing). At the end of the day you pay more by booking online and you don’t have access to the expertise of a travel professional.

Smart people book with travel agents.