Tips to book a hotel room online

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A nice hotel room at a nice price? That's a goal many of us have this time of year. There are a bunch of websites just lining up to help you book your summer vacation room and shopping online for a hotel room feels like shopping for anything else. We go from site to site looking for a deal, but the American Hotel Lodging Association's Amy Travieso says this comparison shopping is different.

"You might look and feel and go through the motions of comparing prices with 4, 5 or 6 different websites," she says. "But in reality you are only comparing prices among two companies."

Bay Area Consumers' Checkbooks' Kevin Brasler says there has been a consolidation in the online travel business.

"All those sites you know about, or really almost all of them, are owned by one of two companies; they are either by Expedia or they are owned by a company called Booking Holdings, which used to be called Priceline."

So, Bay Area Consumers' Checkbook compared prices from site to site.

"We looked at more than 3,500 prices across all of these different websites," Brasler says. "And found that 85 percent of the time we were just quoted a prevailing rate. The same rates over and over again."

And it's not just consumer advocates doing studies, that's what San Francisco visitors say they found when looking for hotel rooms.

"They are always the same price." Alice McGlade told me.

"You see all the comparisons. Right?" asked Azra Popat.

So I picked a hotel at random, the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, and spot checked websites. All but two of the eight checked had the same listed price, $181.

A check a couple weeks later found out of 11 sites all but two offered the same listed price of $189.

I reached out to Priceline, its parent company Booking Holdings, Expedia and Hyatt.

Priceline wrote in part, " is important to note that while price similarity may exist within public rates, that's only one of many different ways to book a hotel room," pointing out digging deeper into a site can find cheaper prices.

For instance, the hidden hotel name rate offered by Priceline Express Deals and Hotwire's Hot Rates do offer huge savings. Bay Area Consumers' Checkbook's Kevin Brasler says as much as 40%.

Expedia wrote in part that it offers multiple discounts pointing out, "... travelers can save up to 10% on over 175,000 participating hotels just by logging in."

Hyatt recommends travelers book on its website pointing to perks like Hyatt loyalty points and its Best Rate Guarantee.

So when booking a hotel it isn't just the Devil in the details, the savings are often there, too.

Consumers' Checkbook is making its study available for free because you are reading this report. You'll find the link here.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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