Travel sites offer an extremely convenient way to check fares and reviews of hotels. You just enter your location and you are presented with a list of hotels in that area with user reviews and the lowest fares. Once you zero in on the hotel, you click on the booking button, make the payment, and instantly you receive the booking voucher. What can get better than this, isn't it? That's what I felt when I booked my hotel through MakeMyTrip.com, a popular travel site. What awaited me was something I never expected in my wildest dreams...
When we arrived at hotel after travelling 300kms from my home, I found that there was no booking being made in my name through MakeMyTrip. I was dumbfounded. I told the receptionist that I had made the booking 10 days earlier and I presented her with the booking voucher from Make My Trip. She said MakeMyTrip contacted them just the morning of the day of my check-in and they were full that time and hence the reservation could not be confirmed. I was absolutely wild. It was clearly mentioned in the booking voucher that my stay is confirmed and I need not contact the hotel to confirm my booking.
When I got talking to the hotel manager to find out what exactly went wrong, he told me that this is the 10th such case in that month. When a customer books a hotel through a travel site, they are sent a copy of the voucher (Not the payment. The payment is sent later). Depending on the relationship of the travel site with the hotel, the hotel people then decide to make the reservation. If the travel site do not remit payments on time regularly, the hotel people keep the reservation pending until they receive the payment. Now in my case, the travel site had a pretty bad reputation with the hotel people as they don't seem to make the payment on time and hence the hotel people didn't confirm my reservation. They are right I felt. Once I have made the payment, it is the duty of the travel site to remit the payment to the hotel immediately and confirm my reservation.
When I called MakeMyTrip.com, all I got was "We are very sorry. We'll issue you a refund within 7 days". How could the travel site be so apathetic? Later that evening, when I checked the reviews of Make My Trip on various review sites, I was astonished. There were hundreds others like me who went through similar ordeal. How could they continue to keep doing this? My blood started boiling. That's when I decided to create a website documenting my experience so others will take necessary precautions when they book a hotel through a travel site and they don't have to go through a similar ordeal like I and scores of other unfortunate people went through.
If you ever decide to book a hotel through a travel site, here are some tips to ensure that your stay turns out to be a pleasant one:
1. Don't believe everything you read. Call the hotel at least 2-3 days prior to your departure to confirm your booking. If it's a peak season, call a week prior to departure.
2. Use the travel site to read reviews but book by calling the hotel directly. Here's why... When you book through a travel site, your reservation is not confirmed even though it's explicitly stated in the voucher that your booking is confirmed. It may take anywhere from 2-3 days (a guess. Could be more) or never (like in my case) to actually confirm the reservation. And if the hotel is running full at that time, the travel site will simply cancel the reservation. So you lose several days and until then the prices must have already hiked up. And mind you, delay could be any number of days.
3. When you contact the hotel directly and negotiate a bit, you stand a very high chance of getting a more discounted price than what is actually mentioned on the travel site. It's a fact and I have experienced and read it numerous times. Think about this, for every booking through the travel site, the hotel has to give some commission to the travel site. Now if they could bypass the middleman, they won't or shouldn't have any problems in giving back the same commission as discount to the customer.
I sincerely hope that this article has equipped you with sufficient insight so your next holiday turns out to be a blissful experience and not a harrowing one like mine.