Hotels

What’s Been My Experience With Hotel Booking Websites?  Which Is The Best?

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to travel to various parts of the world, particularly Asia, and would like to share my personal experience. For several years I used Latestays (AsiaWebDirect) to book my hotel rooms.

It was back in 2010 that I first used www.agoda.com. I haven’t looked back since that time. There are several reasons for this, but the first reason is a big one – I love their customer loyalty program – Agoda Rewards.

1. Agoda Rewards

Every time you go through Agoda, you can earn points for every stay. These points are equivalent to anywhere from 4 – 7% of each booking, which are converted into cash value. These can then be used as a credit towards future hotel bookings.

I gained 12,500 points for one stay while in Hong Kong which I quickly used towards a stay at Clark Imperial Hotel in the Philippines, allowing me to pay only about 25% of the listed hotel price. I currently have about 40 thousand reward points, which are worth about $80. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it does reward me for the business I’ve accumulated.

2. Method of Payment

Most hotels ask for a fee upfront and the remainder during final payment at the hotel. Agoda asks for the total up front when you book. Although a lot of people prefer the two installment structure, I like to avoid the confusion with my budgeting. Agoda also allows you to pay through Paypal. Filling in my credit card information when I’m travelling can be time consuming and possibly risky.

I’d rather use my Paypal for the sake of convenience and time (and so that I can avoid the risk of losing my credit cards when abroad).

3. Cancellation Procedure

Depending on the hotel, most Agoda rooms allow free cancellation. There’s only been one case when I had to cancel, and that was during the a tsunami evacuation in Sri Lanka in April 2012. Initially, the hotel refused to refund my money and there was plenty of hassle going back and forth through email. Finally, Agoda worked as the middleman to get the hotel to agree to the refund. They cleared the refund with Agoda, and Agoda refunded the payment back to me.

4. Price Comparison

Before I started using Agoda regularly, I used to comparison shop. Generally, they will have the lowest prices and in cases where they do not, the difference is usually very slim.

Here is an example of a recent booking:

I chose the S31 Hotel Bangkok one week prior to my stay in mid-October 2012. I compared the price between Agoda, Small and Luxury Hotels, Asia Web Direct, and Booking.com. They all offer what they call a “Best Price Guarantee”.

Here’s how they stacked up (THB = Thai Baht):

Agoda (2,522 + 446) = THB 2,968
Small and Luxury Hotels = THB 3,440
Asia Web Direct = THB 3,390
Booking.com = THB 2,968

In this case, when you factor in the rewards loyalty program, Agoda wins.

Additionally, you also want to factor in the 3 million hotel reviews by travelers on their website. For the more popular hotels, you’ll find hundreds of independent reviews; even for the obscure out-of-the-way ones, you’ll get an unbiased review of what the stay was like.

5. Walk-In vs. Internet Rates

In this day and age I imagine most people book their rooms online. But recently I walked into a few hotels in Bangkok used to see how their walk-in rates compared with online rates. 100% of the time the online rate was cheaper.

Example: I checked the walk-in rate at the above mentioned S31 Hotel. I booked the room an hour later on Agoda for $15 cheaper. On check-in I was upgraded to the Junior Suite with panoramic Views.

I recently tried booking the PP Insula Hotel in Koh Phi-Phi by phone and was told to book online through Agoda. Makes sense that some hotels are choosing to forward their online reservation services to an online provider. Instead of having to worry about the back-end technology they can rely on Agoda’s expertise and convenience.

Even the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which is the hottest hotel/resort in Asia right now, partnered with Agoda for their grand opening a few years ago – link.

Bottom Line

Am I biased? Sure maybe. I’m an affiliate of Agoda’s (they’re my sponsor), but my experience with them has been superb these last few years – they’re a top-notch organization and I consistently enjoy my experience with them.

Not convinced yet? Give Agoda a try and see just how much you’ll save on your next hotel reservation. Why not?  The majority of our visitors search hotel rooms in advance to see just how low of a price they can book their room for.

So how about you….where are you going to go?