I am sure you would all agree that booking a holiday can be a touch stressful. You need to find the right place in the right location, providing everything you want for you and your family, with availability when you can go, you also need to arrange to get there and all within your budget. It's quite a big ask. Thank goodness for large online travel agencies that list hundreds of properties, enabling you to find just what you want - so much more convenient than having to head off to the High Street travel agents as we did in the past ... or heaven forbid, trawl through the adverts in the back of a magazine with so little information available.
Now, in the comfort of your own home, you can search through the listings, check amenities, availability, price and as soon as you find the place of your holiday dreams click on the instant book or book now button and pay by credit card. Job done and dusted. Within 24 hours the owner will have agreed to your booking and except for the packing you're ready to go ....
Hopefully you'll be able to sort out all the transport details in that time and I sincerely hope your boss really can agree to the days off you have asked for ... which of course becomes even more complicated when there are more people in the party going.
But I digress a little - what I really want to focus on in this post is the cost of instant booking. Have you ever, for one moment, considered how much you are paying for this ease of instant booking? Online travel agents need to make money and they are also keen to make as much money as possible for their shareholders so are you, in fact, paying more than you think for this instant booking "convenience"?
When the internet first took off owners were able to advertise with online travel agents who simply listed properties leaving you to contact the owner and book direct. You could have a conversation with the owner, checking everything they offered was what you wanted and pay direct when you were happy with your choice. To advertise, the owner paid an annual subscription to the site and you, the holidaymaker, would only be charged the price the owner wanted for the holiday with no hidden commission or booking/service fees.
Not so with instant booking. Now the holiday home owner lists for free and one or both of you is charged commission and/or booking/service fees by the online travel agent. But has anyone any idea how much these fees are? You might be surprised:
Airbnb:Guest - 10-15%
Owner - 3%
So for a property charged at £1000 for a week, Airbnb will take £30 from the owner and will charge the holidaymaker up to an additional £150 for the week.
There is no owner subscription option available on Airbnb so owners and holidaymakers will always be charged. There have even be cases reported where a 20% fee was levied to the holidaymaker.
HolidayLettingsThis is a subsidiary of Trip Advisor:
Guest - 10-17%
Owner - 3%
Here you could be paying an extra £170 for that £1000 holiday.
On HolidayLettings owners can also advertise on a subscription basis where you should pay no extras but is is not always clear which owners are which.
BookingGuest - Nothing
Owner - 15-18%
You might think that you will not be charged extra using booking.com but think again. Owners may not be happy losing up to 18% of each holiday booked and many will add this on top of the price that they would normally charge if you booked direct. Now you could be paying an extra £180 for your week.
There is no subscription option and all holidays booked are charged a commission.
HouseTripGuest - 10-21%
Owner - 3%
OUCH - here you could be charged a whopping £210 extra when booking through Housetrip.
HomeAway/Owners Direct/VRBO etcNow a subsidiary of Expedia which includes many companies based around the world such as Abritel (French), FeWo-Direct (German) etc. All these companies have now been changed to look the same and to charge the same fees which have recently been changed to add a "service fee" to the holidaymaker if they book online rather than direct.
So the fees via OD/HA/VRBO are a bit complicated:
Guest - 4-10% sefrvice fee if booked online via the company. Nothing if booked direct but the company is actively discouraging direct booking and removing links to owner websites. They would like all bookings to be made via their website so they can add the service fee and may force all owners to sign up for this in the near future.
Owner - 8% if on a commission listing
Owner - nothing if on a subscription (although the holidaymaker may believe that the service fee is being charged by the owner when it isn't - it goes to OD/HA/VRBO etc)
Again, the owner may pass some or all of this 8% charge onto the holidaymaker.
Accurate Prices, Discounts etcThere is also an additional problem for owners using the instant booking systems. Not all the companies they advertise with allow them to price their holidays accurately so they may not be able to pass on low occupancy discounts, reductions for longer stays etc. Also, as nightly rates often vary depending on how long a holidaymaker wants to stay, the price quoted may not always be the best price as owners struggle to correctly quote with limited pricing structures available to them. Six nights in a cottage or gite will generally be less per night than two nights per night but the owner may not be able to show this on instant booking sites.
Going on holiday is an expensive business and no-one wants to pay more than is absolutely necessary. I think everyone would agree that hidden fees are the worst so if you want to make sure you are not paying more than you should then consider booking direct with the holiday home owner and not through instant booking on a large online travel agency. By all means look on the sites but if you find something you like and it is only available with instant booking then use the power of Google to track down the owner's own website and book direct. To do this look carefully through the listing as they may mention their name or location or see if any photos have the name of the property on them. You might have to be a bit of a detective but you could save yourself a small fortune by booking direct.
Owners are now also clawing back some of the internet from the online booking companies and there are Facebook groups where members can find cottages/gites to book direct. Why not come and join the one I am an admin on - Book Your Holiday Direct with the Owner.
Oh and our website? No need to be a detective! Just visit Eco-Gites of Lenault.
What do you think about instant booking fees? Are you happy or would you rather pay a lesser amount or book direct? Do let me know in a comment.
The percentage figures were kindly supplied by Steve Robertson of Essar Holiday Lets