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.