Hotel Pricing Chaos

Looking for a vivid example of why it pays to search multiple websites when booking a hotel?

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows on Big Island in Hawaii is my unfortunate subject.

Unbridled Chaos | Image Credit: Eduardo Amorim (cc|flickr)

Hotel pricing chaos makes hotel shopping a lot like riding a bucking bronco – it’s traveler versus beast…
Photo Credit: Eduardo Amorim | Flickr

A LivingSocial deal quoted $221 per night – reportedly discounted from a retail price of $442/night (the offer also includes a 2 for 1 price on a Grand Circle Island and Volcano Tour.)

That looked like a really low rate for a very nice hotel… I wondered how that stacked up against pricing through other booking channels.

The specific dates checked were for a 7 night, double occupancy stay from March 30 – April 6, 2013.

Here’s what I found:

Best rate on its own website is $322/night for the 30th Anniversary Package that also includes a $100 Credit per paid night for Spa, Golf, Dining and Activities that requires 14 day notice to cancel. Otherwise, the “best available” non-refundable room-only rate is $358.57.

Expedia quoted $740 retail (scratched-through) with a $259 pre-paid rate.

The hotel was not available at all on Booking.com or Priceline.com.

As a point of reference, Hotwire had a $216 rate for a 4.5-star / 4.5 guest rating property in the same area as Mauna Lani Bay (as confirmed by TripAdvisor.) This could also possibly be the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, but all channels appear closed out, with no availability for that property. Rolling the dice on the property being booked may or may not be worth the risk for a savings of only $35 for the week.

Of course, if the traveler wants to go completely wonky with their discount rate hunting, one can always review my blog post on the ultimate money savng strategy – How to Save Money Booking Hotels.

Finally, one exceptionally nice aspect of Mauna Lani Bay – No Resort Fees. Always be careful that these little gems are not added in at the end of the booking process or subtly stated in a footnote. They can add up.

So what have we learned?

  • Don’t always believe the discounts you see on the daily deals sites. Most are inflated. In this case, the Living Social deal was really a 14.7% discount. Not bad, but nowhere near 50%.
  • The same goes for the scratch-through rates on the OTA’s – they are also often pure fantasy – or perhaps the highest rate the stupidest person in the world might pay by accident…
  • “Best Available” rates – even on the hotel’s own website – may not always be the best rates available.
  • If a hotel shows sold out, it may be available on another site – and at a discounted rate.
  • Watch out for hidden resort fees.

When it comes to getting a great deal on a hotel room, the advertised deals may not be all they appear. The smart traveler will comparison shop to take advantage of the chaos wrought by hotel revenue managers who are either trying to be too clever for their own good or perhaps simply lost control of their pricing.

At times, getting a hotel deal may seem like a process more closely related to the study of chaos theory, than online shopping. Sometimes it’s the hotel’s pricing strategy that is in chaos.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.

  • HappyHotelier

    So there is no rate parity at all….

  • HappyHotelier

    So there is no rate parity at all….

    • http://www.rockcheetah.com/blog/ RobertKCole

      Guido – Hard to say… Appears that Expedia, Orbitz & Travelocity all have same pricing under a merchant rate plan, so that would imply rate parity is in effect. Perhaps they choose not to work with Booking.com/Priceline? Or provide them with an allocation? Hard to say exactly what they are thinking… Or if they are thinking at all…