The spread of the coronavirus has taught us something: Avoid third-party booking sites. Their cancellation policies simply seem nonexistent. Online travel agencies like booking.com, expedia.com, hotels.com and others pretend they have no responsibility regarding cancellations. Read why you should avoid third-party travel booking sites.
Even if you’re looking for an email address to customer service, it’s nonexistent – or at least very well hidden. When Maria from Norway purchased a week-long hotel stay in Greece using the booking site hotels.com to participate in a conference there, global pandemic was the last thing on her mind.
Wild West conditions
Due to the corona outbreak the conference was cancelled and Maria contacted the hotel directly and asked for a refund. The hotel replied that she had to make the claim to booking.com. So, she did, and the answer was, she had to contact the hotel.
This policy reminds us of the old Wild West times of hotel distribution and the early years of unruly online travel agencies, before rate parity and best rate guarantees. Online travel booking agents have exploded in popularity in recent years and there’s been a tendency to extorting money out of local hotels. We have spoken to a dozen independent hotel owners from across Scandinavia who believe these online services are damaging their businesses, ripping off consumers and effectively forcing them into unfair agreements.
An unprecedented number of cancellation requests
Now, booking sites are scrambling to handle an unprecedented number of cancellation requests, and many customers say they are falling short.
The Consumer Council in Norway sent the following questions to all the major online booking sites: «What consumer rights do you give customers who book a hotel through you in cases where the mediated hotel does not provide accommodation at an agreed price and / or standard? Do you want to compensate the customer in such cases? ”.
None of the respondents took this responsibility, as they are only web-based intermediaries between hotels and customers, and the same seems to apply for refunds even if the hotels typically provide online booking services with discounted rates between 20% and 40% with the caveat that these rates cannot be offered to customers who are booking directly.
Why you shouuld avoid third-party travel booking sites
Online travel agencies are dependent on the decisions of their hotel, so they can’t preemptively issue a refund to someone without someone at the hotel signing off on that refund. But taken into account all the time and trouble involved in getting a refund, maybe you should consider to book directly next time you’re making a reservation. You cannot lose. If something happens, it might be easier – and cheaper.
Why you should Avoid third-party travel booking sites, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Frank Eiffert/Unsplash