I recently made hotel reservations in London for next year. I had gone to the web site of the hotel where we had stayed before and wanted to stay again. I plugged in all the information but could not get it to give me my room choice. I emailed the hotel and asked about making the reservation and they wanted to know the specifics. After providing that information they informed me that the room I preferred was not available but a similar room was - twin beds instead of a double. I OKed that difference and they sent me an e-mail with a price. I had seen much lower prices on their web site and when questioning their email person was told that the web site was offering lower rates due to added discounts. I thanked them and went back to the web site and made my reservation.
I have hit the same situation with hotels in the US. We spent a week at a beach hotel in Ft. Lauderdale one year. Every morning around 10 am I would log into HotelTonight on my cell phone and make a reservation at that hotel for that night for a rate around $125. It did vary some. Then wait about ten minutes, go down to the front desk to check out and back in to the same room. Got to be kind of a running joke with the staff. The rack rate was around $300 for the room. The best rate the front desk could offer me was $189. It was crazy.
Charlie, I have also encountered situations in which the rate through booking.com was lower than the direct rate from the hotel. On my last trip it happened on two occasions when I wished to extend my stay. I've learned it's important always to check the online rate rather than simply assuming the direct rate will be lower. Sometimes advising the hotel of the discrepancy will get you the lower rate, but not always; the hotel may just say you need to book online to get the lower rate.
This happened to me the other day. Tried to book a room at hotel website but it wouldn't work even though they stated booking direct was cheapest. I emailed the hotel and they sent me their "best" rates. I went to booking.com and found the same room for about $35/night cheaper. This was weird because smaller rooms were more expensive but I got a confirmation from the hotel.
Yes, no matter what some folks say, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for always getting the lowest rate available at the time, unless you count "check hotel website, hotel front desk, and at least one website like booking.com" as a single solution.
It is all the marketing mix. When we spent that week in Ft. Lauderdale I chatted one day with one of the managers. He agreed it was crazy but explained that the hotel has contracts with various internet booking/search engines like Hotel/Hotel Tonight and others. The contracts specifies some of the rates and discounts available and conditions for the discounts. A common clause is that they cannot undercut the discounted price for some of the rooms -- not all rooms. It is the marketing mix and the traffic that is generated by the internet that a large hotel needs on a daily basis. An empty room overnight will never generate revenue and that lost revenue can never be recovered.
PS -- One of the reason we live and die with Hotel Tonight is they give a 10% rebate on all rooms booked. So even if we pay $125 for room, the true cost to use is $112.50. Haven't been burned -- yet -- but came close once.
Yes, no matter what some folks say, there is no one-size-fits-all
solution for always getting the lowest rate available at the time
In our experience that's pretty much the tall and short of it. Prices and availability have worked both in our favor and against it whether booking directly or through a 3rd party. Domestically, I will often double-check with a hotel directly as AARP discounts are often not an option on 3rd party sites and those are occasionally just enough to tip the scales.
I had seen much lower prices on their web site and when questioning
their email person was told that the web site was offering lower rates
due to added discounts. I thanked them and went back to the web site
and made my reservation.
This happens often that the hotel website offers a cheaper price than the hotel employee on the phone.