Which?, an organisation owned by the Consumer Association, has surveyed its members about their experiences of using both comparison and Booking sites for hotel stays.
The findings report that booking directly is not only likely to prove cheaper in the long run but will also ensure travellers know where the responsibility lies if something goes wrong.
Which?’s ranking of the best and worst booking sites for hotels compared the cost of 30 overnight stays in ten hotels across nine different websites.
Booking directly with a hotel rather than using a booking site offered the cheapest price half the time.
As travellers increasingly switch to online travel intermediaries over in-store travel agents, the online travel market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 7% from 2023 to 2026.
The best and worst sites for hotel bookings
Comparison sites proved useful, returning the best or joint best price on multiple occasions. Kayak and Trivago were most frequently successful, finding the lowest, or joint lowest price on 12 occasions, while Skyscanner was close behind with 11 times.
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Hotel booking sites on the other hand were reportedly more likely to source the highest prices.
Agoda returned the most expensive price on 14 out of 30 occasions, while Expedia and Booking.com each did so on 13 out of 30 occasions.
There was little to distinguish many of the booking sites in terms of customer satisfaction. Booking.com received the highest customer score, with a rating of 73%, and achieved a four-star rating for both site functionality and transparency of fees, just edging out Airbnb (71%) and Hotels.com (70%).
Expedia received 67% in this category while Agoda and Vrbo tied in last place, with customer scores of 66%.
Which? deputy travel editor Naomi Leach commented: “Calling a hotel directly will often secure the best price – or at the very least they’ll throw in a freebie like a bottle of wine or a room upgrade.”