Hotel Engine or Online Travel Agencies: Which is the Best Fit for Your Travel Needs?

Audrey Fairbrother
September 12, 2022
Hotel Engine or Online Travel Agencies: Which is the Best Fit for Your Travel Needs?

Booking a business stay for yourself or your team? Where will you go to make your reservation?

Many small- to mid-sized businesses, who can’t afford an expensive contract with a travel management company, find themselves booking their travel on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). It’s a popular way to book lodging for personal travel, but how well do they work for business travel? They’re missing out on pre-negotiated rates and tools built for business travel.

Hotel Engine is a step above.

In fact, there’s quite a bit of daylight between Hotel Engine and OTAs because they’re built for two different kinds of travelers.

We’ve broken down those differences into the following five categories to help you understand how OTAs fall short — and how Hotel Engine’s free-to-use platform might be a better solution for your business travel needs!

Table of Contents

1. Features
2. User Interface
3. Prices
4. Benefits
5. Service
6. So — Which Corporate Travel Solution Is Right For You?

1. Features

First up, let’s do a quick rundown on the key features of both OTAs and Hotel Engine.

Online Travel Agencies

OTAs tend to be big websites aggregating prices from thousands of hotel chains (as well as boutique properties) covering global travel destinations. They are a good option if you are looking for a robust inventory of rooms for a family trip and don’t want to scour multiple separate chain websites.

You can search for hotels available for your travel dates, then filter search results by location, amenities and ratings to find exactly the right property for your trip.

OTAs may also prompt you to choose a bundled package with a flight or rental car.

Hotel Engine

On Hotel Engine, you can search 700,000+ hotel properties in the US, Canada and 185 other countries. Our platform is built to meet the needs of companies with traveling workforces.

You can manage all your bookings, a feature we know regular business travelers find particularly useful.

Some other features that stand out to our business customers are items like:

Travel Policies

Set travel policies for teams or departments, such as a maximum nightly rate — and your colleagues can book their own lodging without breaking the budget.

Virtual Credit Cards

You can leave the days of faxing card authorizations behind with Hotel Engine’s fraud-proof virtual credit cards.

The hotel will receive a 16-digit number that is acceptable to their credit card payment system — but all it is really doing is charging your Hotel Engine virtual account.

If the hotel’s booking system gets hacked, your company’s actual credit cards are not at risk.

And — virtual cards can be used for both booking rooms and incidentals, eliminating the need for travelers to have credit cards with them at check-in.

Direct Bill

This feature gives qualifying members the ability to pay off all of their charges in a lump sum, instead of paying separately for each stay.

Flex and FlexPro

When you or your employees book with us, you’ll have the option to add Hotel Engine Flex to any reservation — or FlexPro to every reservation.

By booking with Flex or FlexPro you can make any stay completely flexible — regardless of hotel policies. Cover cancellations and modifications by applying Flex to individual reservations, or enroll your company in Flex Pro to automatically cover every booking under one flat fee.

Cancel these bookings anytime before noon on the day of checkin, or shorten stays without losing funds. Get your funds back instantly, and experience ultimate peace of mind.

It’s crucial in today’s world of COVID variants — or if your employee has a family emergency.

Personal Accounts

Employees using Hotel Engine for business travel don’t have to switch back over to an OTA if they want to stay longer for personal reasons to do a little more sightseeing. Anyone with a business account can create a personal account to access the same great rates on or off the clock.

When it’s time to pay for extra leisure nights (or to book a new trip entirely for personal reasons), the employee can use their personal account; knowing the business account is completely separate.

Are all these acronyms getting a bit complex? Browse our glossary of hotel terms for business travel planners.

2. User Interface

We’ve talked about the features that make OTAs and Hotel Engine what they are, but how do websites make them happen?

User-friendliness can make or break your travel experience — and that is only magnified for travel coordinators.

What is needed is a seamless website that you can come back to again and again for your company’s hotel booking needs.

Online Travel Agencies

Online travel agencies’ user experience simply isn’t designed for businesses. They often can’t easily accommodate booking for groups, for example. And they’re not set up to manage multiple reservations under different guest names.

Hotel Engine

Hotel Engine’s user interface makes managing business trips and travelers simple while simultaneously setting up new travel plans.

Does one of your employees need to stay in New York for a couple extra days to finish a deal with potential new stakeholders?

How many people are going to that conference in Las Vegas again?

Head over to their booking in Trips and view all your trips, whether they need changes, are upcoming, or are in the past.

Self-Serve Trip Extensions

Your colleague in New York might not even need to reach out to you.

With the easy-to-use Hotel Engine app interface, they can easily extend their trip right from their phone with Self-Serve Trip Extensions.

3. Prices

Business traveler booking travel online

How much do hotel rooms cost with these two different travel options?

And what can you expect in fees, deals and rewards?

Online Travel Agencies

Because OTAs aggregate a lot of different options, you’re likely to find a good deal with a bit of searching. They also sometimes offer their own reward programs.

Whenever you book a room, you might get air miles, loyalty points, etc. (depending on which travel site you use).

But the scope of the rewards will be limited, and in many cases, you won’t be able to get loyalty points from hotel rewards programs as you would if you booked directly.

Hotel Engine

Hotel Engine uses its collective buying power to negotiate some of the best rates in the industry, saving customers up to 60% over the public rates on OTAs. They crowdsource demand to wield much stronger leverage than any of its members would have on their own.

The platform also has a great built-in rewards program that lets you collect Hotel Engine Rewards points on every booking, as well as points with 15+ top hotel loyalty programs for double the savings. Think: Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards and many more.

What’s more, Hotel Engine is free to use:

  • No joining fees
  • No membership fees
  • No minimums
  • No contracts

The savings Hotel Engine members experience are often compounded in the form of time savings, too, for a truly cost-effective travel solution.

Have you ever been curious about how hotels set their prices? It depends on a lot of complicated factors. Read more about how hotel room pricing is decided so you can hone in on the best deal for your travel budget.

4. Benefits

Let’s take a look at the standout benefits of each travel booking option.

What are their key offerings to business users?

Online Travel Agencies

The biggest benefits of using OTAs are inventory and choice. Because the majority of them are owned by two big companies, they all tend to offer something pretty similar in price.

OTAs have filters and sorting tools, and were designed to help tourists get exactly what they want out of their travel experience.

Some OTAs also offer package deals so that you can book other travel services along with your hotel.

Hotel Engine

What makes Hotel Engine better suited for business travelers?

Unlike OTAs, the Hotel Engine platform was built specifically for this type of traveler and their needs. While they still have great filters and sorting options, they also have things that businesses need to simplify the management of every trip.

Within your account, you’ll have access to advanced data to track your travel spending and ensure you’re staying under budget, even if your employees are allowed to book their rooms on their own under your corporate travel policy.

Generate reports and analyze your company’s travel program and its trends. With our platform, you can save time and also find ways to reduce travel spending — and prove it to your CFO!

Read more: Important Insights At Your Fingertips

5. Service

Corporate travel agent customer service

When you’re a travel coordinator trying to book rooms for dozens of people, the process gets complicated and can be downright confusing — especially if your reservations then need to be modified due to plans changing.

When you need help locking in hotels, you need a corporate travel solution that you can turn to for reliable support.

Online Travel Agencies

When you book a room with an OTA, you’ll see the rate for each night and then the total price for the stay. The prices are pre-set and there’s no room to negotiate, even if you’re booking for 20 colleagues.

The only way to negotiate would be to call the hotel directly.

OTAs are built for personal travelers, not large companies, so they’re not there to help the process run smoothly on a large scale.

That’s not to say OTAs don’t have any customer service, but they’re more there for things like technical issues with their website.

OTAs generally must play by the rules set by the hotel and defer to their policies. You book your room through the OTA, but if any problems come up, they’re not likely to be very helpful. You’ll have to solve any issues directly with the hotel property.

Hotel Engine

At Hotel Engine, we pride ourselves on being a customer-first platform. We know the importance of having an advocate when you’re traveling.

By using a travel tool like Hotel Engine — and with the power of its property partnerships and sharp focus on only helping large organizations — you already know you’re getting the best group rate possible.

We also provide dedicated, US-based Member Support that’s available 24/7 to help you with your company’s account and all its hotel travel arrangements.

No long wait times or overseas routing. Because Hotel Engine has close partnerships with hotels, we can often secure more favorable outcomes on behalf of our travelers when issues arise.

Additionally, our dedicated Project Services team can help you to make bookings for group travel and long-term projects — for no extra cost.

It’s Hotel Engine’s goal to help every company reduce costs, time and stress levels for all their business travel.

So — Which Corporate Travel Solution Is Right For You?

Now that we’ve delved into the details of OTAs and Hotel Engine, which one sounds right for you?

If you’re one of the many small or medium-sized businesses who are still using OTAs to book hotels, it might be time to give a platform like Hotel Engine a try.

Even if you travel infrequently, it may still be a good solution. Hotel Engine doesn’t charge a membership fee and doesn’t require contracts or minimum spend — so you won’t need to worry about getting locked into something that’s not working for your needs. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Whether you’re booking a small conference for your team or you’re in charge of finding rooms for scores of travel nurses all over the country year-round, Hotel Engine is set up to make travel coordinators’ lives easier.


With Hotel Engine, you can not only book rooms at great rates, but also keep track of travel data across your whole company, whether you’re a small business or a multinational corporation.

Hotel Engine is free to join and free to use. Click here to set up your account, and our team will work on getting you approved so you can begin your next hotel search.

Article written by
Audrey Fairbrother

Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine's audience and cultivating the company's brand voice.

Table Of Contents
Guy on his phone
Ready to save time and money on business lodging?
Join for Free
Share This Article: