Travel Tips: Secrets of a Front Desk Agent – Part I
Did you know that you may not actually have to pay for parking or the full rate at your hotel? It’s tricky, but there are many unknown strategies into getting the special hookups from hotels. WeTravel is excited to introduce a new series of posts coming from the very source of a high-end hotel. We’ll share stories, secrets, and helpful tips to guide travelers on how to get the most from their hotel.
Secrets of a Front Desk Agent- Part I: Booking
When it comes to traveling, most people dream about the destination, the sites they will see, the people they will meet, and the food they will taste. When I became a front desk agent of a high-end hotel chain, I found surprisingly, that there are travelers with other hopes in mind. For many, a great deal of the vacation enjoyment comes out of the hotel room itself that they will be staying at. Whether you are in the first group, the latter, or somewhere in the middle, these tips from a front desk agent will surely help your next travel opportunity be ideal.
If you are looking for accommodations on your own, it’s important to think about what type of traveler you are in order to decide how you would like to book your next hotel room. If you are on a tight budget, you might want to go ahead and book through a cheaper website: Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, Booking.com, etc. These are known by the hotels as a third party website or wholesaler. There are a few things you need to be wary of when going through this route, and lucky for you WeTravel has the insider scoop.
Say Goodbye to Having a View
Hotels aim to occupy all of their rooms each night to maximize profit potential, and use these sites to sell off their plainer rooms. The hotel sales department calls booking sites wholesalers because they purchase of a number of rooms for a very low price and can proceed to sell those rooms at whatever price they choose. This means, although the pictures of the hotel online showed picturesque views of the sandy beach below the fourth story balcony, the room you booked is overlooking the roof-top vents and parking lot on the other side. Countless times have I had a frustrated guest demand to see a manager because they expected an ocean view but are facing the Motel 6. Well, it’s a full house tonight, and the person occupying that room paid $300 more to reserve it. If you really want to guarantee that stunning view, you need to book through the hotel, and specify the view you want which may or may not be more expensive. The secret? You don’t have to book the Deluxe Balcony Ocean View room. Book through the hotel directly during the off-season and ask if there are any standard rooms that have a nice view. It doesn’t guarantee the view you want like booking the higher priced room does, but if you play your cards right and maybe mention a (fictional?) special occasion, you can get the best chance at a valuable view. Keep in mind that if they say they don’t have it, they mean it. The hotel is more willing to work with what fits your needs if you book directly through them because they receive 100% of your rate.
You May End up Spending More Money
The special “negotiator” booking websites can name whatever price they want after paying a low bulk rate to the hotel. Sometimes, they are booked for even higher prices than the hotel would have done for that room-type. In addition, booking through the third-party website binds you to their restrictions and policies as opposed to that of the hotel. This could mean you can’t cancel your room if something comes up, nor can you receive a refund or discount if something is wrong with the room. I can guarantee that the front desk agent will tell you since your reservation is pre-paid through (insert third-party website) you will have to contact them. They will tell you this knowing full well you don’t stand a chance, whereas if you had booked directly there may have been something able to be done. You would have to jump through hoops to reach a customer service representative from the website you booked through, and even then more often times than not, the wholesaler states clearly that there are no refunds, no cancellations. Even for emergencies! There are very rare instances of refunds which would greatly depend on how truly deplorable your stay was. The wholesaler company would call the hotel to confirm whether a refund or discount should be awarded, and maybe, just maybe, something would work out in your favor. My front desk agent tip would be to ask the front desk if they have the direct phone number to the company you booked through because it is not likely you will find it easily on the website.
It’s Not the Bedroom Type You Wanted
Don’t plan on being able to switch bed types from what you have booked. A lot of times people mistake booking a single queen bed thinking they have booked a double queen bedroom. Then they arrive late at night and realize they are going to be very uncomfortable squeezing the family of 4 in a closet of a room. Whatever bed-type the hotel has left is what you’re going to get. My tip would be if that is the case that you need an extra bed, try asking the front desk for a complimentary roll-away bed or cot. Sometimes the room may not be able to accommodate an extra bed, but being polite and reasonable with the manager may help make an exception.
The Hotel Doesn’t Even Have Your Reservation
Beware of booking your room on the same day you expect to arrive if you are booking through a third party reservation site. Imagine this scenario; you’ve reached your destination a little later than expected and have a tight schedule to adhere to. You plan on checking in, dropping off the luggage, grab something to eat because you guys are STARVING, and then hit the town before that awesome novelty bar closes. No problem, right? Except you’ve booked through a third party site which faxes the info to the hotel, so when you arrive to check in, the front desk doesn’t have your name in the system because the reservationist has already left for the day. Booking through a wholesaler takes extra time for your reservation to end up in the system. It’s going to take another 20 minutes for the front desk agent to find your reservation and enter it on their own system. Worst case scenario: they are already sold out. Hotels bank on the fact that 10% of reservations don’t show up at all. Sometimes this gamble means that someone will have to be walked to another property. It would be at the expense of the hotel, but is of same or lesser value and sometimes far away into the next city if every other nearby hotel is full. Guess which reservation they’re most likely to push this inconvenience to?
Don’t let it be you!
Luckily, when planning a trip with WeTravel, many of the accommodations are already taken care of for you. It’s one of the many perks to group travel. Just take a glance at what is included and not included for the trip you would like to take. If you take a browse through the trips and see that hotels are not included, then hopefully these tips will guide you on what is the best way to book your future reservation. If you enjoyed this post, come back for more tips and stories I will be bringing here in the near future.