Fig. 1 - Booking Groups Revenues
Overview of booking groups and introduction of different types of travel sites.
The above picture gives an overview of some of the main travel booking sites, and groups, for hotels, flights, car rentals, vacation rentals, cruises and other travel reservations.
The above mentioned travel websites, and their many competitors, can be very different from each other in the way they connect a traveler to a travel provider.
Here below we classify travel websites into two categories, Online travel Agencies and Travel Metasearch Engines, but please keep in mind that: 1. Some websites fall into more than one category. 2. There could be better definitions of the categories, this is our view on the subject.
Online Travel Agency (OTA)
Online travel agencies connect customers with travel providers.
Online travel agencies sell travel services on their websites, this can include: Hotel rooms; Flight tickets; Car rentals; Vacation rentals; Cruises; Tours and activities; Other travel services.
Some OTAs focus on a single service, say for instance hotel bookings, others cover a wider range of travel services, sold also as travel packages.
OTAs can market their own inventory (direct agreements with providers such as hotels, air companies, car rental companies, etc.) and / or the inventory of other OTAs and Global Distribution Systems. Some inventory may be pre-purchased by OTAs in order to grant availability or better rates to their clients.
The contractual agreements between traveler, OTA and provider differ case by case but usually the OTA's role is just to facilitate the conclusion of a travel reservation between traveler and provider.
When you make a reservation with a travel provider through a OTA website, usually the booking process takes place on the OTA website.
Travel Metasearch Engine
Travel metasearch engines connect customers with online travel agencies.
A travel metasearch engine scope is to gather and compare rates from various OTAs websites, helping customers to find the best offer for the same travel service (hotel room, car, flight, etc.).
Some metasearch websites also search provider's websites, as air companies, hotel chains, car rental companies, etc.
The contractual agreements between traveler, metasearch website, online travel agency and provider differ case by case but usually the metasearch role is just to search available offers on other websites.
A metasearch website doesn't get involved in the booking process, to make a reservation expect to be redirected to a OTA's or provider's website.
Our method, do your own research to save on travel costs.
Here below you find some ideas, our method, to find travel deals. Using our method requires some leg work but it could be worth the effort!
Contact providers directly. We should give providers (Hotels, etc.), and ourselves, a chance and contact them directly. Certain discounts, fidelity programs and upgrades may only be available when booking directly with the provider. Addressing queries or special requirements preliminarily to booking can only be done directly with the provider.
Use all types of websites. A travel metasearch engine searches Online Travel Agencies and providers for you. It's a great tool but it may not have access to all rates, deals and offers available on the OTAs and providers websites.
Don't be too loyal to one website. We have our preferred websites but it's always worth comparing offers. We would search for travel prices using at least a couple of different websites.
Get the true price. Some travel sites show the true price, inclusive of additional charges, just one step before confirming the reservation. Forcing customers to go through the entire booking process to get the true price it's not fair, it makes offers comparison a very hard task, let's don't surrender to them!
Understand the booking conditions. Booking conditions can make a huge difference for our trip and wallet, they should suit our travel needs and be taken into due consideration when comparing offers. Just to mention a few cases, consider if a reservation is refundable, has cancellation fees applicable, includes desired services (hotel breakfast, parking, air seat selection, baggage allowance, etc.).
Try different travel dates. If travel dates are flexible, we should try different dates options. Rates may change significantly depending on weekdays, seasonality or concurrency with local events, fairs or festivals.