Online travel agencies (OTA’s) seem to have a corner on the market for lodging accommodations worldwide. At first glance, it seems reasonable to refer to one clearinghouse that lists many different lodging options from Bed & Breakfasts to hotels to lake cabins to tree houses. Reasonable, until you get lost finding one you like with your price and actual availability, and then get buried in a dozen pop-ups after each online search, I mean.
Before you rely on OTA’s you need to be aware of some of the pitfalls. Although OTA’s can provide me with reservations for Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast, in many ways we are in direct competition.
Get the Best Deal Here!
Who can give you the best deal on staying at my Bed & Breakfast? I can! If you’re using a reputable online travel agency to book a suite at Blessings on State, I’m paying to give you that option. I’m paying through an annual fee or through a percentage of each reservation booked. In many cases, only select rooms, rather than an inn or hotel’s entire inventory are listed on the OTA. Many of us offer additional rooms and rates. Unless you visit the inn’s website you won’t know what you’re missing!
OTA’s don’t offer the same discounts that we do. Although they may offer a flashy temporary discount to draw attention, our Blessings on State B&B discounts are clearly defined on our website when you book direct. Recent guests spent time perusing our Blessings on State website after booking through a well-known OTA. When they checked in, they mentioned the discount they noticed they would have qualified for had they booked directly through our web site. Unfortunately, I was being charged a comparable percentage to give them the opportunity to book through the OTA and therefore could not also fund the discount for them. If they had booked direct with us, they could have applied the discount directly to their reservation. Even if they had missed it when making their direct reservation and had just asked at check-in, I would have gladly extended the discount because it’s part of my marketing plan. We just can’t afford to double dip by offering a book direct discount while paying an online travel agency.
I’m pretty sure I’ve agreed that I will not, shall not, under any circumstances, ask as many times as you’d like, never ever never divulge the percentage I pay to list on the major online travel agency websites. I will tell you, however, that I would have been very comfortable extending my regular discount to my guests to trade off paying the OTA. Happily, gladly! It’s not just what’s in it for you, it’s what’s in it for all of us. I want your best rate to be available through my website and I want you to book direct.
Why do you Have to be a Detective to Find B&B’s on OTA’s?
Why are Bed & Breakfasts all but hidden when searching lodging lists in the OTA’s? Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast has a terrific online reputation, but even with our high ratings we’re often at the bottom of the list on the well known online travel agency sites. (Sites that we pay to list on.) What’s with that? Our reviews/ratings are top-notch, but we’re still sometimes at the bottom of the list. You can put on your Nancy Drew glasses, or your Sherlock Holmes cap and search for the hidden treasures on an OTA or, better yet, do a local search to find our website and book direct. We’d love to have you stay with us!
Who Ya Gonna Call?
What’s that OTA’s customer service number, anyway? What if you’re in a fix after making a reservation through an OTA and you need to change dates? What happens if you’d like to request early arrival or if you have a concern regarding late arrival? Innkeepers are just a phone call away, as are most hotel front desks. You may call the inn directly and have immediate attention to your concern. Unfortunately, it’s often a challenge to find customer service numbers for online travel agencies and even more challenging to get a quick and direct answer to your inquiry. Cancellation?? Don’t even think about it unless you’re an expert hoop-jumper.
OTA’s have limited authority. They are authorized to advertise, collect reservations and payment and distribute that payment to Bed & Breakfasts, hotels and other vendors. However, they have no authority over some things that are easily managed by the local inn or hotel. Special accommodations? That’s definitely on my side as an innkeeper! We’ll be happy to try to accommodate your special request. There are few things more frustrating than working your way through an unmanned phone tree or filling out complex forms to make a simple change. Save time and trouble when you book direct and contact the inn or hotel directly via phone or Email. When you don’t, I have little ability to modify your reservation.
What do you mean you don’t know?
Why is it so hard for OTA’s to answer questions? If you’re not speaking with an innkeeper or local hotel staff directly, it’s likely that the person you finally managed to reach at the online travel agency won’t have the in-depth information about a property that you need to really plan a great stay. It’s impossible to list all the finer details when I’m limited to 200 words in online travel agency descriptions of Blessings on State. I have so much more to tell you about Blessings, about our neighborhood and about planning and experiencing a great stay in Jacksonville. That information is shared on our website, along with a “button” on each page to check our availability and rates and book direct. We make it easy to make informed decisions.
Book direct and you’ll have the information you need when you need it. Online travel agencies add a third-party layer that is much more likely to result in miscommunication and misinformation.
What do you mean someone else is already in my room?
Some OTA’s rely on Email notification to ensure that properties enter reservations in their own reservation systems. That always worries me. What if, as a traveler, I believe I’ve made my OTA lodging reservation and it’s really on a 24-hour hold until the OTA receives confirmation from the lodging vendor? When I make travel arrangements, I typically book air, hotel and car rental at the same time. One component is often hinged on another. I don’t want to live in Wonder-land while I wait for all the pieces to line up just right so I know for sure that I have a clear reservation.
Real-time reservation systems like the one we use at Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast eliminate the risk. Booking directly through our website or speaking with us directly protects your reservation and immediately backs it up with a reservation confirmation. Whether you book online or I enter your reservation, if there’s a race, the first one with a completed reservation wins the confirmation. Automatic. Real-time. There should be no concern that there’s a lapse in the time between entering your reservation and a property’s reservation system scanning to pick up the reservation from the online travel agency.
There’s a Charge for What?
Beware of hidden and not-so-hidden charges. Although some online travel agencies / lodging clearinghouses are straightforward in charging fees only to the innkeeper or hotel side, others are not. My buddy was looking for lodging in Hawaii and found several options that seemed very reasonable when she looked at the published lodging rate. That was before she added the housekeeping charge. And the resort fee. And the the credit card fee, the safe fee, the bottled water fee, etc. In addition, the posted price often turns out to be a range of prices when the exact room you priced is not available, but the next tier (or the next-next tier!) is. Last spring we were charged approximately $40 for the “complimentary” free ticket book “included” with our cabin rental. Really?? I even called them. There was no way to decline it and it sure wasn’t complimentary! We used a couple of the coupons, but they were for Buy 1/Get 1 tickets and I’m not sure we saved more than the money we spent for our “free” coupons.
When you see our price posted on our web site and in our reservation system, that’s price you’ll pay for your suite. We are all required to collect lodging taxes, but the only up-charges are specialty items or packages that you choose to add to your room reservation.
Why is it Really So Important to Book Direct?
What’s in it for you, the traveler? As noted earlier, booking direct opens up promotions and discounts that are only available through the direct connection with the Bed & Breakfast. Many hotels offer guest loyalty points that are lost when booking through an online travel agency. Some of us offer special room upgrades when our guests have booked with us directly. That’s in addition to the complimentary Wi-Fi, a bountiful breakfast, soft drinks and snacks we offer at Blessings on State. A hotel may offer incentives like access to their executive level, breakfast coupons, or other special amenities to their guests who’ve booked directly through their web site.
What’s in it for me, the innkeeper? I prefer the personal contact with my guests. Whether you book by phone or online, when you book direct I have all the information I need to follow up with you. Whether I’m sending a welcome letter with restaurant recommendations or texting with last minute weather warnings, we develop a personal connection right away that online travel agencies cannot provide.
Book ‘Em, Traveler!
Our reasons to travel vary. Many of us travel regularly for business. Others need a quick getaway now and then. Some invest in lengthy vacations to distant destinations. We all have the same goal and that is to ensure hassle-free travel. No surprises, just a smooth and enjoyable journey.
There are many reasons to Book Direct:
- Book Direct to avoid the OTA hassles and get the best rates. Most of us are careful to make sure that you can always get the best price when you reserve your room with us directly.
- Book Direct to get to know your accommodations in advance of your stay. Spend time on our website to get to know us. We want to welcome you to Jacksonville and will do all we can to ensure that you have a great experience leading up to and during your stay.
- Book Direct to have better access to your hosts. Our phone numbers are listed on our web site and on Email communications we send out. Call us if you have a question or a special need.
- Book Direct to get the best deals. We want your business and would prefer to see our dollars go to enhancing your stay rather than to padding the bank accounts of the OTA’s.
I won’t be mad at you for looking at online travel agency listings; I just believe it makes a whole lot more sense to book direct with Blessings on State. Contact us to Book Direct for the best deals, to avoid the OTA hassles, and to get the best rates.
Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast ~ Jacksonville, Illinois
About Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast
Experience a stay in our award-winning Bed & Breakfast located in a magnificently restored 130-year-old mansion in the heart of the historic district. Pampered luxury is our goal, to delight both business and leisure travelers. We offer two upscale guest suites, each with private sitting rooms and private baths. We provide multi-course gourmet breakfasts, 24/7 family-friendly hot and cold beverages and snacks, and cookies and milk at bedtime. Wi-Fi is available throughout our home and each suite has a digital satellite TV and all-season fireplace. We are located just steps away from Illinois College, the Governor Duncan Mansion and Illinois School for the Deaf and our neighborhood is highlighted on one of Jacksonville’s historic walking tours. Escape the standard hotel room and enjoy your own private suite in the finest Jacksonville area lodging. Book direct for the best rates.