Comparing rates and hidden fees
It’s confusing for agents to understand pricing; what’s it like for the public?
The amount of websites agents can book accommodation through is the most it’s ever been and will likely keep growing. It’s overwhelming isn’t it? Just as overwhelming is how, where and when each offers the final price and value proposition.
For the consumer its the persistent lady on the TV every 5 minutes from Trivago, Hotels Combined, and Bookings.com, which allows the customer to book their own accommodation or come to you for advice on their choices. Pricing is deliberately made even more confusing so it’s very hard for them to think through and secondly, so they get hooked on a brand and an idea and forget about price.
Factors that can be misleading include the hidden costs and fees associated with a booking. City taxes, resort fees and credit card fees are not always included in the initial advertised price, which can lead to that really cheap price quickly adding up to an expensive one. You can guess which one they bring to you.
Some websites are not even committing to agent commission or rate equivalent until long after the booking is made. On others it’s not obvious what currency is being quoted in the first instance or if it is Australian dollars, is it the same amount which will appear on a credit card? Dubai hotels, booking direct, take note. The fine print said that this amount is indicative… What appears on your credit card is calculated differently. True story.
City taxes are becoming more common – where it only used to be Paris, Rome and Amsterdam, has now made its way to the US and Dubai. If not disclosed, travelers can receive a rude shock of up to €7 per person per night being charged, which can add up to a decent amount quickly for a family of four for a week. Many will feel it’s the agents fault and so it’s important to get this up front.
The mandatory resort fees are prevalent in destinations such as Hawaii and Las Vegas, where items such as towels, newspapers and unlimited local calls are included in the hefty amount of US$35 per night.
The fact that resort fees are mandatory means in our mind they should be included in the price of the hotel – you’re going to have to pay for it regardless! Why resort fees chargeable over the desk? Because they are not commissionable meaning agents can’t get a cut and hotels get more.
Credit card surcharge fees, especially if using an American Express card, can certainly add an extra amount to a booking. While booking websites are generally clear in what is being charged, there may still be a percentage processing fee withheld if payment was made via a credit card. Most groups are happy to wear a small loss on a credit card charge, provided they close the sale.
In part this advice seems geared towards consumers, but it’s also important for agents to know the tricks that consumers can be duped by when bringing a quote to the desk.
It always pays (pun intended) to go through the entire booking process to determine if there will be any fees or and hidden extra costs associated with a booking – never assume the initial price is the final price that appears on your, or if they are bargaining you for a rate, your customers, credit card.