How (Not) to Use Booking to Save Money

How (Not) to Use Booking to Save Money

Using Booking  to save is a great idea! But is it really? Always?
In this post, I will explain how it works and how you can take advantage of the situation to your benefit using the web to plan your trip.

How to use to save:

If you’re a passionate traveler, you’ve certainly used Booking to book your accommodations.
Here are a series of tips to follow if you want to learn how to use Booking to its fullest saving potential, employing some “tricks”:

  1. Register on the portal. Enter your details and let yourself be profiled. Like all search engines, Booking tracks all the actions you perform within it.If you want to use Booking to save, you need to provide its algorithm with all the necessary information so it shows you results consistent with your expectations and within the budget you want to spend: if you always book budget hotels, Booking will show you the cheaper ones first.
  2. Use Booking’s weapons against the portal itself: it’s a great way to use Booking to save.This practice is not ethical and is quite unfair, but it is so widely used that even the “poor” accommodation managers have gotten used to it.Here’s how it works:
    • when performing a search, you should first set the filter (right column) to display only accommodations that offer “free cancellation”.
    • book (many days before your scheduled arrival) in all the structures that suit your preferences (based on price, location, and your tastes) and note the date by which you can cancel the reservation without paying anything.
    • in the following days, return to the portal (several times a day) and perform your search again: you’ll see better offers appear! Indeed, the Booking algorithm “will have noticed” your need to stay in a city on specific days and will have “alerted” all competitors of the facilities where you have booked. If some accommodations are implementing offer strategies to counter the competition from hotels in their city, you will benefit!
    • only when your trip is imminent (and still within the free cancellation terms) will you decide where it is convenient (and where you want) to stay. At this point, don’t forget to cancel all the bookings you made in the previous days.
  3. Secure a discounted rate.
    Are you a regular traveler?
    Do you like to take advantage of offers to travel as cheaply as possible?If you want to use Booking to its maximum saving potential, make it a habit to visit the platform even when you are not actively looking for accommodation (even if you don’t actually have to leave).Visit the Booking site and perform searches by setting filters on offers and discounts.You might find offers in luxury accommodations discounted by up to 80%! At that point, don’t hesitate!Take advantage of the free cancellation function (always check that it’s active) and book your stay at a discounted price.Later (calmly), you can plan your trip to the tourist destination where you found the offer, or, if you can’t leave or have changed your mind, you can cancel the reservation.In practice, you can use Booking just like in the ’90s when people used “last-minute” flights to travel around the world with little money.Remember?
    There were people who went to the airport with their suitcase ready (with both winter and summer clothes) and waited for the last-minute offers to leave for any destination in the world!

    Ah, the good old days, unfortunately gone….

    Take advantage of the Super Deal and Super Secret Offer options.
    If your goal is to use Booking to save, when you register on the portal (or even later), subscribe to the Newsletter and authorize Booking (and its partners) to send you promotional messages.

    As already mentioned, the Booking algorithm will take into account all your searches, the preferences you have expressed using filters, and the bookings you have made.

    You will be sent the best offers in line with your profile, your tastes, and your desires!

    All you need to do is purchase once to be “promoted” to a more privileged list and receive increasingly tempting offers!

    You will be “marked” as a user inclined to purchase (in case of advantageous offers) and “magically” you will start to receive offers aligned with the searches you have performed (and the bookings canceled) on the Booking portal. Become a Genius customer.

    Loyalty programs always work. They are one of the timeless pillars of Marketing. Booking has its loyalty program called “Genius”.

    All users of the portal automatically become Genius customers if they complete at least two bookings in two years.

    Just book using Booking once a year for two consecutive years to access the first level.

    If you complete five bookings in two years, you will have access to the second level (greater discounts).

    Once in the Genius program, we can set filters to view only the offers reserved for members of the loyalty program.

    At the first level, the discount is 10%. At the second level, the discount can reach (not always) up to 15% and you get access to free “Upgrades”.

    Booking also advertises “Free Breakfast” for “Genius” customers of the second level (as if there are still hotels that don’t include it).

These are my tips for using Booking to save, but if you really want to find a way to travel and stay all over the world spending less (compared to Booking), I advise you NOT to use Booking to save.

How (Not) to Use Booking to Save Money

Why I advise you NOT to use Booking to save

To fully understand why I advise against using Booking to save on accommodation expenses, we need to take a step back and remember the origins of the world’s most famous (and used) booking site:

Booking.com: The Idea

Back in 1996, the Dutch entrepreneur Geert-Jan Bruinsma had the idea of using the internet to directly connect tourists with hotels, avoiding the intermediation of travel agencies.

From 1996 to 2000, the startup remained almost invisible, but then Stef Noorden was appointed CEO, and in 2006 (when the phenomenon had already exploded), booking.nl was purchased by Priceline (which still exists today and offers services very similar to Booking).

From 2006 onwards, Booking’s success was unstoppable (until today). The primary reason for such rapid success is not only to be found in users’ need to avoid the intermediation of agencies but also in that of hotels which, due to the very fast spread of internet use, had to equip themselves with an online booking system.

By joining Booking, hotels quickly, easily, and freely solved all their problems:

  • Equipping themselves with a digital booking platform
  • Being easily found by users
  • Avoiding the cost of creating and positioning their own website

Let’s take another step back: in 2006, it wasn’t easy to create a website. Very few knew how to do it, and the costs were prohibitive (thousands of euros!).
Blogger” had existed since 1999, but few were capable of using the “made in Google” platform, while “WordPress” (2005) was taking its first steps.
At that time, no one thought it was possible to create a website independently and without a degree in computer science!

Instead, Booking solved everything in a few simple steps: just register on the portal, and in a few minutes, the hotel was equipped with the best (and most well-known) booking system in the world.

In a few months, the tourism sector around the world changed forever, and the role of Travel Agencies, Travel Agents, and Tour Operators was significantly reduced. A historic revolution.

Booking.com: What are the reasons for its great success?

The great advantage for hotels was the simplicity of using the site and all the services connected to the portal registration:

  • Booking’s Customer Care is still unmatched: they take care of everything, leaving the hotel only to provide the service.
  • Secure and guaranteed payments for both the hotel and the customer. In case of problems, Booking responds and solves them: refunds and payments are doubly guaranteed.
  • Customers have the opportunity to browse the site and choose and evaluate all possible alternatives without any obligation and without leaving home or the office.
  • Customers and Hotels no longer have to navigate through a myriad of offers that varied based on different agreements with Agencies and Tour Operators. The price is unique (almost always, because then competitors also arrived for Booking), secure, and can be locked by booking without obligation (in most cases).
  • The possibility to cancel the reservation (optionable by the hotel) offers the customer more flexibility.
  • The customer who books through Booking relieves the hotel from managing everything: All necessary communications occur between customers and Booking.
  • The customer can contact support using email, dedicated chat, or even by speaking with an operator who, in real-time, is capable of solving any kind of problem and supporting the customer (also in the hotel’s interest) to conclude the booking.
  • In case of a dispute with the customer, Booking resolves the dispute (not the Hotel) and is able to offer very quickly alternatives to the hotel that was found to be different from expectations or not fully satisfying for the customer.
  • Booking constantly adds new services to its offering. Today, it’s possible to use the portal to book car rentals, restaurants, tourist services, and more.

How (Not) to Use Booking to Save Money

Using Booking to save. But who pays the price of Booking.com?

So far, I have listed all the reasons that explain the incredible success and spread of Booking. But if your goal is to use Booking to save, we must (again) take a step back and ask ourselves a series of questions.

The first and foremost is the following: what does Booking gain by being so efficient?

The answer is straightforward and was well understood by hoteliers (when it was too late): for every reservation made through the portal, Booking retains a commission that averages 15% but varies depending on the Ranking of the property, its location, the number of other properties nearby, and, in some cases, reaches 20%.

For every reservation you make using its site, Booking retains up to 20%!

Moreover, you must consider (and be aware of) another aspect that contributes to determining the price you will pay for your accommodation: to improve their ranking, tourist facilities offer Booking varying percentages.

Obviously, the more they pay, the greater visibility they will have on the portal (but also the higher the markup applied on the initial price).

How (Not) to Use Booking to Save Money

Using Booking to save: The Booking Paradox

From 2006 to today, many things have changed. Today, using the internet is something we’re accustomed to, not even requiring a computer as we’re practically always connected using smartphones.

Using Booking has become a habit that has almost entirely replaced Travel Agencies and direct contact with tourist facilities.

The ease of use of the platform, combined with the good results it guarantees, has led many hotels to delegate all marketing, customer care, and reservation management to Booking, limiting themselves to cleaning the rooms and managing the guest’s stay.

The end result is the absence of a management policy external to Booking. A poor example of entrepreneurial management of tourism enterprises: more than 28 million entrepreneurs around the world have surrendered 15% of their profits to Booking!

An even more negative aspect is the lack of a pricing policy: many facilities have given up on external promotion to Booking and limit themselves to improving their presence on the portal.

The commission retained by Booking entirely falls on the final customer, who, effectively, pays a service at a higher price in exchange for Booking’s services.

Think about this the next time you book using the world’s most famous reservation portal.

Using Booking to save: the ultimate solution is NOT to use Booking

2020 is the year of the global pandemic and the paralysis of tourism worldwide. For tourist facilities, it was an incalculable damage but also an opportunity to stop the crazy race to “sell out” rooms and take advantage of the forced break to reorganize the structure and strategies of tourist facilities.

The phenomenon had already started, but this tragic moment should have offered the opportunity to rethink marketing strategies and revenue optimization: today, the causes that led to the spread of Booking no longer exist:

  • Creating a website has become easy and accessible to everyone
  • Reservation management systems are available at a low cost
  • Social network marketing is an excellent channel for getting noticed
  • Tools available to tourist facilities for direct communication with customers are simple to use, economical (if not free), and widespread. Consider WhatsApp.

More and more tourism operators, hotels, and tourist activities are organizing themselves to be reached directly, on their websites, and practicing rates competitive with those they themselves offer on Booking. They just deduct the 15% commission.

If the reason you’re reading this post is really to learn how to use Booking to save, my advice to everything is:

  • Use Booking to find the hotels you are interested in or like in the tourist destination you want to visit.
  • Use Google to find the website (or direct contacts) of the chosen facility.
  • Contact the facility directly and ask for a quote (specifying that you have already seen the rates on Booking) or use the direct booking system of the website (of the facility, not Booking) to book.

This way, you should obtain a price at least 10/15% lower than the rates found on Booking.

WARNING: Booking now has more than one competitor, and other portals like Expedia and Trivago may have even lower rates! Why is that? There are operators who buy hotel rooms months in advance and in large quantities.

This way, they obtain extremely advantageous prices. Later, they resell the rooms at a lower price than that practiced by the facilities (and Booking).

These are operators who make large, high-risk investments and sometimes, to recover their invested capital, do not hesitate to resell the rooms at incredibly low prices.

In practice, these operators “bet” on the performance of tourist seasons and the probability of demand for the rooms they have purchased months (or years) in advance.

Then, they apply their marketing strategies based on “demand” starting from the very low price at which they bought the rooms.

If demand is high, the price will be (only) slightly lower than the prices practiced by hotels and Booking.

If, however, demand is not high, they will have no scruples (unlike hotels) to resell the rooms at prices far below the listing price (because they must recover their investment).

So, if you really want to use Booking to save, I recommend following all my advice and waiting to book only after doing further research using Google to be absolutely sure you’ve booked your accommodation at the best possible rate.

At this point, after definitively abandoning the idea of using Booking to save, your first option will be to contact the facilities directly and request a quote on which you will then negotiate, making known the price advertised on booking.

Booking.com the future (in my opinion)

The long pause caused by the global pandemic has offered tourism operators the opportunity to reorganize the company organization.

In the near future, it is easy to imagine a reality where the number of hotels committed to shifting the source of bookings from Booking to their corporate site will increase.

In the coming years, traveler habits will change (once again), and Booking will have to scale back its role, perhaps shifting its source of monetization from commissions to advertising.

How does Travel Maker participate in this transformation?

We believe that travel (and the ability to travel) is an inalienable right of humanity.

The phenomenon that led to the incredible success of Booking was originated by an epochal transformation in the habits of tourists looking for accommodations but above all in the marketing strategy of tourism entrepreneurs (hotels above all) who preferred to pay Booking the commissions that they previously paid to Travel Agencies (for a service that before the Internet was essential) and who delegated their entire marketing strategy to Booking’s algorithm.

Today, the only sensible strategy for tourism operators is to emancipate themselves from Booking and invest in their independent online presence (website and social networks) to regain direct contact with tourists.

Travel Maker is a project that aims solely to facilitate the possibility (that everyone should have) to organize and plan trips in total autonomy and avoiding any form of intermediation.

We are about to launch Triplannerr.com, a tool that will help tourists and operators to meet and interact directly.

The Blog is the tool that the project uses to communicate strategies, tricks, and tips for traveling independently but is especially a way to unite all people (tourists, operators, tour guides, and tourism operators) in a Community that gathers everyone who shares the goal of making the world a place where traveling is easy, simple, and accessible to everyone.

triplannerr

If you’re reading this blog, you’re an adventurous traveller, and I want to invite you to experience something unique.

We’re forming a Community of Travellers who will exclusively try out the new digital platform we’ve created for organising and planning trips and holidays completely independently and avoiding any form of intermediation.

“We believe that the free and spontaneous sharing of information is the key to making ‘travelling’ a habit achievable by everyone.”

When you return from a trip, you possess valuable information: the Hotels, Restaurants, Tour Guides, and experiences you’ve lived through!

These are pieces of information you’ll never use again but are indispensable for someone wanting to take a trip similar to yours.

If you’ve lived an unforgettable experience, you’ve brought home all the information needed to replicate it!

So, why not share it? Why not leave other travellers the information you collected on-site or during your experience? This way, others can save time (and money) and live travel experiences based on your stories.

We aim to create a database of information available to everyone. Join the project, and you too can find the information needed to plan your next trip thanks to the help of the community!

We are creating a digital platform where you can find (and exchange) all the necessary information to plan and organise trips and holidays completely independently!

All this thanks to the “principle of sharing” and the solidarity among travellers who share information gathered during their travel experiences.

If you want to participate in the final phase of the development of this new digital platform and become a Beta Tester (for free) by sending critiques, suggestions, and new ideas…

This post is also available in: Italian

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