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Hotel Direct or Online Travel Supersite? Where to book

Hotel Loyalty Programs (Hotel Loyalty)

These bookings qualify for the Hotel’s Loyalty Programs and are made directly with the hotel or a full-service travel agent. The strategy here is to become loyal to a hotel brand loyalty program (for example, Marriott and their 30+ brands under the Bonvoy loyalty program or Accor having the popular Fairmont brand in Canada under the ALL loyalty program. The hotel industry is dominated by a relatively small number of brand families, so there is a brand family for you.

Online Travel Agency Loyalty Programs (OTA Loyalty)

These bookings are made directly with an online travel agent or through a travel agent. The OTA has a contract with the hotel that determines their rates and the terms and conditions associated with those rates. While they do not qualify for hotel loyalty programs, most qualify for online travel agent loyalty programs. This strategy means you are loyal to the seller, not the hotel itself. You receive loyalty rewards issued by the travel agent (Expedia, Hotels etc.), not the hotel and the benefits you receive are from the OTA, not the hotel. 

Frequent Travellers

Frequent travellers should focus their loyalty on one of the two programs above. But which is better? That depends. 

1. Hotel Loyalty

As a rule, hotel loyalty points have a higher redemption value than online hotel aggregators. The points, when redeemed, are buying you more hotel room for your dollar than an OTA Loyalty program. And just like with Airline loyalty, the Hotel Loyalty program points provide even more value when redeemed for higher-end hotels.

Further, the value you sacrifice as a loyalty member (late check-out, free wifi, welcome amenity, favourable cancellation date etc.) to save $5-10/night booking with an OTA usually outweighs the nightly savings. A good travel agent will tell you when the OTA rate should be preferred, notwithstanding your loyalty status at the hotel. That’s right, full-service travel agents book OTA rates too. 

If most of your travel takes you from city to city, it is better to devote your loyalty to a Hotel Loyalty program. The large brands; Marriott, Accor, Hilton, and Hyatt, usually cover the downtown cores and airports well, ensuring you earn and receive recognition when you travel on business. These same Hotel Loyalty programs cover resort locations and upscale hotels where point redemption can be very valuable. Dollar for dollar, as a rule of thumb, the more expensive the room/hotel, the less you pay on a point-per-dollar basis. So you can earn at work and redeem it for leisure. 

Therefore, if you frequently stay at the same hotels, you should devote your loyalty to one primary and one secondary Hotel Loyalty program. 

How to book: directly with the hotel or through a travel agent to ensure that you earn and receive loyalty status. Bookings made through travel agents are priced the same as direct bookings but also provide other benefits. 

Why not just book at an OTA? Well, you have to be very, very cautious here. OTA sites seldom, if ever, earn hotel recognition points or recognize your loyalty status. Most people rightly presume they will earn their usual loyalty points and be recognized for their tier status regardless of how they book. Online booking sites almost never (we have never seen one) point out when loyalty is not recognized or earned. However, the truth can be found in the various hotel brand policies. Here are a few examples:

Accor: Excludes tour operator rates…

Marriott: Excludes online travel channels or other third-party channels, including, without limitation, expedia.com, hotwire.com, priceline.com, orbitz.com, booking.com, travelocity.com; or

Hilton: Excludes third-party website bookings (irrespective of rate paid); and "opaque" channel bookings where the brand may or may not be known at the time of purchase.

Hyatt: Excludes: rooms booked on third-party online retailers (such as Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Priceline.com, Tripadvisor.com, Inspirato.com, home-sharing sites, or any other third-party online/mobile travel portal or bookings made directly on and TripAdvisor Instant Book)

Nothing is more shocking for a Hotel Loyalty program member than to book their favourite hotel through an OTA only to discover on check-in that they neither earn points nor are recognized for their stay. 

Please understand we like OTAs and their rates and sometimes they are the right way to go; in fact, we offer Booking.com and Bedsonline.com rates and frequently recommend them. We commonly recommend the OTA rate over a Hotel Loyalty booking if the discount warrants it. 

The important point to remember is that Hotel prices change frequently and you must continue checking your reservation until the cancellation date to see if prices have dropped. And yes, of course, we want you to book with us, not just any travel agent; we know how to navigate the various online offerings to find the best value. We have been doing so since Expedia sold its first ticket in 1995, one year after we opened for Business. Excuse us; back to the blog. Our complimentary Hotel Concierge feature which is only available to registered users notifies you of price drops prior to your cancelation date and offers immediate rebooking options.

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Here are a few reasons why an OTA rate may be better. 

2. OTA loyalty

If you are not loyal to any hotel brand, it may be better to earn the OTA Loyalty points and status rather than the hotel brands. If you travel mostly for pleasure and often stay in new locations, an OTA Loyalty program may be better suited to you. That way, you are not restricted to using your points in the hotel brand family and can enjoy a discount or stay at smaller and non-affiliated hotels. Though keep in mind, hotel aggregator brand points are dollar replacement points, so you will not enjoy the better value luxury or resort redemptions Hotel Loyalty programs offer.

How to book: directly with the Online Travel Agency: Booking.com, Bedsonline.com, Expedia or through your travel agent. You can find online rates such as Booking.com and Bedsonline at bnwtravel.com. 

Infrequent Traveller

Pick the cheapest online provider. It really doesn’t matter whether you earn points or recognition for your status because you haven't any. Just book the cheapest. If you are not entitled to benefits and perks due to your lack of status at a particular hotel, choose the cheapest rate either directly with the Online Travel Agent or through your travel agent. 

Of course, a few of the tips we provided earlier for frequent travellers apply here as well, such as checking the price of your reservation frequently before the cancellation date to benefit from any price drops that might occur before you check-in. If you become a registered user at bnwtravel.com, we will do that for you. (Hotel Concierge)

Finally, consider a credit card that grants you immediate loyalty status. Once you have a preferred status with a hotel, adopt a Hotel Loyalty strategy. 

Appendix 

Examples of Hotel Loyalty Program Stay Eligibility Criteria

Accor Terms & Conditions Read here

7.2.1 Rates for Eligible Booking Stays to Earn Points

Only Eligible Stays booked at an eligible rate enable the Member to benefit from the Programme. Eligible booking rates include all public, corporate and promotional rates, except for the following:

  •  Room rates for group bookings when the rooms are invoiced to and paid for globally by the organizer (excluding the Meeting Planner promotional offer);
  • Room rates for crew members (airlines, shipping or other, companies, etc.);
  • Heartist Rates (Accor employees, employees of Partner companies and service
    providers in the Accor group);
  • Tour operator rates. Rates eligible to redeem points are generally indicated on the Website. When booking, the Member can redeem Rewards Points at the payment stage if permitted by the location, booking and rate. 

Marriott Terms & Conditions Read here

2.1.f. Non-Qualifying Rates. A “Non-Qualifying Rate” is a rate a Member pays for a Stay in a guest room at a Participating Property, which does not qualify to earn Points or Miles, as well as membership tier benefits. Non-Qualifying Rates are those booked using the following methods:

Hilton Terms & Conditions Read here

Accrual of Points

Hilton Honors Points can be earned for hotel stays only at hotels within the Hilton Portfolio. Participating hotels within the Hilton Portfolio are subject to change at any time, without notice. Consult individual hotel listing on Hilton.com or at HiltonHonors.com to determine participation. If a hotel ceases to be a hotel within the Hilton Portfolio, all stays subsequent to such date will not be eligible to earn Hilton Honors Points, regardless of when the reservation was made.

To earn Hilton Honors Points or credit toward tier status for hotel stays, a Member must be a registered, paying and staying guest at a participating hotel within the Hilton Portfolio and meet all of the conditions described herein. Members may also earn Hilton Honors Points for eligible charges to Hilton Honors credit cards, a list of such credit cards is available here, subject to terms outlined in their Cardmember Agreement. See the Credit Card Terms and Conditions for additional details. Points may also be earned for other activities as designated by Hilton Honors from time to time.

A "stay" is the total number of consecutive nights spent at the same hotel, whether or not a guest checks out and checks back in again. Specifically excluded from the definition of "stay" are the following types of ineligible stays: wholesale/tour operator packages; contracted crew rates; travel agency discount rates; packages exclusively for casino player card holders; unauthorized Members staying on Go Hilton Team Member or Family & Friends Travel Rates; stays secured utilizing Hilton Grand Vacations Club and Hilton Club timeshare programs, HiltonGetaways.com bookings; Hilton Grand Vacations marketing packages with a sales presentation requirement; complimentary or barter rooms; NET Group rates; Series Group or IT Group rates; contracted Entertainment or Encore rates; third party websites bookings (irrespective of rate paid); and "opaque" channel bookings where the brand may or may not be known at the time of purchase.

Hyatt Terms & Conditions Read here

“Ineligible Rates” are all rates other than Eligible Rates and include Free Night Awards, complimentary nights awarded in connection with Miraval’s Authentic Circle program, rooms booked on third-party online retailers (such as Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Priceline.com, Tripadvisor.com, Inspirato.com, home-sharing sites, or any other third-party online/mobile travel portal or bookings made directly on Google and TripAdvisor Instant Book), traditional wholesale rates (examples include, without limitation, GOGO Worldwide Vacations, Pleasant Holidays, Tourico, and Hotelbeds), airline crew rates, airline employee rates, the travel agency employee rates, media rates, Club at the Hyatt discount stays, Hyatt employee or employee family or friends-and-family discount rates, airline interrupted-trip vouchers, or contracted rooms. (A “contracted room” is a room that has been reserved pursuant to a written and executed agreement between a hotel or resort and a corporation, government agency, or individual for a negotiated room rate in exchange for an agreed-upon number of rooms to be rented for an extended period of time.) Unless otherwise expressly indicated by Hyatt in writing, any rate offered by Apple Vacations, FunJet Vacations, Travel Impressions, Cheap Caribbean, Beachbound, Southwest Vacations, Blue Sky Tours Hawaii, and United Vacations or any other entity operated by Apple Leisure Group as part of its ALG Vacations business line (“ALG Vacations”) is also an Ineligible Rate.

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