Roomkey vs. Online Travel Agencies

woman booking a hotel room through online travel agenciesTransparency is kind of our thing. It guides the way we run our business and the decisions we make, and it’s something we want you to feel during every step of your hotel booking process. Online travel agencies, or OTAs, can’t say the same and we want to prove it.

So, we’re going to go through the experience of booking a hotel stay with an online travel agency and comparing it to the same process you’ll have when you book a hotel with Roomkey. We think you’ll notice a difference.

Step 1: Searching for the Right Hotel

You’ve booked your flights, put in your vacation days, and started your countdown clock. Now it’s time to find somewhere to stay.

Booking with Online Travel Agencies

You head to (or somewhere similar) to compare hotel options. You plug in your dates and destination and get tons of results. So you scroll through hotels marked with tags like “Great value,” “Best seller,” “Only 5 like this left on our site,” and “You missed it!” and you get overwhelmed quickly. You make it through a few pages before decision fatigue sets in and you finally pick one out of exhaustion and pressure. hotel results page

Booking through Roomkey

Plugging the same dates and location into, you also see a plethora of hotel options for your stay. You can narrow your search using the map or filter by amenities and price. We also include real user reviews so you can hear from other guests how one hotel compares to another. Roomkey’s search is just as customizable as with an OTA but with one major difference: you won’t see any distracting banners or pressure selling tricks here. We also don’t clutter our site with ads like many OTAs commonly do. Roomkey just wants to give you a clean search experience. (We didn’t think that was too much to ask for.)

Behind the Scenes

On an OTA website, you’ll be overwhelmed by options, flags, banners, and ads that make it hard to know if you’re selecting the right hotel at the right price. OTAs also bias their search results by giving preference to hotels that pay to appear in the top of your search results. While this doesn’t impact how much you’ll pay for the hotel, it means that you are no longer seeing an unbiased list of hotels that best match your search criteria. These OTAs are showing you what they want you to see.

At Roomkey, there is no search result bias. Just exactly what you asked to see: a list of potential hotels sorted by your own criteria.

Step 2: Booking Your Chosen Hotel Room

You’ve finally chosen a hotel. It’s time to book.

Booking with Online Travel Agencies

On an OTA site, you choose a hotel because the rate looks reasonable. But once it’s time to book, you realize there’s another charge for taxes and fees that you didn’t know about before. You could go back and start the process over, but you’ve already gotten excited about this place. So you book at the higher price, disappointed you aren’t getting the deal you thought you were. hotel booking page

Booking through Roomkey

Compare that experience to Roomkey. As soon as you choose your hotel, we show you the total price you’ll pay for your stay, including any taxes and fees. This way you’ll know exactly how much you’re signing up for. We also detail the refund policy and the room type so you won’t be confused about what you’re booking.

When you’re sold on your choice, we take you directly to the hotel’s website to finish your booking and secure your room, rate, and loyalty points. This keeps all of your reservation information where it should be: with the hotel itself, not with a third party OTA site who might lose it. If you’re not ready to book yet, set up a price alert to find out when the rate drops for a particular hotel. Then, come back later and book when you’re ready. hotel booking page

Behind the Scenes

OTAs are known to bury taxes and fees until the last minute. They rope you in by showing an attractive low nightly room rate, but hide the fact that there are taxes and fees on top of that. It’s not until it’s time for you to book that you realize the deal isn’t quite as good as you thought it was. With Roomkey, transparency is No. 1, so we display all extra fees up front before you leave our site to book your room with the hotel. And because you finish by booking directly with the hotel, you can be confident that your reservation is secure and confirmed.

You’ll also notice that Roomkey’s prices are often lower than OTA prices. That’s because we can display hotel loyalty member rates that are often lower than the regular non-member rates that OTAs have access to. This is the best way to be sure you’re getting the lowest hotel rates on the market. And yep, that’s not using an OTA site that you previously thought was a discount site.

Step 3: Checking in for Your Stay

It’s vacation time! You go to the front desk to check in, hoping for a late checkout. You need to make sure they have the roll-away bed you requested too.

Booking with Online Travel Agencies

When you check in, you find out your ocean-view room isn’t available. You have the same number of beds, so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s not the room you wanted or the room you paid for. You ask the front desk to be refunded the price difference, but they don’t have access to your payment information, and they don’t have any way to verify what you paid because the OTA doesn’t share that information. They also didn’t get the memo that you needed a roll-away bed, and now they don’t have any left for the night.

Booking through Roomkey

When you book directly with the hotel, you have the option to set up a loyalty membership if you aren’t a member already. As we said before, members get the best rates on hotel rooms. They also get preferential treatment from the hotels. You told them you needed a roll-away bed, and it’s already set up in your room. They even upgraded you to a slightly bigger room so the extra bed wouldn’t cramp your space. They also gave you the balcony room with a view of the ocean that you paid for. When you ask for a late checkout, they tell you that isn’t a bother at all and you won’t need to pay extra for it.

Behind the Scenes

This scenario doesn’t happen every time, but it’s not as rare as it might seem. It’s no secret that hotels prioritize the guests who book direct. Guests who book direct are the ones they’ve actually interacted with and have more information about. When you book direct, the hotel is able to talk with you about any unforeseen changes to your reservation, and they’re able to more easily make changes or issue refunds. When you join a hotel’s loyalty program, you’re more likely to get perks like room upgrades and late checkout because the hotel wants to preserve their relationship with you and ensure that you’ll book again next time.

The Verdict

Booking with an OTA doesn’t seem like it would make that big of a difference. At the end of the day, you’re still sleeping in a bed, right? But it’s the small inconveniences that add up to give you a bad experience. Worse, it’s a bad experience that the hotel itself doesn’t have a chance to fix. Things like switched rooms and price increases can take a big toll on your overall travel experience. But when you start your search on and book directly with the hotel, you’ll be met with communication and transparency every step of the way.