By Kelli B. Grant
Travelers may now have more recourse to ensure they’re getting the best possible price on some hotel bookings.
Tingo, a new site launched today, automatically rebooks rooms if the rate drops — and refunds the customer the difference in price. As we previously reported, more travel booking sites, airlines and even credit card issuers are touting such best-price guarantees. Experts say most of those policies have serious fine print, however, covering only price drops within 24 hours of booking, or only those where another customer has booked the exact same trip.
Tingo, which uses inventory from Expedia, claims to have broader coverage. “There are fewer hoops to jump through,” says George Hobica, the site’s “travel watchdog,” and chief executive of AirfareWatchdog.com. Tingo automatically tracks nightly room rates and offers refunds from the time of booking until the room becomes nonrefundable, usually 24 hours in advance of check-in per most hotels’ policies. There’s no limit to the number of refunds someone might receive, says Hobica.
But booking may still be a gamble. Refundable hotel rates are typically higher than hotels’ non-refundable ones, and Tingo’s policy doesn’t cover sales that don’t show up in its systems — such as AAA rates, offers on daily deal sites or those that require a code to book. As with airfare, price-protection might not do much given that rates are rising. Occupancy is high enough now that hotels have more price leverage, and rates are expected to increase 4.1% this year as a result, says Robert Mandelbaum, director of research information services for PKF Hospitality Research. Hobica says roughly a third of bookings thus far resulted in a price adjustment. “Prices absolutely do drop, sometimes dramatically,” he says.
Travelers looking for their best prices, price adjustment or no, may have better luck at midscale and economy properties such as Quality Inn, Ramada and Red Roof, says Mandelbaum. Luxury properties have seen some of the fastest recovery, with prices expected to increase 5.2% this year. Midscale hotels, meanwhile, might see rate increases of just 1.3%. “There are definitely opportunities out there,” he says.