Can you trust Booking.com to honor your reservation – Forbes Advisor
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When you make a travel reservation and receive confirmation, you expect your reservation to be honoured. You trust the hotel, the hotel chain and the platform where you make your reservation.
Several friends and I traveled to Turkey in 2021 and booked our hotels with Booking.com. A few days before our arrival, several of us had our reservations canceled and had to scramble to find last minute accommodation. This left us wondering:
Should you trust Booking.com to honor your reservation?
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What is an “error rate”?
Our travel saga with Booking.com revolves around a great hotel deal which both Booking.com and the hotel said was a “mistake rate”. So what is an error rate?
An error rate is a published room rate outside of the range of rates the hotel normally intends to offer. Sometimes the error rates are incredibly low; think tens of dollars for rooms that typically sell for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a night. Often the error rates can look like unbelievable offers that are still in the realm of reason.
Sometimes error rates are the result of miscalculated taxes and fees. Other times, error rates are the result of a hotel providing incorrect prices to booking platforms. Another possibility is that faulty technology integration skews prices or miscommunicates prices. Currency conversion errors are another possible culprit.
Whether a given rate is an error rate is not always obvious. Some travel destinations are known for their cheap accommodations and hotel prices can vary widely depending on seasonality and demand. Additionally, many locations have tens of dollar value hotels within blocks of luxury resorts with room rates in excess of several hundred dollars per night.
Ultimately, whether a hotel rate is a “mistake” or just a bargain is a matter of opinion and interpretation of how the hotel published the rate.
During the summer of 2021, as travel opened up, several friends and I decided to take an opportunistic vacation to Turkey as we found rooms at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Cesme at a rate of around 10 EUR the night.
To be fair, we assumed that this published rate was likely an error, but many consumers may not have recognized it. In the Cesme area there are a large number of hotels available at room rates of 15-20 EUR per night including breakfast. Since we had booked our reservations four months in advance, we had plenty of time to find alternative accommodation or plan another trip if the hotel decided to cancel our reservations.
For almost these four months, we haven’t heard anything from the hotel or from Booking. com, so we thought we were all ready to travel and booked our plane tickets, transportation from the airport to Cesme and our activities.
About a week before we arrived, when many of us had already started our trip, Booking. com sent several members of our party emails offering to allow us to cancel our reservations free of charge. Of course, we intended to stay at the hotel, so we didn’t respond and we didn’t cancel our reservations.
Just a few days before check-in, some of our group received an email stating that the rate we had booked was incorrect and would not be honored. Booking.com offered an alternative rate, more than ten times higher than the rate originally booked, as a “compromise”. Infuriatingly, the rate offered did not appear to be a discount and was in fact higher than what the hotel was selling rooms for on Booking. com during the same period. The email further stated that if we did not accept the higher rate, our reservations would be canceled within 24 hours.
Our group’s experience was very inconsistent; some in our party never heard from Booking.com and honored their reservations with no questions asked. Some messaged Booking.com and received a commitment to honor the reservation. Yet others have had reservations canceled by Booking.com, either in response to inquiries or 24 hours after Booking.com sent their message offering a “compromise rate”.
Most people are probably not comfortable showing up in another country with nowhere to stay, so some of us immediately booked other accommodation. On the other hand, a few of us decided to show up at the hotel and see if they would honor the rates we had booked. In the end, the hotel manager graciously agreed to reinstate our reservations and honor the published rate, but several of us had already booked non-refundable alternative accommodation.
When making a reservation with a service such as Booking.com, it is important to understand the policies and obligations of each reservation platform. When we booked our hotel reservation, we assumed that booking through a well-known site like Booking.com would come with some sort of guarantee that our reservation would be honoured. We were wrong.
Once we started receiving emails threatening to cancel our reservations, we dug into Booking.com’s terms and conditions to find that Booking.com positions itself only as an intermediary service that markets hotel rooms , and not as a travel supplier:
“From the moment you make your travel reservation, we only act as an intermediary between you and the travel supplier.”
Additionally, their terms and conditions make it clear that Booking.com takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information on their platform, which seems designed to reduce their liability in the event that they allow information to be published. inaccurate on their site.
“Although we use reasonable skill and care in performing our travel service, we will not verify and cannot guarantee that all information is accurate, complete or correct, and we cannot nor be liable for errors (including manifest and typographical errors), any interruption (whether due to breakdown, repair, upgrade or maintenance (temporary and/or partial) of our Platform or otherwise), inaccurate, misleading or false information, or the non-delivery of information. Each Travel Supplier remains responsible at all times for the correctness, completeness and correctness of the (descriptive) information ( including rates/fees/prices, policies, terms and availability) displayed on our Platform.
Finally, although Booking.com promotes a price match guarantee, we found no guarantees regarding published rates or confirmed reservations being honored.
Although none of us are lawyers, it has become quite clear that Booking.com’s terms and conditions provide no guarantees of any kind for the rates they publish on their site or that bookings made through their site will be honored.
Lack of consumer protection
Consumer protection regulations such as EU261 specify cash compensation and re-accommodation requirements for travelers traveling on airlines when flights are canceled or significantly delayed. However, very limited consumer protections exist to protect consumers booking hotel rooms. The Federal Trade Commission says it has jurisdiction over “deceptive practices,” but in reality there is no enforcement mechanism for hotels like there is for airlines. In this way, a hotel reservation is more like a car rental than a plane ticket.
The lack of regulations requiring hotels to honor confirmed reservations means that if a reservation platform like Booking.com cancels your reservation at the last minute or, worse, if you show up and a hotel refuses to honor your reservation or tries to charge you a higher price than you agreed to, your options are limited. Yes, you can negotiate with the hotel front desk, but your recourse is usually limited to finding another hotel and leaving a negative review on a website.
Booking a hotel room with a large chain like Marriott or Hyatt can help, as some hotel chains have policies that prevent hotels from refusing accommodations in the event of overbooking and last-minute cancellations.
Marriott offers their “Ultimate Reservation Guarantee” in which they promise “If for any reason we are unable to honor your reservation, we will pay for your accommodation that night at a nearby hotel and compensate you for the inconvenience caused.”
Hyatt offers a reservation guarantee, in which they promise a free night at a comparable hotel, transportation to that hotel, and a phone call to let your family know where you can be reached.
Ultimately, when booking a hotel, you trust your booking platform, the hotel chain, and the hotel itself.
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In the absence of consumer protections requiring reservations to be honoured, booking a hotel is a matter of trust. When you have a confirmed reservation, you trust your hotel, hotel chain, and booking platform to honor your reservation. During our holiday in Turkey, the hotel finally succeeded for us by honoring our rate and each of us would happily stay there again. However, given our experience with Booking.com canceling our reservations at the last minute, most of our party will book future trips either directly with the hotels through their branded websites or through another platform.