Although I’ve been blogging since before the word ‘blog’ was invented and even though I’ve always made the most minute peanuts from this, really, obscure passion, I’ve finally become part of the happy few and entered the world of ‘blogging for dollars’, as this is a sponsored review of the website HotelReservations.com. Now, if I get about 1000 of these paid reviews every month, I can start to consider quitting my day job. Perhaps.
Ever since I started operating Travelhog.net, some five years ago, I have always booked my hotels and hostels online, whenever possible. Indeed, my favourite booking engine and the one I use most, is the one which is integrated into Travelhog.net, which is operated by BookHostels.com. So, it’s only logical for me to compare HotelReservations.com (HR) with what’s on offer through BookHostels.com (BH). First, I’ll deal with booking accommodation, then I’ll have a word on what else in on offer on HotelReservations.com.
I couldn’t help but notice that the pricing of hotels on HR are awfully high. I’m sure they’re great hotels and all that, but, for me, the primary objective of a hotel, anywhere, is to provide me with a warm and dry place to sleep. I don’t mind sleeping in a dorm and, indeed, BookHOSTELS.com has the hostel part in its name for that, but they offer plenty of real hotels as well. And most hostels nowadays have single and double rooms anyway.
A quick search for a random night’s stay in Budapest, four months away, showed HR was 2.5 times more expense for a private room (60 dollars compared to 20 euros). A quick search for Amsterdam easily found me private double hotel room for half the price with BH as compared to HR.
HR’s prices are in dollars and you’re not able to change that. Very well if you live in the US, but, really, how many people aren’t? And, anyway, a US-centric universe doesn’t sit well with many.
The message ‘You have found a special internet rate’ near the top right is annoying. What am I supposed to think? That I WON’T get an internet rate? I’m using the internet, aren’t I?
The typical American message that I’ll get as much as 70% off (near the top of the screen) is useless. When the Hilton now only charges me 600 dollars where it’s supposed to charge 2000 dollars for a night, it still won’t mean I’ll even start to consider spending that much on a night’s stay. It might be a good deal, but I won’t be interested.
Having said all this, I -do- appreciate the possibility to search for hotels by address. But I suppose this was included to more easily persuade regular guests to a particular hotels to switch to HR. It won’t be me, but I can see there’s a market for this out there.
Outside of the budget airlines, I’ve always found booking plane tickets online very cumbersome as, with the budget airlines, you KNOW you will get the lowest price whereas with an online booking agent, you KNOW that the next online booking agent offers another price, sometimes more, sometimes less.
A quick test for a flight from Amsterdam to Jo’burg in April next year, through HR.com and through the Dutch website D-Reizen.nl resulted in comparable (but different!) prices with different airlines. No reason to start using HR then.
The same goes for car rental bookings. Pricing structures are so opaque, it’s often impossible to know whether you’re getting a good deal or not. However, on the HR website, it’s good to see it’s actually possible to compare prices from many different car rental companies. A quick search for a car rental in April next year for Windhoek and for Amsterdam showed that this comparison is useful as prices between different rental agencies differ wildly (duh!) and you now get a quick and easy to read overview.
The vacation package booking engine on HR is, well, a challenge. The interface is clunky and its suggested hotel for a flight from Amsterdam and a two week stay in Nice (France), resulted in a suggested 3200 dollar hotel bill, with a 1700 dollar hotel bill lower on the page (and a hotel bill through BH again half that).
I know it’s been the travel industry’s holy grail to be able to offer a one-stop-shop for complete travel deals but, again, this attempt shows it’s not called a holy grail for nothing.
So, in conclusion, will I ever use HotelReservations.com in the future? Well, actually, I just might. Not to book flights, packages or hotels. But the car rental comparison engine is useful.