The big problems with booking direct

Conscious of the impact on accommodation providers, I decided to book a recent trip directly through hotel websites. To my disappointment, the process was not a simple one.

Booking directly through a hotel website comes with some significant benefits, not only to the accommodation provider, but also to the guest. I figured my booking would be more secure, that follow up contact would be easier, and that the booking process would go without a hitch. While I stuck to my decision to book via hotels websites, I became acutely aware of the reasons travellers would choose to use an online travel agent.

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”27469″ align=”left”]Instead of searching for a hotel, looking at its website and booking then and there, I found myself with multiple tabs open in my browser, undertaking my own research at the cost of a great deal of time. While the booking pages on most sites worked perfectly well, the information provided left much to be desired.

Here are a few areas in which hotels might be able to improve when it comes to web content – which many OTAs are already getting right.


If a guest is travelling to an area they know well, location isn’t a big problem. However, for guests travelling to a city or country for the first time, they don’t necessarily know that a hotel location is central without being told.

Many a hotel website I viewed a) could not tell me how far it was from the city centre, b) whether there were any nearby attractions and c) did not include a map to show me where it was in relation to other hotels and points of interest. A quick look at an OTA website unveiled exactly how many metres that hotel was from the city centre (and how long it would take to walk), listed a number of popular local restaurants, attractions and places of historic significance, and also showed me where it was on a map. 

Trusted customer reviews

While many hotel websites include guest testimonials, I found it hard to believe that they had never experienced a negative review. Like many guests, I’m not turned off by a couple of bad reviews – in fact, I’m encouraged by them.

Customer ratings do more for me than any description a hotel website could give. No hotel will openly claim to have poor service, a dodgy restaurant or poor air conditioning – and rightly so. However, there’s something to be said for including genuine reviews on a hotel site.

While it would be counter intuitive to link to reviews placed on OTA websites, reviews on Google are well trusted and can be easily embedded or linked. It shows guests that a hotel is confident in its service, wants to give guests well-rounded insight, and is willing to take on feedback. Hotels would do well to reply to Google reviews, showing prospective guests that they appreciate great feedback and take suggestions on board.

Best price guarantee

I was surprised by how many sites offered prices significantly lower than those provided by hotel websites. Even with added booking and payment costs, it often appeared cheaper to book through an OTA rather than a hotel website, particularly with sign-up discounts and added services.

Ensure that your website clearly states that you offer a best price guarantee, or even better – beat it by 10 percent.


For guests booking an international holiday, language can be the biggest barrier to booking directly. OTAs are great at translation, making the booking process simple and trustworthy for potential guests. 

Take a look at your website translation. If the automatic translation is poor, it may be worth checking what countries are viewing the website most and providing a drop down language menu at the top of the site.

Photo gallery

Lastly – why are good hotel photos so hard to find? I’m not talking about quality, composition or editing. I’m talking about getting a real feeling for the hotel’s atmosphere and offering.

While all the hotel websites I visited had photos of guest rooms and basic facilities, I found myself searching for the real hotel photos. OTAs often feature photos from guests, which leave much to be desired in terms of quality, but genuinely show the state of the hotel and what it has to offer.

While hotels are unlikely to feature guest photos on a website (for good reason), perhaps it’s worth embedding social media accounts such as Instagram to allow guests to see more photos of what the hotel offers. Include photos of the food served at the hotel restaurant, the view from guest room windows, a family having a fun day at the pool, or cocktails coming out of the bar. Don’t forget the value of people. Guests don’t want to visit an empty hotel, so try and incorporate some life in your photo gallery.

While there’s no doubt that direct booking can be positive for both hoteliers and guests, some hotel websites have a long way to go before they become the ‘booking engine’ of preference. What other areas are lacking in hotel sites?

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6 years ago

“Ensure that your website clearly states that you offer a best price guarantee, or even better – beat it by 10 percent.” Oh really? Please do goon to tell us all about publishing lower rates than what is listed on an OTAs own platform and the ACCC 2016 ruling…….

Michael Georgeson
Michael Georgeson
Reply to  Warren
6 years ago

Whilst the ACCC ruling was disappointing in many ways, particularly given it ignored dramatic changes in the trading and technology environment over the time line of OTA’s, it did allow the carve-out for closed user groups which is a simple and effective way of undercutting the OTA rates to display lower rates on your site and online.

The bigger problem there is the OTA’s discounting against the rates they have been provided and undercutting the operators own rates.

James Farquhar
James Farquhar
6 years ago

Some good points Lauren. As a motel owner, I find when travelling the best way is to do the research on the OTA website, then book directly with the motel. But I am constantly surprised by the number of hotels/motels who quote the OTA rate – or higher!. And they won’t come down even when I point out they don’t have to pay the OTA commission. These businesses don’t do us any service. In my motel, we unashamedly boost OTA rates by 10% to partly offset their commissions. I find they don’t make any objections, provided the rates match the other OTAs.

Johnny Hotelier
Johnny Hotelier
6 years ago

Thank you for the article. I would disagree on some aspects though.
No Hotel will have the IT technology and the budget to have a website such as or Expedia. As for that, Location tabs are easily accessible via Google and that should not be a problem. Yes, I know that the big websites have the distance to major attractions and the City Centre, but that is something created that suits hundreds of thousands of Hotels. That is their business, IT. Our business is service, accommodation, Hotels, not IT.
In regards to reviews, again, as much as people may look at ratings on the big websites, EVERYBODY still goes to Tripadvisor, which makes the OTA ratings technically obsolete.
The only things I will agree with you is the BEST PRICE GUARANTEE. I fully agree that all hotels should be charging less on their own website. 10% may be much, but anything above $5 attracts the eye. I urge ALL HOTELIERS AND HOTEL MANAGERS to not fear this. Drop your rates directly. This will impact your ADR very positively, as well as create brand awareness and return guests. Forget the threats from OTA’s. remember, they are business just like us and have targets and budgets, same as us. They may afford to cut off one or two small properties, but not all hotels.
Translation is another one of those things that is expensive and are automated by OTA’s. This is why we cannot write whatever we want in our listings, as everything is formatted to be translated to all languages. Most “booking button websites” nowadays have that option.
Most Hotels these days have photo galleries. For you to say that you want to see “real hotel photos”, that is unrealistic.
Direct bookings are the way to go. Easier to manage for both sides, they should also provide monetary relief to guests and hoteliers alike. Cut the middle man…

Reply to  Johnny Hotelier
6 years ago

Johnny you make some good points but you miss the big one.
As I understand it you cannot brazenly advertise prices discounted from those you supplied to an OTA. For you to suggest we do this is to suggest we break the Law. The issue is abut the Law. Simple. No different than suggesting we drive around breaking the speed limit.

Yes there is a work around as suggested by Michael, but it is and remains at best a “clunky” work around.

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