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Hotel discounts for online bookers
Online bookers could be in line for travel discounts
Travellers could be in line for discounts on hotel room rates under a deal with two of the UK's largest online travel agents after an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into competition practices.
The tie-up involves Booking.com and Expedia, along with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), but customers must sign up to an online travel agent (OTA) or hotel membership scheme to benefit.
Travellers must also have made o ne undiscounted booking with the OTA or hotel they want to use to be eligible for future discounts.
The deal has been approved by the OFT, meaning that all OTAs and hotels that deal with the three businesses can offer discounts off headline room-only rates, provided these conditions are met.
It comes on the back of an OFT investigation centred on competition concerns that Booking.com and Expedia each entered into separate agreements with IHG, which restricted each OTA's ability to discount the rates at which room-only hotel accommodation bookings are offered to consumers.
The OFT said it has now closed its investigation.
Ann Pope, an OFT senior director, said: " The travel industry, fuelled by the internet, has seen significant changes in recent years, and we want to ensure those changes continue to work in consumers' interests.
"That is why we are pleased to have secured this outcome which, by allowing OTAs and hotels to offer discounts, should increase competition and mean travellers across Europe can benefit from reductions on hotel accommodation throughout the UK.
"By shopping around, people can compare the different discounts offered by hotels and OTAs, and ensure they get the best deal."
The discounts offered by OTAs will be funded through their commission or margins.
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I regularly take short breaks and use on-line booking services for the hotels. So far I've found booking.com has come out by far the best, particularly because many of their hotels offer free cancellation.
I fell out with hotels.com a couple of years ago after they edited out some negative comments I made about a hotel. When I complained they denied altering the review but I'd kept a copy of the original text that was posted.
Another service I used in past was Holiday Extras but I found they were starting to charge the same rates for several hotels as you could get by booking direct so there was no advantage. In fact I made one booking with them and found the hotel was running a 'special' so the room rate at the reception desk was actually less than they'd charged me.
Best deal right now seems to be on the Premier Inn website. I need a hotel at Heathrow in May and they are offering a pre-paid/no refunds deal of just £39 a night. The other advantage about booking direct is that you automatically qualify for their Good Night Guarantee whereas if you book through an online travel agent it has to be claimed through them and that, as I found to my cost two years ago, isn't easy.
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