In case you hadn’t heard, online travel giant Expedia just bought Travelocity for a supposed $280 million. (Or, for those of us who glaze over at numbers larger than their monthly rent: that’s 2,800,000 Benjamin Franklins. Or, like, 280 healthy Orca whales, since they apparently average about about a million a pop. But I digress.)
Travelocity simply got added to the growing list of other companies that Expedia owns: Hotels.com, Hotwire, eLong, and Trivago.) This means that there are now a grand total of three companies that have a monopoly on the US’s online travel market (looking at you, Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz). You read that right: your options in US online travel purchases are now equivalent to the number of marriages Kim Kardashian has had.
As the US’s online travel market continues to be bought out by travel giants, so will said travel giants’ clout increase. These 3 companies together account for almost 31% of all online hotel booking (as of 2014). They already have put extensive pressure on the hotels that work with them, who don’t have much of a choice–either the hotels must accept the terms and conditions that Expedia & Co. dictate, or they lose out on a TON of business because the companies are so huge.
With the narrowing of competitors in the industry, so also narrows the reason for said competitors to…well, compete. Consumers (that’s you!) will ultimately lose out on this deal, since there will less demand for competitive pricing. If you book through an online vendor like Expedia, Priceline, or Orbitz, they are the ones who pay a low-ball number for the room, before marking up the price to you. Hotels lose out, since they get paid the least per customer this way. They can’t even help you if, say, you book through Expedia, which ends up taking your money and claiming you are “confirmed” for a hotel stay even though the hotel is overbooked, and then subsequently refuses to work with you as your getaway unravels. (True story, by the way–that far too many people have experienced.)
You can often get the same price by booking directly through the hotel and asking them to price-match or finding a travel agent–this eliminates the middle man as well as the need to contact said middle man in case anything goes wrong. And then you will be greeted with much better customer service (since hotels made more money going this route, and you’ll be more of a priority customer) and you’ll actually be helped if something goes wrong with your room. If you should fall upon misfortune (and you WILL), and you booked through a giant like Expedia, well…you’re sh*t outta luck unless your hotel can manage to communicate with the company in time. Assuming that if they can, you’ll get a refund and another place to stay on such limited notice. Which you probably won’t.
What does all of this mean for you? Nothing, if you follow our advice and book using a travel agent (and we have plenty! ;-)). This will ensure all your bases are covered–including a missed or cancelled flight on your way to or from your destination, too. We wouldn’t leave you hanging like the season finale of your favorite drama show, now. Momma done taught us right.