Searching for hotel rooms can be a serious drag on your productivity, both at home and at work. A recent study found that one in eight millennial travelers spends 15+ hours researching a vacation before they book. Over a third of millennial travelers admit that they would rather punt the task to a friend or family member. The average person surveyed even said they’d pay $134 for someone (literally anyone) to research and book their vacation, just to take the chore off their plate.
The proliferation of online travel agencies (OTAs), like Hotels.com, Expedia, and Priceline, has conditioned travelers like you to jump from site to site on a hunt for the lowest prices on flights, car rentals, hotel stays, and vacation packages. These sites all claim to have the best rates, so clearly we must check them all. Like, every one of them, right?
OTAs use lots of bells and whistles to get you to book rooms with them. They’ll scare you with phrases like “We have one room left” and “In high demand” so you’ll quickly key in your credit card number and fork over the cash. The tactics they use to keep you on their site can stress out even the savviest vacation planner. Book now or that room will be gone. That’s what the OTAs want you to believe, and it’s clearly enough to drive millennials to pay someone to book their hotels for them rather than subjecting themselves to the madness. But, guess what? We have a secret.
A Hotel Industry Secret: Loyalty Rates
Have you ever noticed that the hotel rates on one OTA’s site are the same as the rates on another? This is due to rate parity agreements between hotels and OTAs that state that a hotel room must be sold for the same price regardless of the site used to book the room. It makes you wonder why you spend all that time tab toggling and digging for the lowest rate. In fact, hotel discount shopping isn’t what you thought it was at all.
For travelers who really want the lowest rate, there’s a loophole to rate parity that works in your favor. Loyalty rates are allowed to be lower than the standard rates because they are sold to closed groups only (more on the details of this below). Basically, you need to be a member of the hotel’s loyalty program in order to snag the deal. That’s easy to do and also free.
When you search for a room on a hotel website, you’ll see the standard rates also quoted on OTA sites. You’ll also see a members-only rate that is lower than the standard rate. That’s the gold. You won’t find a lower rate for that room anywhere else.
How Loyalty Rates Offer Savings and Flexibility
You won’t find loyalty rates listed on OTA websites. The hotels want to thank you, reward you, and value you for booking directly with them. When you check in, they’ll greet you with perks. They also won’t sigh when they pull up your booking confirmation info and see that you’ve booked through an OTA (which hotels have to pay hefty commissions for).
The lower rate isn’t always called a loyalty rate. At Hilton hotels, it’s called an Honors Discount to reference the name of their loyalty program, Hilton Honors. Marriott and Hyatt both call it a Member Rate, while Choice Hotels refer to it as a Member Price. At IHG hotels, they say Member Exclusive Rate and Wyndham hotels say Rewards Member Rate. But no matter what it’s called, you now know that these are the lowest rates you can score.
When you visit Roomkey.com, you get to compare all of these low rates. OTA’s can’t show loyalty rates in their search results, but we can. In fact, we’re the only hotel search site that shows you loyalty rates from different hotels all in one place. We’re a true-to-life hotel search engine, not a middle-man travel booking site.
Understanding Closed User Groups
We’re going to get technical for one minute, so bear with us. A “closed user group” (or CUG) is the technical term for a hotel rewards program. PhocusWire, a news source of the travel industry, defines a CUG as a group of people whose membership requires that they have done the following things:
- opted in,
- accessed the group by a password-protected login,
- created a member profile,
- and made at least one travel booking prior to becoming a member of the closed user group.
When you sign up for a hotel rewards program and meet the four requirements above, you too are a part of a CUG. It also means you have access to reduced nightly rates available exclusively to members—aka the loyalty rates we’ve been talking about. CUGs, hotel rewards programs, or whatever you want to call them give you access to these discounted rates and we’re proud to be able to make it easy to compare them across all your favorite hotel brands.
But Wait, There’s More
Joining these groups is free and there’s more to being a member of a hotel loyalty program than getting lower prices on hotels rooms. When you sign up for these programs, you’ll receive instant access to perks like free Wi-Fi, late checkout, free hotel stays, and more.
You can collect points to redeem for future travel, too. The more points you collect (which you’ll earn by staying at the hotel or using their rewards credit card), the faster you’ll move up through the rewards member ranks. Once you’ve reached the highest levels, you rake in even more free perks, like suite upgrades and even free bottles of wine in your room when you check in.
With all of these benefits, why wouldn’t you join and start booking hotel rooms at the loyalty rate? Like we mentioned earlier, we give you the ability to compare hotel prices against lower loyalty rates so you can know you’ve left no stone unturned in your research. When you’ve found the hotel for you, we’ll take you straight to the hotel’s website to book where you’ll secure your rate, room, and loyalty points, too.
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