Posted in Travel

Hotel booking services deserve to be scrutinized

When I travel, I actually don’t require much from the place I stay. If it is only one night, no hassle with peace and quiet is at the top of the priority list. If it is a long stay in a destination, where I work as well, it is crucial that all the facts and details about the place were absolutely correct when I booked the place.

Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that if there are middlemen between the customer and the host (hotel, house or apartment), the risk of hassle, misinformation, and false extra fees grows.

BBC reports that UK watchdog Competition and Markets Authority is investigating popular hotel booking services for:

  • Are tourists forced to pay unexpected extra charges such as taxes and booking fees later in the booking process.
  • How search result rankings are influenced by factors, such as how much commission a hotel pays the site.
  • What is really behind “alerts” that show how many people are looking at the same room, how many rooms are left, and how long a price is available.
  • Are discount claims true, or are weekday rates compared to a previous weekend rate.

I am a recent victim of the first item that the UK watchdog is investigating. I reserved and paid for an apartment in Valencia via Booking.com. After I had paid, and could not cancel anymore, Booking.com kindly informed me about extra charges that doubled the price of my reservation. The local business, Living Valencia, that managed the apartment accused Booking.com and they accused the local company.

After having exchanged messages with Booking.com customer service for a few months, and after having to make an overseas telephone call for additional customer service without any progress, the investigation in the UK is really welcomed news.

It is not an isolated incident. Two years ago, I stopped using Airbnb after a horrific and dangerous experience at a place in Portugal where the host provided faulty and misleading information. Airbnb did nothing.

BBC is looking for travelers who have had problems with online booking agents, and asks them to tell their stories here.

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