Booking via an OTA. Is it better than booking directly?
Booking via an OTA. Is it better than booking directly? – AndreyPopov (canva)

When booking your next adventure you’re always looking for the best deal possible. Online travel agents used to be the place to go to get great rooms at low prices. But is this still the case? Decide whether you should book your next trip directly with the hotel or if you should browse an online travel agent’s website

Are OTAs still the way to go?

OTAs offer you lots of options and flexibility in one place. They take a lot of hassle out of the booking process and can help you to find the cheapest accommodation. In 2022, 77% of travelers preferred OTAs over booking hotels directly.

But with a lot of hotels investing more heavily in technology, the gap is starting to close. People are beginning to see through the corners that OTAs cut to show the cheapest prices, and hotels have learned how to pull back direct bookings. After poor customer service during the pandemic, research shows that direct bookings are on the rise again.

So, should you book direct or use an OTA? That often depends on personal choice and what you want to get out of your trip. Browse our list of 7 comparison categories below and see which option is best for you.

1. Ease of Booking

It takes time and effort to book a great hotel. From choosing a room to confirming your payment details, you want the booking process to be as smooth as possible.

Direct Booking

The quality of hotel booking systems can vary. Some may have invested large amounts into creating a seamless booking process. If they are a large chain and you have booked with them before, it’s likely that your details are already saved and you can go straight to payment. If you haven’t, the hassle of creating a new account can be annoying.

Smaller hotels might have fantastic rooms but not a large budget to invest in their website. You may find it difficult to browse their available options and they may not promote their amenities in the best way. Registering your details can be a painful process and the booking systems can feel clunky and outdated.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

Online travel agents have built their business on creating a straightforward booking experience. They want you to continue to book with them so that they can keep taking their commission. They make it straightforward to search for hotel rooms by price, location, and quality. All your details are saved, so you can confirm your next booking in just a few clicks.

Searching for a hotel is about more than just getting the best deal. Booking with an OTA can give you greater flexibility and help you gain a better idea of what’s out there. It gives you the option to compare locations, hotel amenities, and what you can get out of your stay. It’s much easier to compare these with an agency than it is to go direct to each individual hotel site.


It’s easier to book via OTA than through hotel sites because they have invested more in creating an efficient and familiar booking process.

2. Cancelation Policy

Sometimes plans go awry and you’re unable to make it to your destination. Having a booking with a good cancelation policy will stop you from losing even more cash.

Direct Booking

Hotels tend to deal with cancelations efficiently to avoid putting you off from staying in the future. You may get your money back faster, as there’s no need to go through a third party. However, hotels don’t want to lose revenue on cancelations so you should check the small print before you book. Some may charge you an admin fee or keep your deposit to compensate for the hassle.

Hotels are facing the huge impact of people canceling their OTA bookings at short notice. They’re trying to counteract this by using various strategies. One is to deliberately overbook their rooms so that they don’t lose profits from no-show guests. This means that your booking is safer if you booked through the hotel.

Another strategy is to offer discounts to customers who book in advance or with non-refundable rates. This means that you get a cheaper deal if you’re willing to plan ahead of time and stick to your plans.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

OTAs offer shiny cancelation policies that are hard to resist. ‘Free cancelation’ and ‘pay on arrival’ can be handy for people seeking more flexibility. Customers like to book without risk and commitment. Or they may want to book multiple properties and pick the best option nearer the time.

Always check the small print before booking with someone offering free cancelation. This often has a time limit, such as 72 hours before. Also, this can be misleading. It may mean that you won’t be charged a cancellation fee but you may still lose your deposit or be liable to pay taxes.

Getting your money back from OTAs can be challenging, even if you’re entitled to a refund. They’re huge companies dealing with hundreds of customers and bookings. They need to liaise with multiple third parties all with their own booking terms and deals. It may be time-consuming and you may have to get in touch multiple times before your refund is granted.


OTAs usually have better cancelation policies, but it might take you a while to get any money back. Read our article about hotel’s cancelation policy to learn what to expect when you try to cancel your reservation.

Do remember that sometimes it can be the hotel that cancels your confirmed reservation. In this case, booking through OTA would be better since they’ll be the one taking care of it for you.

3. Price and Deals

Traveling is expensive and we’re all searching for the best possible price we can get for our accommodation. There’s some debate about whether you’ll get a cheaper rate booking directly with a hotel or with an OTA.

Direct Booking

Hotels will offer as many incentives as possible for you to book with them. They have to pay large commission fees when they sell their rooms through OTAs. Even if the direct price is higher or the same, it’s likely to include more perks, such as loyalty points, complimentary food and drink, and better-quality rooms.

Hotels often up their prices as occupancy increases. You might find that close to your trip or during a busy time, they will put their price at a premium rate. This could be a good time to check the OTAs first. To get an expert opinion on the best time to book your room, this article on the best days & time to book a hotel room will help you decide.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

Booking through an OTA allows you to quickly compare the prices of all the hotels in the area fast. This is particularly handy if you’ve left your booking until the last minute and want a quick way to get a feel for the prices. Remember that many OTA’s prices look cheaper because they haven’t yet added on taxes and hidden fees.

If you book other parts of your trip, like flights and car hire, at the same time you may make some savings. Many OTAs offer discounts and deals if you buy your trip as a bundle.

Pay attention to what’s included when you book with an OTA. Often to secure a deal with the hotel, they’ve agreed to sacrifice cost-saving perks like free breakfast or access to hotel amenities.


If you’re booking early, you might find better deals when going directly to the hotel. If you’re booking last minute or during peak times, OTAs will help you to find the lowest prices.

For more about this, read our article about utilizing OTA to get a better a hotel booking deal.

4. Quality, not quantity

Getting a fantastic room and having a wonderful experience is just as important as getting the cheapest price.

Direct Booking

Hotels want guests to continue to book directly with them. When you book through them, they are saving a huge percentage of their booking that would have gone to the travel agent. They work hard to create a relationship with you by collecting data to personalize your stay, offering you deals and reward schemes, and adding small touches to make your experience fantastic. While direct booking may not save you money at first, you may find that you’re getting much better long-term deals.

Hotels make a higher profit from direct bookings, so are always going to prioritize these guests. They will be first in line for free room upgrades and may be eligible for complimentary drinks and services. They want to make sure that you keep coming back to them again and again.

A hotel should always take the time to listen to requests and complaints about their rooms. But if you booked with the hotel, they have a more personal relationship with you. Any requests you made during your booking are their responsibility and haven’t gone through a third party.

If you want to change rooms, you’re in a much better position than somebody who booked through an OTA. Worried about making a complaint? The hotel’s manager will have more flexibility to deal with your problem if you book directly with them. Here’s our handy guide with 10 Steps to Complain if you’re not happy with your hotel.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

Remember that if you’ve made savings, somebody has had to cut costs somewhere. Hotels often reserve their higher quality rooms for their direct guests. While you officially have the same standard of room, it may be a little smaller or in a less coveted location. You may get fewer of the personal touches that usually make your stay special.

This isn’t always the case. A smart hotel will do everything it can to encourage you to book with them next time. They may offer you freebies and discounts during your stay if you sign up for their awards program or mailing list. Make sure to take advantage of this even if you hadn’t planned on staying with them again. You never know what savings you may make during your trip or in the future.


Hotels reserve their best service for the guests who booked directly with them.

5. Creating a package

There’s more to your vacation than your accommodation. Transport, logistics, and daytime activities are important considerations when booking your trip.

Direct Booking

What hotels offer you can vary widely depending on the brand and location. Some provide services to make your life easier, such as airport pick-ups or a concierge. Many have day trips leaving straight from the hotel, making it easy to plan what you’re going to do with your time away. Their on-site amenities, such as spa and wellness facilities, also make a huge difference and aren’t always included for all guests.

Hotels often have great relationships with other tourism businesses in town. If they don’t have things like an on-site restaurant or car hire, they probably have recommendations for the best ones in the area and may even have a card to get you a great discount.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

If you prefer to have everything booked in one place, creating a bundle on an OTA can get you some great savings and take the hassle out of planning your trip. Many OTAs offer combinations of flight, hotel, and transport bookings. Usually, the more things you add on, the cheaper the overall price is. They may even convince you to buy day trips and experiences to fill up your stay before you’ve even left home.

One disadvantage to this is you might be tied to particular companies the OTA works with rather than the best services for you. Since you’re already locked into a hotel deal, you’re probably going to care less about shopping around for the best rental companies and excursions.


Creating a package with an OTA is easier and could save you lots of money. But make sure you can’t get better deals elsewhere first.

6. Reviews

The reviews of previous guests can be a great indicator of how your experience will be in your accommodation.

Direct Booking

Hotels will do everything they can to encourage guests to leave a great review. Unfortunately, the reviews you read on a hotel website aren’t always genuine. They have complete control of the content that appears on their site. They may delete bad ones or put higher ratings closer to the top of the list.

Always take the reviews on a hotel website with a grain of salt. Remember that nobody can please everybody and if every single review is glowing, they may have tweaked their feedback. If in doubt, check external independent parties such as Google or Trustpilot.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

Since OTAs are a third party, their reviews are likely to have more variety. They have no loyalty to boost hotel ratings and leave them to fight it out for the best reviews. It’s still possible for some of the reviews on OTAs to be fake, but this is much harder to do than directly on the site.

Many hotels offer incentives for guests to leave good reviews on third-party websites. They might offer a free drink or discount in exchange for a good review. Remember this if you’re spotting a suspicious number of five-star ratings.


The reviews you read on OTA sites are more likely to be genuine. However, do keep in mind that guests are not usually rushed to leave a 5 star rating when they had a great experience. On the other hand, they’re more likely to write 5 paragraphs of 1 star review after a disappointing experience. This means the number you see does not represent the hotel’s reputation entirely.

7. Customer Support

Having access to clear communication before, during, and after your stay to iron out any niggling worries and complaints.

Direct Booking

The quality of customer care can vary a lot depending on the size and quality of the hotel. Sometimes it may be difficult to get in touch with the hotel when you’re not staying there. While some have 24/7 support lines, many smaller hotels don’t have the scale to accommodate this.

The most convenient way to communicate with a hotel is by email, but you can call during working hours if you’re not getting a response. Bear in mind that in smaller hotels this could just be the main reception and not a dedicated booking team. But you’ll get a more personal experience and they’re more likely to escalate your requests fast.

Booking via Online Travel Agent

Most OTAs operate on a huge scale and have 24-hour call centers to help you with any issues. This is normally a dedicated team accustomed to dealing with complaints and changes to your booking.

The quality of service can vary. You may get fast response times and have your issues fixed straight away. But sometimes your needs can get lost in the noise and you may have to get in touch several times before your issue gets resolved.


OTAs have dedicated online teams and are easier to contact with any issues.

Final Conclusion

Book using OTA if you:

  • Like to book different hotels according to what you find
  • Prefer a streamlined and simple process of booking
  • Want the most flexible cancelation policies
  • Often book with little time left
  • Doesn’t mind fewer conveniences or less than ideal room location
  • Like to book everything including hotel, flight, and other transport in one go
  • Prefer to see what other guests have to say before you decide
  • Prefer to have 24/7 customer support ready if you need them

Book directly to the hotel if you:

  • A loyal guest to certain hotel brands with many branches where you can utilize your memberships for certain perks such as free upgrades, better prices, and even free stays.
  • Prefer to communicate directly with the hotel for anything from canceling a reservation, negotiating price and amenities, to asking for a free upgrade. As a member, you have more negotiating power compared to a non-member who booked via OTA.
  • Want to make sure that you always get the best room available.
  • Fine with booking flights and other necessities separately.
  • Don’t really need reviews because you know the hotel’s standard and expect it to be the same in all of their branches.

Now that you know where you stand, check our recommendation of hotel booking sites if you’re leaning towards booking via OTA.

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