With the summer travel season underway, many vacationers are using hotel websites to book a room. But are you getting the most bang for your buck by surfing the net for the best price?
According to some hotel industry experts, that may not be the case.
"You think that you're getting a deal because you're searching all these different sites and they're competitive. But they're not,” said Jeffry Muthersbaugh, president of the Connecticut Lodging Association, a hotel industry trade association.
Muthersbaugh said a lot of consumers don’t realize that most of those travel sites are owned by one of two companies.
Both Expedia and Booking.com, based in Norwalk, control 95 percent of the third-party booking sites.
And Kevin Brasler with the non-profit, Consumers checkbook, said that dominance has allowed them to essentially set the market.
"They are insisting that hotels offer every room at the same price across all booking channels, including the hotels own websites,” said Kevin Brasler.
Booking.com disputes that claim. A spokesperson told NBC Connecticut:
"Booking.com has absolutely no control over prices, which are determined by the hotels themselves... Booking. com is merely a platform to connect travelers to properties all over the world."
And Expedia said:
“The foundation of our business and brands is matching travelers with the best price for their needs at the best price available for us to offer."
"What the third party websites want to know is, what's the least you'll sell a room for?” said Muthersbaugh.
Muthersbaugh said If it’s $100 or $300 a night, once the booking site buys the room, that site can charge whatever it wants.
“The hotel at that point has no control over it,” said Muthersbaugh.
Muthersbaugh suggests simply picking up the phone to get the best deal.
If you find a lower price online, he said the hotel will probably match it and speaking with a hotel employee can get you free breakfast or an upgrade. He also recommends joining a hotel’s rewards program for additional benefits like free Wi-Fi.
"If you develop those relationships, you get little upgrades and that kind of thing that you might not otherwise get,” Muthersbaugh said.
Consumers checkbook says you can get a good deal through some of the third-parties like Hotwire hot deal and Priceline express deals, if you’re willing to gamble.
Here’s the catch: you don’t know which hotel you’re booking and you can’t cancel once you find out.