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?
Online travel agencies (OTAs) are a popular option, with good prices and a huge inventory of hotels to choose from.
Lodging Performance Networks (LPNs) like Hotel Engine build on what OTAs offer. LPNs focus on providing tools and customer care that’s more suitable for businesses’ travel needs.
In fact, there’s quite a bit of daylight between Hotel Engine and OTAs because they’re built for two different kinds of travelers.
Many small- to mid-sized businesses, who can’t afford an expensive contract with a travel management company, find themselves booking their travel on OTAs. It seems convenient enough, but they’re missing out on pre-negotiated rates and tools built for business travel.
LPNs were designed to bridge the gap by providing great rates and helpful tech features, while being accessible from a cost standpoint (in fact, Hotel Engine is entirely free to use).
We’ve broken down those differences into the following five categories to help you understand how LPNs might be a better solution for your business travel needs!
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 great 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.
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:
Set travel policies for teams or departments, such as a maximum nightly rate.
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.
These “cards” can be used for both booking rooms and incidentals.
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.
When you or your employees book with us, you’ll have the option to add Hotel Engine Flex to any reservation.
Flex allows you to cancel a room up until 12 pm local time on check-in day, regardless of the property’s own policy.
This is a crucial offering for flexibility and risk management in today’s world of COVID variants — or if your employee has a family emergency.
Employees using Hotel Engine for business travel don’t have to switch back over to an OTA if they want to stay longer and do a little more sightseeing. Anyone with a business account can create a personal account to access the same group rates your company gets.
When it’s time to pay for extra leisure nights (or to book a new trip entirely for personal reasons), the employee will use their personal account; the business account is completely separate.
2. User Interface
We’ve talked about the features that make OTAs and LPNs what they are, but how do their 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 from a travel specialist that you’ll 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’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?
Head over to their booking in “Active Trips” and change their travel itinerary from there.
How many people are going to that conference in Las Vegas again?
Take a look under “Upcoming Trips.”
Self-Serve Trip Extensions
Your colleague in New York might not even need to reach out to you.
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 tend to offer reward programs.
Whenever you book a room, you’ll get air miles, loyalty points or a free night’s stay for every ten nights you book, etc. (depending on which travel site you use).
But the scope of the rewards will be limited.
Hotel Engine uses its collective buying power to negotiate some of the best rates in the industry. 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 HE Rewards points on top of earning points with top hotel loyalty programs for double the savings.
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, making it a very cost-effective travel solution.
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 the added benefits of great filters and sorting tools. These 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.
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.
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
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.
The travel experts at Hotel Engine pride themselves on being a customer-first platform. They 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.
So — Which Corporate Travel Solution Is Right For You?
Now that we’ve delved into the details of OTAs and LPNs, 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 an LPN like Hotel Engine a try.
Even if you travel infrequently, LPNs 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.
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.
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. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.