A Direct Booking Experiment

When booking a hotel room, who do you prefer to book with? For the majority of people who are asked this question, their answer will be Booking.com or Expedia.

What most of these people will not realise is that for each booking made through one of these online travel agents, the hotel can pay up to 30% of the booking value in commission.

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The question you are now probably asking yourself is Why do hotels sell rooms through these channels if they are paying so much in commission?

The answer is that most hotels rely on online travel agents to generate a high volume of bookings and for many hoteliers, these channels yield the vast majority of their online revenue.

A guest booking directly with the hotel is the ideal: no commission paid out and revenue is maximised. However, this is more easily said than done. So what are hotels doing to encourage their guests to book direct?

Offering the same price as online travel agents is often not enough to persuade the average guest to book direct. In many cases, hotels offer additional benefits to the select guests who book directly via their own website.

So what benefits do guests get when they book direct? We decided to find out...

We enquired about booking a night at ten of Edinburgh’s best known 4 and 5-star hotels.

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To do this, we looked at the following for each hotel:

  1. The price offered by the cheapest online travel agent (OTA) such as Booking.com
  2. The price offered via the hotel’s own website
  3. Whether or not the hotel offered any additional incentive for those who book direct

The results of our direct booking experiment are below:


Hotel 1

OTA - £273   Hotel’s Website - £273

Direct Booking Incentive

No incentive


Hotel 2

OTA - £303   Hotel’s Website - £303

Direct Booking Incentive

Complimentary bottle of champagne


Hotel 3

OTA - £333   Hotel’s Website - £302

Direct Booking Incentive

Complimentary drink


Hotel 4

OTA - £203   Hotel’s Website - £203

Direct Booking Incentive

Save 15% and £5 voucher


Hotel 5

OTA - £200   Hotel’s Website - £190

Direct Booking Incentive

Complimentary prosecco, wi-fi, 20% off parking and food & drink


Hotel 6

OTA - £238   Hotel’s Website - £193

Direct Booking Incentive

Complimentary breakfast


Hotel 7

OTA - £205   Hotel’s Website - £205

Direct Booking Incentive

Additional incentive offered at the discretion of the manager on the phone


Hotel 8

OTA - £179   Hotel’s Website - £199

Direct Booking Incentive

£10 hotel voucher


Hotel 9

OTA - £149   Hotel’s Website - £149

Direct Booking Incentive

5% discount for loyalty club members


Hotel 10

OTA - £160   Hotel’s Website - £160

Direct Booking Incentive

No incentive


In this sample, Hotel 5 is top of the class. Their reasons to book direct are clearly marked on their website and a wide variety of different perks sets their direct channel apart from the OTAs. It also helps that their direct rate is £10 cheaper than anywhere else!

So what conclusions can we draw from the results above?

Firstly, the majority of hotels are offering a direct booking incentive. In theory, this makes the hotel's own website a more attractive place for a guest to book. The reality is that the power of brands like Booking.com and Expedia is often enough to persuade guests to book with them. This is particularly applicable where there is price parity, or in other words, where it is the same price for a guest to book with either.

Secondly, the most popular perk comes in the form of a complimentary drink - something we ourselves can certainly buy into! A hotel voucher was also offered by two of the hotels - this is a means of bypassing the price parity clause hotels are contractually bound to with OTAs.

Finally, the better the perks, the more likely the guest is to book direct. The two properties who offered no incentive to book direct are shooting themselves in the foot and leaving themselves at the mercy of OTAs.

So, next time you are booking a hotel room, make sure you book direct (but not before giving the hotel a call to haggle some additional benefits for doing so)!

Big Flavour Marketing