This hotel booking hack saved me $200 on accommodation

“I will reduce this rate by $200. »

These are the words I was delighted to hear when checking out of our accommodation on a recent trip to the South Island.

My partner and I had splurged on luxury accommodations. When we made the reservation through the website, we had agreed on a rate of $450 a night – and after two nights of lake views, in-floor heating and bubble baths, we were more than willing to shell out. the $900.

But the owner didn’t have it. He retrieved our details, noting that we had booked through their website.

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“We actually have a special rate for customers who book direct with us,” he explained.

“We just don’t display our best price on the website because we don’t want to be undermined by third-party websites.”

After asking three times if it was safe, we paid the reduced rate and left, stunned our holiday had ended on such a high. And all because we had opened another tab when booking.

Nothing like a discount on accommodation to make your vacation even more enjoyable.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Nothing like a discount on accommodation to make your vacation even more enjoyable.

I’m a real hosting geek. If I book a vacation, I spend a lot of time reading reviews and comparing hotels before committing to one.

To do this research, I’ll often use online travel agencies like and Expedia – these are great for getting an idea of ​​what’s available in a destination and what kind of price you’re looking for.

But I would never book through them. As soon as I find my dream hotel, I’ll open a new tab and find its own website – where there’s usually a booking form, or at least an email or phone number.

Why not just complete the process with or Expedia? Because you can almost always get a better deal by booking direct.

The fact is that accommodation providers need these online travel agencies. If you Google ‘places to stay in Queenstown’, these reputable booking platforms are what come up first. So, if a hotel wants to grab the attention of travelers, and therefore a better chance of doing business, it needs to make sure it’s listed.

But that exposure comes at a cost, says James Doolan, strategic director of Hotel Council Aotearoa.

If a traveler ends up booking through the online travel agency, the accommodation provider may have to pay between 15% and 20% commission.

Let’s say you book five nights at a hotel, at $200 a night. If you book through an online travel agency, it could cost the hotel $200 – the equivalent of an entire night. But if you book directly with the hotel, that takes the commission out of the equation.

“You opened up this win-win situation,” Doolan says.

Doolan says that even if you find the price listed on the hotel’s website to be higher than that offered by online travel agencies, if you call and ask about it, they will at least be able to do it. match for you – and in some cases do even better.

“Or they might say, ‘I can do that price and give you a nicer room.’ Or you might arrive and there’s a bottle of red wine for you, as a welcome gift.

“By going directly to the hotel, you are giving the hotel a financial advantage, allowing them to do more for you in terms of service or additional benefits.”

In my case, the discount came as a total surprise, despite having already committed to paying the higher rate — which is a pretty unusual tactic, says Doolan.

But it’s also an example of how accommodation providers view people who book direct as their most valuable customers and want to reward them for it.

“They’ll try to do something to keep you happy, because I hope you come back.”

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