It IS possible to beat the prices offered by deep discounters like Hotels.com.
At least that's what one sales manager at a West Coast hotel told me just moments ago.
First, a little background. A hotel room-night is one of the most perishable commodities out there. If the room is unoccupied overnight, there is absolutely no way to recoup that lost revenue; the opportunity is gone forever. So, when it doesn't look like a hotel will sell out, it may turn to a discounter (or discounters) that sell the rooms for them. Their services, however, don't come cheap. The discounter's commission can be quite high -- 30 percent or more.
In this case, I obtained exact dollar figures because the hotel accidentally sent me an e-mail with the rate Hotels.Com is paying the hotel, which I then compared to how much I was being charged. Specifically, the undiscounted room rate was quoted at $169 per night. However, Hotels.Com was offering a 20 percent "Summer Vacation" discount, so my final rate was $135.20 per night. The hotel's cut? Only $96.06.
What does that mean to the savvy traveler?
It means you could snag a real bargain if the hotel you're looking at is listed on a discounter's service at a lower rate than the hotel's web site. Why? If you deal directly with the hotel, they won't have to pay the discounter's commission and may be willing to pass some of their savings to you.
How does it work?You'll likely have to speak to a sales manager, as the desk clerks probably won't have the authority to help you. Explain that you saw a rate of $xxx on Hotels.Com (or other site), and you wanted to know if they could offer you a more favorable rate if you worked directly with them.
In the case of the hotel I just dealt with, the sales manager told me to call her directly next time, and she "could probably do even a little better" than the discounters.
If it saves you money and makes the hotel more than it would have, that's a "win-win". It's certainly worth a phone call.
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