By Leila N’Amara
In the age of “there’s an app for that” tech is all over the hospitality and tourism industry.
Want to book a quick flight? There’s an app for that.
Trying to find a cute boutique hotel? There’s an app for that.
Looking for the best tour? You guessed it, there’s an app for that.
Expedia, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, Viator, GrubHub, Eat24 are just some of the tech based companies created with the intention of making trip planning as easy as possible for the consumer.
The thing is, many of these companies are not as transparent as they should be about how they operate. You might be surprised to learn that anywhere from 15-30% of any services booked on third party websites and apps is kept as a commission.
Even though you might not experience any extra fees or hidden costs — you just might experience some inconveniences from booking through a third party. Let’s take a look at how using popular trip planning websites like Orbitz, TripAdvisor and Eat24 can quickly become the most inconvenient way of planning any vacation.
BOOKING YOUR HOTEL
You’ve found the perfect hotel for your trip and booked the room well in advance.
But, you didn’t book from the hotel website. You booked through Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor, Viator, Trivago or a similar third party website. We won’t judge — we love a good deal too!
So, what happens when you show up to your hotel and there’s something wrong with your booking?
Maybe the hotel is overbooked? Or they’ve given you a single bed when you need two twins and now there are no other rooms available to switch.
Since you booked through a third party, you’ll have to deal with them to resolve the issue — not the hotel. Instead of having the hotel sort out the booking error, you’ll need to call that third party website you booked through. You’ll likely be redirected to a call center on the other side of the globe. And you’ll likely deal with poor customer service that big conglomerates are well known for.
Whereas, if you had booked directly through the hotel — they would be going above and beyond to accommodate an upset guest in front of them — you wouldn’t have to go through a middle man.
BOOKING YOUR TOUR
TripAdvisor, a website travelers have relied on for years to find hotel and tour experiences, now allows travelers to book tours directly from their website.
Here’s the catch: traveler’s are not booking directly through the tour operator when they book tours from TripAdvisor. They are actually buying a tour from Viator — an online travel agency that TripAdvisor purchased for $200 million dollars.
TripAdvisor, quietly, has moved their business model away from being an objective third party review site. They are now essentially Viator in TripAdvisor’s clothing.
While you the consumer won’t have to experience any extra costs while booking through TripAdvisor/Viator (it’s the tour company that has to pay 20-30% of the tour costs to Viator, not the traveler) you might end up experiencing the downside of booking tours through a third party.
Say you get sick the day of your tour. Normally, you would just call that company and they could help you out. That’s not the case if you book on TripAdvisor/Viator.
What if you book a tour through TripAdvisor/Viator and need to cancel? Naturally, you’d go back to TripAdvisor and look for the company phone number. But, TripAdvisor no longer lists phone numbers or tour websites anymore. So, instead you call TripAdvisor/Viator to make that cancellation. You call them — and just like with Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline — they redirect you to a call center. With TripAdvisor/Viator’s 24 hour cancellation policy — it’s not likely they will bend the rules to offer you a full refund.
However, if you had booked directly through the tour company — they would be much more likely to accommodate any last minute changes to your booking. Not to mention you miss out on discount codes, like BOOKDIRECTLY for 10% off most tours at www.DYLANSTOURS.com
One of the perks of visiting a big city is getting to taste all of the amazing food delivered via GrubHub, Eat24, UberEats, Caviar, DoorDash and Postmates. Seriously — between these third party delivery websites and apps you can taste food from some of the best restaurants from the comfort of your hotel.
While some of these delivery apps do pass along a delivery charge to the consumers. It’s the restaurants that must give away 15-30% of each order to the third party delivery service. This could just be seen as another overhead cost for restaurants. But it does have a big impact on the guest ordering delivery too.
Something as simple as checking on your order is done in a very roundabout way.
Say you want to change something on your order. Or your order is running late. Or maybe something was wrong with your order. It won’t help you to call the restaurant.
First, you need to contact that third party delivery app.
Then you have to wait while that third party calls the restaurant before they can even get back to you.
All of these third party websites and apps are marketed as a way of making trip planning more convenient for travelers. But we’ve shown you here how easily it becomes inconvenient to have a middle man involved.
It begs the question: at what point does convenience become inconvenient?
We’re not sure it’s time to stop using third party booking services. Sometimes you really just need the quickest, cheapest, no frills options when traveling.
Other times, when you’re traveling with family or friends, dealing directly with hotels and tour companies isn’t just more practical — it’s a more personalized and memorable experience.