You Get What You Pay for (in Travel anyway)
Updated: Jul 29, 2018
You say you're looking for a bargain. You want something cheap for your next vacation. You want the cheapest hotels I can find. You say you want to get a deal, and that if I can't, you'll go to someone else. I need to say goodbye and that I wish you well as you seek a travel agent with the cheapest prices. But before you go, I would like to help you put "cheap" and "deal" in perspective. I sincerely want you to have the best vacation outcome you can afford, and I hope the following will be helpful.
Google "cheap travel" and you will get 5.7 million hits. That will give you a few options and I suggest you start soon because sifting through all of the sites will take the better part of a year. But allow me save you some time. The word "cheap," which comes from the Latin caupo and means "petty tradesman." and "huckster," Anyone can say they are the cheapest. So the first question you might want to ask is why you would ever want the cheapest anything, since price almost always connotes quality and the cheapest is usually the most poorly made, the poorest design, the worst service or the most poorly trained. Are you certain you want "cheap?"
Your next vacation will not be inexpensive. You will likely spend more on this vacation than you did on your last visit to the dentist or your doctor. Your doctor deals with some of the most difficult times of your life. Your travel consultant deals with the best moments of your life. So I'm curious: Did you look for a doctor, dentist, or surgeon, with the cheapest prices? My guess is that you didn't, because you told yourself that you pretty much get what you pay for.
When you see those ads on TV screaming that they have the best hotel pricing, do you believe them? Do you really believe that hotel owners use a strategy that involves going around to different travel agents, dozens of online booking sites and other distributors of their product with different pricing for each one? Would make any sense at all?
Wouldn't a hotel want bookings from all travel agents and online sites? Would I really sell any hotel knowing that my price would not be as good as that provided by the agency down the street or at some call center? The fact is that we all have the same pricing, the same deals, the same products. The difference is that many of the products are so poor that we would never allow members of our own family to book them, so we certainly are not going to sell them to our valued clients.
You see ads when you go online. The next thing you know a photo of a "travel agent" appears on your screen. You are chatting with a call center, likely one of dozens of "agents" in a large room in Mumbai or Manila. She or he looks professional. They are wearing a headset. Do you think the photo is a real agent? Have they ever stayed at the hotel you are considering? Do you think they are well-traveled? Do you think they will provide you with objective industry hotel inspection reports? In truth, this agent is a call center commission-based seller. That is what you generally get online. They care little about your travel background, your medical condition or even whether or not this really is the right hotel for you. If you ask for the cheapest room, they will get it for you.
So you got your "deal," and you show up at the hotel. Hotel executives readily acknowledge that bookings originating through call centers are often assigned the worst rooms in the category. Online bookings are treated differently because hotels assume that the guest has no loyalty to their properties. They realize that the booking was likely made online because you thought you were getting a deal. You will likely stay somewhere else the next time you book as you continue searching for the best deal among the millions offered. Contrast that with an arrival at your hotel having been booked by a professional who is a member of a consortium that gives the hotel a portion of the billions of dollars it books each year.
Hotels are one example why cheap is not the way to go. Ever. If you honestly can't afford to travel well, if you are unwilling to follow the pricing guidelines that I would recommend that you seriously think about postponing your vacation. Sometimes it is better to save a bit more money while delaying your vacation until you can do it right.