Online travel agencies… The words that make hostel managers like us cringe a little. When a guest tells us they extended their stay online, or they booked their whole trip through one agency we try to hide the shock by politely encouraging them to next time extend directly with the hostel. We have a love-hate relationship with online bookings, and you may to.
For our hostel these platforms are crucial for reaching out to travellers, they help travellers to compare and contrast us with other hostels and they help to generate more bookings.
For travellers these online booking agents are crucial for finding great places to stay, and often finding great deals. You probably have used them before, haven’t you? And you will most likely book with them again. They are quick and easy to use and if you spend too much time on your research you will miss out (that’s what they tell you anyway).

As a hostel we want you to know some of the secrets behind the online booking systems, to give you a bit of an idea of what takes place behind the scenes.

1. Online booking agencies take a commission from your booking for themselves. This can be a comission of up to 25% leaving your choice of accommodation with a lot less in hand than if you booked with them directly. Sometimes agencies manage the accomodation’s visibility by the amount of comission is taken from the company. For example when you search “hostels” the first hostels that come up are the ones that have the highest comission. Which makes searching for hostels more of a filtering of highest earnings for the OTA’s.
2. Middle guys – As a privacy policy some online booking agents provide an interim email address. This is so the hotel and customer can communicate but the messages are screened through the online booking system. The idea of privacy may sound great to customers but we have found that urgent messages such as arriving outside of office hours occasionally do not get through. This results in an added hassle for the accommodation providers, who want to provide the customers with their best experience have to sent them multiple emails ensure they received one simple message. Other hotels choose not to communicate with the guest at all through these means unless the guest contacts them directly because of this obscure system.
3. Cancelled Bookings – If an emergency occurs and the customer can not make it within the cancellation policy, or you just don’t show up… the online travel agency still takes a cut for the booking. Over and over again we see customers upset about cancellation policies. The fact is we put them on the sites for your safety as well as ours. Travellers need to understand it is not the receptionist’s fault that the cancellation policy is implemented, for us to work hand in hand with these online agencies we must be consistent with all of our policies. However if you book direct these cancellation policies will often still be implemented to be fair on all parties.

As a hostel we will always encourage our guests to book directly with the hostel, we believe the customers experience should be great. So if the customer mentions a price that is cheaper online, we will most likely meet that price. However we encourage where ever you go, do your research, if the hostel can not match the price then go with the online travel agency. The accommodation provider will not always meet the online price but we think it is worth the try… at least you know they are human.