Booking Hotel Online: Observations And Suggestions

Sanjay V Shah

05 November 2017

I am sitting in a room of the fourth hotel of my current business trip. It’s in Lucknow. Before this, it was Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar. The city of Lord Jagannath has a Mangrol Multimedia office there so, I stay in the office itself and save money. For other cities, I am dependent on hotels; sasta ya mehenga, achchha ya thikthaak, deal or no deal. Like all of us, I pick up hotel by going through details on a facilitator’s website. Like most of us, sometime I get fooled and sometime, I get value for money.

For an SME like ours, 4 and 5-stars are still a little distant dream without a cool deal. So, we choose hotels that fit our budget and meet basic requirements.

But we often get fooled, thanks to wrong and tall claims by either a hotel, or a facilitator or by both. It frustrates a lot because it’s sheer cheating. It frustrates because it affects your very purpose of the visit.

My recent visit to Hyderabad and Delhi got me thinking how to tackle this issue. At least to a possible extent, if not completely. In Hyderabad, I stayed at two hotels and the second one where my stay was longer, was pathetic. In Delhi despite paying good money compared to prevailing room rates in the Paharganj area, I ended up staying in a really bad hotel. I felt bad because like many others, I consider myself to be a wise selector of things. But I do fail and it's true. I intend to improve my score of successful choice of good hotels. For that, I am planning to take some extra care like this:

  1. Never book a hotel for a long stay at once: That’s because if the selected hotel turns out to be bad, you will have no escape route to shift elsewhere. Be entrapped only when stay is for a day or two but not when it’s longer. If you don’t book for a longer stay, you could get rid of a bad choice and opt for another one with a little legwork in the vicinity. This will seldom result in less spending because physical booking comes cheaper than an online one.

  2. Be careful before trusting positive reviews: Many hotels get fake reviews written by themselves. Online facilitators either have no control over them or they just don’t care.. Then, negative reviews are often written with a bias. Yet, if we could read between lines, it’s possible to find out nearest facts. Most importantly, negative reviews prepare us to accept the unexpected which is good to pacify us in the end.

  3. Demand detailed explanations of amenities on email: This is important for a longer stay booked at once. Spending few thousand rupees trusting online details and swiping a card is one thing. Spending some time to know realities by emailing the hotel as well as a facilitator is another thing. Such communications come handy if disputes arise.

  4. Share your honest views: We all want right information but tend not to share what we have with others, citing reasons. Or, we would share them with vengeance. I try sharing my views online, both positive and negative, and steal time to do so from my schedules. I use speech to text feature of my smart phone during travel. It keeps me active as well as giving a feeling of fulfillment of social responsibility.   

  5. Go for insignificant hotel when unsure of options or budget is limited: Several humble hotels of yesteryear have now learnt the game of online business. I am sure they are trained by online facilitators too. They display impressive photographs online, boast of nonexistent amenities. It results into huge disappointment in the end and waste of money for us. When unsure of a hotel’s selection, go for one that’s cheaper, or cheapest. Better to be fooled lesser by being modest to self, than more by acting smart.

  6. Beware of mushrooming budget hotels chains: These are the days of new budget hotel brands. They are neither Taj nor Novotel or ITC. They are properties with little or more refurbishment. Their old name makes way for a new one but not all old weaknesses. Most importantly the mentality of local owner, manager or operator stays. A change of a board and a brand does not necessarily mean a change in operations. So, be ready for a pleasant to pathetic experience during every new trip. If possible, avoid new brands for some time before they settle and learn to be honest and consistent.

  7. Basic things are most important: Well behaved staff, Wi-Fi connectivity (if it’s your necessity), good sleep, cleanliness, proper food and safety are, I feel, the most important needs of a traveler. Unfortunately, realities unearth with personal experience only. Most budget hotels fail horribly on these counts. Despite mera desh badal raha hai, aagey badh raha hai, changing mindsets of opportunist entrepreneurs is a daunting task in all industries including hotel. It’s not easy to get rid of this issue. The most I do is checking online images, of bed and bathroom. Cleanliness in small hotels is a surprise gift and not an assured amenity. I read others opinion on food. Wi-Fi is slowly becoming no problem, thanks to cheaper mobile data. I prefer booking hotels in bustling areas to ensure safety. With regard to staff behaviour, I feel as helpless and at the receiving end as others.    

  8. Explore nearby hotels for future visits: I started doing this recently after a hugely disappointment booking of 4 days in a hotel. I spent some time locally to check nearby hotels. It was really worth. I spoke to front office staff, checked rooms, menu, Wi-Fi and tariff. Among them were a couple of hotels I had rejected after online hunt. They were better than my actual choice. I came across few hotels not listed online. They are still following traditional business model. Then, I booked a hotel offline, at a reasonably cheaper rate than an online one, for my next visit to that city. Before that, I exchanged emails with the hotel. Now, at least I know in advance what to expect and what not. This may sound weird but better for peace of mind.

  9. Be at peace, focus on work: A bad hotel is a mood spoiler. It also means less focus on work. I had fought for my rightful amenities at few hotels in the past. I am consciously learning to avoid it now. Instead of debating with a hotel staff during stay, I deal with my unpleasant experience afterwards, with complete cool, by sharing my opinion online. With commoners as well as the hotel management wherever possible and the facilitator. It may be little late for my own benefit but well in time for others.

  10. Do not shy away from raising objections: Recently, I lodged a complaint with consumer affairs ministries (both state and central government), the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) against a hotel chain. I was shocked after witnessing unbelievable and unacceptable differences between promises and deliverables. I did get acknowledgement from the central government and ASCI. I am hopeful that due action will be taken against this hotel brand. Point is, we must speak out and let others know injustices done to us. Only this would help India change for better.

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(The author is CEO of Mangrol Multimedia. Headquartered in Mumbai with a branch in Bhubaneswar, India, Mangrol provides media services including writing, translation in 40 leading languages, graphic designing, web designing, social media management, stage and audio-visual making. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mangrol Multimedia. You can contact the author at