Useful information when booking accommodation
Booking accommodation need not be a game of chance. Whenever possible book rooms directly with the accommodation provider's reception staff and speak with a person familiar with the rooms and the buildings layout. Alternatively book via the accommodation provider's own website; hopefully this will contain all the relevant room information. This way, not only will you, the customer, have the best possible chance of receiving the most competitive rates, but room requirements and expectations can also be clarified and preferences for bath or shower; ground or top floor; view of town, railway or lake; bed size; room service etc can be taken into consideration.
Booking through a third party or OTA (online travel agent) takes a lot of this customer service out of the transaction. Firstly, OBAs charge the accommodation provider up to 20% commission per booking. This cost will be included in the rate you are paying, regardless of what the clever marketing says. Often the paying guest does not get the option of room requirements either. For instance, the effect that a simple thing such as a preference for a 'bath or shower' can have on a stay is incredible. OBAs booking systems mainly work on allocation. This means that it will see a room available for five nights and allow the customer to book it. However, it will not recognise that it could require four room changes. Believe me, both guest and accommodation provider cannot get out of paying for this one easily!
Having to cancel or cut short a stay is not nice for anyone. Third party booking agents, more often than not, will hold you to the contract and demand full payment with very little flexibility. A direct booking with the accommodation provider and speaking with a real person on site can sometimes result in reduced charges, or moving bookings to other convenient dates, and generally working together to find the best solution - it's called 'customer service'.
Obviously not all experiences with third party agents will be bad ones, and not all experiences with the accommodation provider will be good ones, but please be aware of what you may, or may not, be getting into.
As a wise old traveller from the Far East, once said,
"Staying local, then book local"