Hotel commissions – Collective mania


What price sanity? The hotel industry is in the grip of a destructive spell in which hotels pay ever larger sums of commission to booking agents, cut-throat websites and various other third party middle men.

The cult of the deal is becoming pernicious. Someone has to pay for the deal; and it is not just the hoteliers who fork out, but guests who pay inflated prices and get worse treatment despite believing they are getting a bargain.

As the 19th-century critic John Ruskin noted: ‘There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.’

That quote hangs above the counter of my local butcher, whose meat is extraordinary. Yes, I admit his prices are also eye-watering. But what applies to posh sausages applies equally well to hotel rates.

The best hotels and B&Bs don’t need to cut their margins to the bone to lure fickle guests who probably will never return. These sort of characters will always be looking for their next bargain. They are not interested in quality.

What they want is cheap. These baleful thoughts were prompted by a recent email exchange forwarded to me by one of the Guide’s hoteliers.

He had written to Goldsborough Hall, a stately Yorkshire pile, to make a three-night booking for two people quoting a cheap offer he had seen on Travelzoo, a website which claims 27 million users worldwide, all eager for a deal.

The GHG hotelier emailed: ‘I would prefer to deal with you direct, not least to save you the vast commission! Perhaps you would be so kind as to upgrade two fellow impoverished hoteliers in lieu?’

Goldsborough Hall, which claims to be ‘one of the most private, beautiful and exclusive places to stay in Yorkshire’, replied: ‘We would not be able to match this offer, you would have to contact Travelzoo direct, purchasing a one-night stay £199 or a two- night stay £299, second night at room only.

‘Because the Travelzoo offer has been so successful we currently have only the Presidential Suite available and at an extra supplement of £150.00 per room per night or the Bridal Suite at an extra supplement of £100 per room per night.’

‘Their response absolutely amazes me!’ said my hotelier sorrowfully.

”Not only are they trying to charge an extra £300-£450 for a three-night stay, but they insist on my dealing direct with Travelzoo, costing them 20% plus vat in commission! Absolutely bonkers.

‘These cheap websites really cheapen the market and we prefer to do our own offers for our regular and loyal guests.’

He added: ‘I am hoping such sites will have their day soon because they are crippling the market. That said, I still look at them, but these people won’t even look after hoteliers.

‘Hotels should always look after guests from the industry, not only because we are all fond of a tipple or two, so our extras bill will be high, but also we act as mini-agents and send our guests all over the place. We are constantly recommending places we have been to and they do for us, no commission, just good will!’

His email to the GHG ended: ‘Rant over, where would you recommend near York?’ We suggested Middlethorp Hall, a beautiful National Trust owned hotel whose offer of a special rate he happily accepted.

Middlethorp Hall 

What is the moral of this story? I am not sure there is one, but it explains why we encourage GHG readers to book directly with hotels. Invariably, they will get a better deal.

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