There are 2 basic principles behind how 3rd-party channels behave, no matter whether they are being contracted directly by the hotels or not:
- They want to “steal” more and more bookings from your booking engine and other channels;
- They don’t want you, hotelier, to detect them.
It’s no news that we are no longer referring to Amoma and other uncontracted OTA’s only; the big and very well known guys couldn’t simply let other players come into play and get such a huge slice of this yummy cake (hotel distribution), without batting an eye.
In fact, they didn’t. But for most it’s not yet clear how they act. Thus, it’s more difficult to stop them doing so.
Besides, the 2 points above remain the key factors upon which also Booking and Expedia nowadays play a big role in this FIT/negotiated-rates-all-of-a-sudden-turned-into-public-rates game.
Today, specifically (but I’ll tell about Expedia as well, in another post) I want to show you how Booking makes use of its Booking.basic program and how it shows up, depending on different conditions.
Example: 5-start hotel in Italy.
I am currently in Germany and, guess what, Booking knows that. While I start my research by entering the hotel name on Google, I clicked on the paid ad of Booking and I was offered with the results in German:
Just remember, the hotel is in Italy, I am in Germany. For 3 nights, the Booking.basic price is almost € 500 cheaper than the cheapest public rate.
In my role, one of the most useful tool I have been using to audit hotels around the globe is a tiny little VPN system. It simply allows me to connect to almost any other country of the world, therefore simulating how the results may be different, depending on where the search comes from.
Time to use my VPN tool now. Connected to Italy, cleared my cookies, so that Booking cannot recognize me anymore, and started the exact same search.
This time, directly on Booking.com. Since I was not coming from Google, who previously detected me as being in Germany, and considering I am now logged in as a Genius user, Booking.com shows me the results in English. This is because my last search as a logged on user was in English.
Here’s the result:
Weird, uh? Actually not weird because of the cheaper price as compared to my previous search, but because it’s cheaper even though I am now connecting from Italy, same country of the hotel.
Unfortunately it’s impossible to know the exact reasons, however, algorithmic-wise it doesn’t seem difficult to explain and it may be something like this: since I am a Genius user, Booking basically knows who I am and where I am from: those are all easy information to detect by simply tracking, for example, my address or my telephone number.
In other words, even though I am connecting from Italy, Booking assumes I am not related to the hotel. Hence, it keeps showing me cheaper results to entice me into buying from them.
So I decided to make another test by logging out my Booking account, clearing my cookies again (this is sooo important) and launch a new search, same hotel, same dates:
And there it is. As if by magic, no more .basic!
Remember the second point I mentioned at the beginning of this posts: OTA’s do NOT want you to detect them doing this kind of things, because they are very borderline, in my humble opinion way over the edge. Besides, it’s also something that it’s difficult for them to explain to you, in case you would notice.
Long story short, my last search above is the exact same search the staff of the hotel could have made.
In fact, this hotel was not aware of such thing, so sure that a popup keeps showing up on their website to all users, informing them about “Only here, Best Rate Guaranteed”. But when it’s so easy for people abroad to actually detect cheaper rates somewhere else, you understand that this Best-Rate-Guaranteed promise falls apart in no time and, worse thing, it automatically generates a sense of distrust in the prospect, that it’s then difficult to repair.
HOW CAN YOU DO THAT WITHOUT A VPN?
First, a professional and stable VPN like the one I have (Express VPN) costs something like less than 9 bucks a month. And there is absolutely no technical knowledge needed, it’s as easy as turn on a light, literally.
There are also open source options, but my honest opinion, I would suggest you to avoid them as not enough secure.
But ok, if you don’t have and don’t want to buy a VPN tool, you can ask someone you know abroad, a relative, a friend, a (ex) colleague. It takes no more than 5 minutes to run a test like the one above.
If you are really out of options, just drop me an email and I’ll do it for you 🙂
OK, WHAT NEXT?
When Booking.basic was released end of 2018, it was still a sort of Beta phase: essentially Booking was just testing it, to collect data and information, upon which they would have then decided how to best set up the program to make more and more money.
Mirai did a great job at finding this out and made everything clearer for hoteliers by writing an interesting article, available here.
Initially, there was a way to see the wholesaler behind those rates: it was enough to look into the source code of the page on Booking showing a .basic rate, search for “wholesaler_id” and you might have ended up seeing either value “ct” (CTrip) or “ag” (Agoda).
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. First, this tricky thing of looking into the source code, doesn’t return any information. Second, it’d be pretty much the case that there are more and more players other than Agoda and CTrip reselling their rates to Booking.
Ultimately the only solution would be to make the reservation and see how it flows in. In fact, you will not receive the reservation via Booking, but via the wholesaler who initially re-sold your rates to it.
Besides, even without making the reservation, you could simply ask your Market Manager at Booking, as long as you can provide them with some proof of what you are stating. And here is where I would love to hear your feedback: as soon as you detect a situation similar to the one I just explained, make sure to pull out some screenshot showing the different prices depending on different locations.
Now send them to your Market Manager at Booking, asking for an explanation. It wouldn’t surprise me if different hotels will be given different reasons. This is, by the way, something Expedia is extremely good at. But like I said, this is something I will talk more about in another post. And I promise, it’s going to be fun 🙂