Booking Hotel, B & B, On Travel Websites Problematic for Tourists

Travel Websites Promote B & B in Oaxaca, Mexico Credit: Alvin Starkman

Travel Websites Promote B & B in Oaxaca, Mexico Credit: Alvin Starkman

Tourists booking hotels using travel websites may be surprised when their chosen accommodation fails to reply; but the hotelor B&B may be blameless.

 Tourists planning to stay in a small lodging facility such as a bed & breakfast, guest house or boutique hotel, occasionally get the erroneous impression that the accommodation about which they are inquiring is fully booked, deliberately not responding to their booking inquiry, or does not have adequate administrative practices in place.

Workings and Motivation of Travel Websites: Accommodations Booking Assistance to Travelers

There are literally hundreds of travel websites, most of which count hotels, bed & breakfasts and other lodging types in their stable of accommodations they offer to prospective travelers by providing booking assistance. Many such websites propose to commercial establishments such as these hotels and B&B style lodgings, an opportunity to enroll and be promoted gratuitously for a finite introductory period of time, in the hope that at its expiration the lodging will sign up and pay an annual fee for getting booking referrals. Many lodgings take up such offers, and then decide to discontinue for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they continue with a paid membership, and after a year or longer decide to discontinue their association with the travel website based on doing their own cost-benefit analysis.

Genesis of Problem Created by Travel Websites, for Tourists and Lodging Owners Alike

At times a problem subsequently arises, due to no fault of the hotel or B&B. Here’s the genesis of the problem and how it plays out.

On occasion a travel website will deliberately ignore the request of a lodging to be removed from its system, in the hope of convincing the lodging to re-join, meaning pay the annual or perhaps quarterly fee. The website will continue to send the lodging notice of tourists interested in booking with the accommodation, typically forwarding a brief message from the prospective customer, his or her last name and first initial, and proposed vacation dates. Absent is a phone number and email address, so of course the lodging, by design of the travel website, has no way of contacting the traveler, even to indicate that it is no longer associated with the travel website.

If the hotel, B&B or guest house pays the annual or quarterly renewal, the travel website forwards the traveler’s booking request, including of course contact information to the lodging, or it simply relays the lodging’s availability to the traveler. If the fee is not paid, the travel website does nothing, the result being that the traveler assumes that the lodging is fully booked, or is deliberately ignoring the request for information, or has inadequate administrative procedures in place.

The lodging still has access to its account on the travel website’s webpage, which typically shows the date and nature of inquiries as they build up over time; but the account is noted as inactive. In this way the travel website attempts to show the lodging that there have been inquiries and that by not paying up it is losing business. Sometimes the travel website simply refuses or neglects to remove these hotels, B&Bs and guest houses from its system, and their information remains available for perusal by vacationers. It is suggested that this may serve to help the website’s promotion of itself, its records showing more lodging members, though their status may be “inactive.”

Solution for the Vacationer to the Problem Created by Such Travel Websites Seeking Bookings

Travelers interested in booking can either assume the worst in terms of the accommodation in which they were initially interested, or consider the possibility of a glitch in the system. In the case of the latter, it is suggested that they seek out an alternate method of contacting the lodging, directly. They can use a different travel website, or Google the lodging name in the hope of finding its contact information through its own website or via an alternate travel website.

Solution for the Hotel, Bed & Breakfast or Guest House to the Booking Problem

The solutions to the problem for the particular lodging caught in the conundrum, are twofold. They can pay up and hope that they were wrong in their initial cost-benefit analysis. Or, they can themselves attempt to contact the client they know is interested in booking, by doing an end run, using Google or another search engine to ascertain contact information about the traveler based on the details which have in fact been disclosed by the travel website. These on occasion include city of residence, making the task a little easier.

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