The Adrian Loveridge Column – Booking the Best Deal
I have recently spent, what seemed like an extraordinary amount of time and research, mostly driven by budgetary restraints, planning an upcoming trip to the southern state of Georgia in the USA. There are so many of what can only be described as untruths and misconceptions in the tourism industry, it is small wonder that so many people book what has become known as a ‘package tour’.
If however you take the independent booking option, then expect to have to undertake considerable investigative work if you wish to end up with anything remotely close to the best value for money.
Timing can be almost everything. The magical booking period often appears around three weeks prior to actual travel dates. Surprisingly where you live can also make a massive difference. How many people for instance are fully aware that many major car rental companies charge a different rate for an identical car and duration of hire, depending on where your normal country of residence is?
The compact car I eventually booked cost US$137 for a week with all the taxes, insurance, and additional charges included. It had the added convenience of collection and return to the airport terminal. Had I resided in the UK or USA, the matching rental would have cost around US$100 more.
Since the recent imposition of the Foreign Exchange Fee (FXF), it now makes a price difference of how you choose to pay. In this case using my American Express card avoids the extra 2 per cent tax, while still giving valuable insurance cover.
And that raises another important point. Most people can understand the logic of dampening the demand for foreign currency, but for many, there is simply no plausible alternative. Should those of us in tourism, eliminate or severely curtail overseas sales trips with the knock-on effect that may have on net national earnings?
Personally I think our local banks will become more creative by reducing or eliminating annual credit card fees and offer more cash back and rewards options to at least partially offset the FXF tax.
With minimal lending opportunities and low interest rates, the merchant discount rate, which averages between 1 – 3 per cent extracted by the banks from credit and debit card use, is far too important for them to allow a substantial reduction in card spending.
Government must realise by now that the dramatic fall in general spending driven by the increase in NSRL tax will result in the collection of less VAT, so in other words, entirely counter-productive and not remotely achieving the administration’s stated objective.
Now moving on to my lodging requirements!
Several large hotel groups promise the lowest room rates are only available when booked through their own websites. In my experience this is often simply not true and one wonders how the regulatory advertising authorities allow them to get away with it.
I also have little faith or belief in comparison search websites like Trivago and alike. For my particular choice, Trivago was a staggering 48 per cent more expensive for the same hotel, room and dates.
Again it’s frequently down to timing because each property approaches closer to its latest sell-by arrival date and finding the right access through a minefield of booking engine choices.
Personally, to maintain any brand loyalty and give, often repeat guests the most competitive deal possible, hotels should ensure that they really live by the stated criteria of ‘book online for the best rates’. Savvy travellers will soon discover the realities and ignore blatant and sometimes misleading mission statements.