Last updated: 05:12 PM ET, Fri July 29 2016

Are Online Travel Agents Keeping You From The Best Hotel Deal?

Travel Technology | Michael Schottey | July 29, 2016

Are Online Travel Agents Keeping You From The Best Hotel Deal?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Are you getting the best deal when booking a hotel? 

It's a question that's almost impossible to know—even for savvy travel shoppers. The myriad tools, tricks, gadgets and rapidly changing deals out there make budget shopping for a hotel room more of a best guess kind of scenario than an exact science. 

Thanks to a process called "dimming," it's going to be even more difficult moving forward.

 READ MORE: What Does a Travel Agent Actually Do For You? 

What is dimming? Dimming is when an online travel agency (such as Expedia or purposefully tampers with the online profile or ranking of certain properties on their sites. They form takes the shape of a search result with no pictures or even a hotel being pushed down below other properties for little to no actual reason. 

The reason? It's business. 

Once upon a time, online travel agencies were soaring because hotel sites had limited options to counteract being undersold. Now, thanks to legal rulings both in Europe and in the U.S., hotels are focused on direct booking and while Expedia and others may be losing the battle, the chances of a traveler finding the cheapest hotel room with a hotel's travel rewards program or booking directly with a property they enjoy went up in a major way. 

Dimming is a chance for OTAs to get back at those properties. 

In a column about dimming over at The Washington Post, Expedia vice president, Melissa Maher pointed out that only a small percentage of properties are dimmed, and said that it's actually a part of their customer service efforts. 

“We want to make sure the hotels with the best rates and inventory are put first,” Maher said. “We’re doing it because we’re consumer-focused.”

 READ MORE: Using a Travel Agent: The When and the Why

Overall, consumers naturally expect rankings and search results from OTAs to be more straightforward than this, and it's likely few would realize a hotel without pictures is a quality property or do any more research before moving onto another property featured with a fuller profile.

The implicit promise with using one of these sites is that the work of finding the best property for the money has already been done for you, when a site is interfering with that because of backend dealings that have nothing to do with the consumer, that promise may not be as iron clad as it once was. 


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