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For most travelers, booking a hotel room often comes down to one important variable: price. And for several years, online travel agencies (called OTAs in the industry) like Expedia and Priceline, have been the go-to booking sites for the cheapest rates. Yet the relationship between OTAs and hotels has long been contentious, with hotels reluctantly dependent on the booking sites for their ability to reach more potential guests while at the same time, resentful of the high commissions that the sites often charge.

But now hotels are fighting back with special rate discounts—so long as guests book directly with the hotel. 




Hyatt Hotels, which has 12 brands under its name including Park Hyatt and Andaz, recently announced that it would give members of its Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program up to a 10 percent discount for bookings made directly through Hyatt.com or the Hyatt mobile app. (Members can also request the discount by phone.) The discount is now in effect at Hyatt hotels in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. 

Hyatt’s move followed a similar one from two other big hotel chains, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International, which have both already rolled out direct booking discounts to its loyalty program members. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which includes Holiday Inn, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, and InterContinental hotels, subsequently began offering "Your Rate by IHG Rewards Club" discounts for its loyalty members as well.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts have yet to offer members of its Starwood Preferred Guest program a similar discount but it does offer a Best Rate Guarantee whereby if a guest finds a lower rate on a different site. In that case, Starwood will match it and discount the room by 20 percent. (This offer does have some restrictions, though.) Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott also have similar Best Rate Guarantee policies in place.

Aside from room discounts, here are a few other benefits of booking directly with a hotel:

  • Loyalty program points: Stays that are booked through an OTA or third-party site do not qualify for a hotel’s loyalty program points.
  • Free Wi-Fi and other amenities: Several chains and quite a few independent hotels will offer guests free Wi-Fi so long as they make reservations directly with the hotel. Other small perks can include complimentary bottled water and discounts at the hotel restaurant or bar.
  • Room preferences: If you need a room with two beds, your chances of getting that room type are better when booking directly with the hotel as the OTAs do not guarantee room type for guests.
  • Customer service: If something goes wrong with your trip or your stay, you’ll get better customer service if you book directly through the hotel. That’s because hotels give priority to reservations made directly with them since they didn’t have to pay a commission fee. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through an OTA’s customer service agent, who will then have to liaise between you and the hotel. 

But if price is the only deciding factor for a guest, OTAs may have the hotels beat. 
 
In looking at the rates at the Grand Hyatt New York for a weekend in May, Gold Passport member rates were listed at $270 while the standard rate was shown a $299. For that same weekend, Expedia showed a non-refundable rate of $245, which is $25 less than what Hyatt offered. But again, it's non-refundable so a guest will have to be certain they can stay on that day. A more flexible rate offered by Expedia which allowed for cancellation up until two days before the stay (the same policy offered by Hyatt) was available for $299.