Q – It would appear that The Goring in London meets with your approval. We work with a TA and she is a member of one of the major consortium groups. However, I was able to call the hotel directly and get an extremely competitive rate with no hassles. We are collecting countries, 73 to date, and there will be many hotel nights to book as we are in our early fifties. So I suppose I want to ask, on behalf of others who visit this insider site, how do we eally know when we are getting the very best hotel rate?  Do I book through my agent, the hotel directly, one of the mega-online agencies, or do I spend my time on Expedia and Priceline? Is there clear advice you can share. It really isn’t the money. It’s more about the principle – if we are spending, on average, in excess of $1,000 per night, how can we be certain that we have been given the best price?

A – This is, as you realize, a somewhat complex question. But you raise several excellent points and we feel that we want to try to achieve some clarity in our response. So allow us to address your questions with bullet points:

  • The best hotel rates are normally going to be offered by the hotel property, not by some third-party 800-number online entity. One would have to assume that Hotel Owners are idiots were they to allow internet-based sites to beat the pricing they have in their own hotel database. We know what the ads say – but booking anything with a 1-800 Call Center is just a sucker move – yet – seven of the ten largest travel agencies sell online strangers. They are there to sell you a hotel room but, as importantly, they are there to gather your identity and your credit card information which can then be sold several times. The proceeds from the sale of your private information is generally greater than the profit on a hotel room booking – even one at a deluxe property.
  • But you only represent a single booking. your agent may book the Goring several times a year and her consortium may do six figures or more in total annual bookings. So normally, (and beliueve us the phrase “there are always exceptions” was created by the hotel gods for their profession, the best consortium members receive similar pricing plus a package of amenities. This may include complimentary breakfast, airport transfers, a dinner voucher for the hotel restaurant etc. In other words you agent woult not be undercutting the hotel’s direct price but they may have negotiated volume amenities and upgrade offers that are not available to thje general public or those who book their accommodations directly. 
  • So – the bottom line:
    • Only book a hotel with an advisor who has a consortium certified contract arrangement with your hotel. That is how you get the best rate – ask if the hotel “Is a Preferred Supplier of your consortium”?
    • If not, your second best option is to book directly with the hotel – not a service desk or a rep firm – the hotel itself