Is choice really just an illusion when it comes to booking a hotel room online? It may shock consumers to find out that two companies control about 95 percent of all online booking websites. That means that travelers trying to book rooms may not see the competitive rates they're looking for when they go online since little price variation among third-party booking sites actually exist.
A consumer group called Washington Consumer's Checkbook recently used 18 booking websites and hotel company websites to evaluate more than 3,500 room rates across 46 US cities and 12 foreign cities. The list of websites that were evaluated included popular ones like Expedia, Hotwire, Trivago, Orbitz, Travelocity, TripAdvisor and Kayak. However, all of the brands on the list are essentially owned by two companies. Those companies are Expedia and Booking Holdings.
Companies like Expedia and Booking Holdings have a lot of pull when it comes to determining rates for hotel rooms. These companies often require hotels to offer the same rooms for the same prices across all of the various booking platforms that are available online. This means that price variation is essentially nonexistent in the world of online booking.
Is there any way around the lack of pricing variety in the world of online booking? Consumers can sometimes break the mold and find true deals by agreeing to mystery rates that are offered by most of the popular platforms out there today. Both the Hotwire Hot Rate and the Priceline Express Deal are good examples of this. People using these mystery options can expect to save about 38 percent when booking rooms. Of course, the downside is that travelers aren't able to know the name of the hotel or the address where they'll be staying until after a reservation has been made.