You booked a hotel and found it cheaper elsewhere? Who compensates best?

Not all customers know this, but if you book directly with a major hotel chain and find it cheaper online you may be entitled to compensation.

But not all chains compensate their customers to the same extent.

What is a BRG?

In fact, in any self-respecting hotel group, there is a device called Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) which allows a customer who has booked directly on their site to be compensated if he finds a better price later on another site.

The rationale behind this practice: to encourage customers to book directly with hotels rather than through an online travel agency (OTA). The OTAs taking commissions ranging from 10 to more than 20%, hoteliers have every interest in trying to bypass them (bookings through these agencies such as Booking or Expedia bring them many customers but almost no value compared to direct bookings). It also helps to attract members to the loyalty program since you have to be a member to enjoy certain compensations.

The implicit message is: we promise you that we are cheaper and even if by some miracle you find better elsewhere we guarantee that we will match.

Is it risky for these hoteliers considering that OTAs spend their time to break the prices? Well, not at all. First of all, OTAs are not always cheaper (urban legends die hard). And given the margin taken by the OTAs, the hotelier has enough leeway to lower his prices while earning more money if the customer comes than if he had gone through an OTA. And as an extension of my article on Google Hotel Search We will soon see why if a hotelier appears to be more expensive than an OTA, it is simply because he is not doing his price monitoring properly or that the connector used by his reservation management system is incomplete and does not allow him to respond to all customer requests (room for 3 or 4 for example) where OTAs know how to do it.

In short, we took 6 major hotel groups and benchmarked their best price guarantee policies.

The BRGs of 5 hotel groups put to the test

We decided to focus on

  • Marriott (Sheraton, Marriott, W, Westin, Le Méridien, Luxury Collection, St Regis…)
  • Hilton (Hilton, Hampton, Waldorf Astoria, Double Tree, Conrad…)
  • Hyatt (Hyatt, Park Hyatt…)
  • IHG (Intercontinental, Crown Plaza, Holyday Inn, Regent…)
  • AccorHotels (Novotel, Sofitel, Mercure, Raffles, Ibis, Mama Shelter, Swiss Hotel…)

How the Best Rate Guarantee works

It is almost the same everywhere except for a few details, which, as we shall see, will often make all the difference.

It is necessary to have booked a room directly on the website of a hotel and if, within a certain period of time, you find a cheaper room elsewhere on the web, then you just have to fill out an online form to get compensation.

The terms of use of the BRG

1°) The deadline for requesting compensation

It is 24 hours in all hotels. Does this seem short to you? At first glance, it may seem petty, but it’s totally logical.

In the hotel industry, as in the airline industry, the practice of “yield” means that rates move almost in real time. A 24-hour timeframe allows to say that under identical market and competition conditions, an online travel agency has indeed offered a better price.

If we were to extend, say, to less the chances that at some point a better rate would end up “coming out” elsewhere is much greater if only because some agencies or distributors who have bought nights in advance and are struggling to resell them start selling them and not necessarily because they are cheaper on principle.

It would be nice to be able to book a month in advance and go around to all the discounters the day before to try to find a better price and get a compensation but…it would not be fair to the hotel owner.

2°) Identical dates

It goes without saying that both stays must take place on the same dates!

3°) Identical room

It also goes without saying that both rates must apply to the same room type. Proving that you found a standard room cheaper than your executive deluxe is easy but irrelevant.

More seriously, when we say “same room” you really have to pay attention to the details. They are more or less well explained by each hotel, but as a matter of principle we will retain the most restrictive interpretation, which is often the norm.

  • Same type of rate (prepaid, totally flexible or not, with or without deposit, refundable or not, same cancellation conditions etc…)
  • Prices given in the same currency (varies by hotel)
  • Same type of room in the strict sense: same view, with or without access to executive lounge type services.
  • Same services : with or without breakfast included…
  • Same number of people.

On this point there is no significant difference on paper between the different hotels. The practice can show a more or less strict appreciation according to the cases but it is another story.

4°) Restrictions

a) Some brands may not participate.

  • Design Hotels chez Marriott (logical…they may divorce) as well as Ritz-Carlton Montréal, The Ritz London, Ritz-Carlton Residences, The Ritz-Carlton Club, Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott’s Grand Residence Club, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Sheraton Vacation Club, Westin Vacation Club.
  • Hyatt Residence Club and Hyatt Vacation Club at Hyatt
  • Hotels located in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau for IHG,
  • Rixos, 25Hours, Art Series, BreakFree, PepperS, Banyan Tree, Angsana, Cassia, Dhawa, Mövenpick, Mantra, Mantis, Onefinestay, 21C Museum Hotel, sbe Hotels at Accorhotels.
  • Hampton Hotels in China at Hilton.

Generally excluded are “long stay” hotels (and it is easy to understand why), vacation clubs (all vacation clubs), residential and “Airbnb-likes” like Marriott Home and Villas.

From our point of view these exclusions are logical, all the others a bit exaggerated.

Note that it is not mandatory to be a member of the loyalty program to benefit from it but if the compensation is done in points it is better to register, especially since it costs nothing.

b) The reservation must be confirmed, firm, not “pending anything”.

c) The rate must be public and accessible: if you have to log in, provide information, pay a fee, be a member to have access to the name of the hotel and the rate a BRG cannot be applied. It is necessary that from the beginning of the research, as on the site of a hotel or a booking.com one knows “where and how much”.

d) We are talking about individual rates, not negotiated group rates etc.

On this point, Marriott and AccorHotels tolerate the most exceptions to the rule. What surprises me is that Accorhotels is taking out properties that are neither “long stay”, nor residential nor vacation clubs.

5°) How to claim compensation?

Very simply by going to the dedicated page on the website of the hotelier in question and filling in the appropriate form.

In some cases this channel is exclusive, in others not.

At Hyatt they only accept claims in English. For other languages you need to call a local number.

At Hilton you can call, it is even mandatory for a late claim.

At Marriott, IHG or AccorHotels it is the form and nothing but the form.

6°) The nature of the compensation

This is of course what the customer expects from the hotels. Saying “ok we’re sorry we apologize and we make a gesture” is good, then the gesture has to be up to it.

short comparison:

Final price to be paid by the customerAnd/
or
Points in compensation
MarriottRate found elsewhere -25%.or5000 points
HiltonRate found elsewhere -25%.
HyattRate found elsewhere -20%or5000 points
IHGPrice found elsewhereand5* the number of points normally earned
AccorhotelsPrice found elsewhere -10%.

There are some subtleties in this picture.

For Hilton, the basis for the “lowest rate” on which the 25% discount will be applied is “the lowest verifiable rate, not necessarily the claim rate.” Quite mysterious.

At IHG they just match but boost the number of points (up to 40,000). A real incentive to join the loyalty program.

As for Accorhotels, we reach peaks of penny-pinching compared to the competition. Generous by Nature ?

So who compensates best?

Before going any further, I will say that there are principles and reality. It’s all very well to make promises, but you have to keep them and examine the claims in good faith. This is assessed on a case-by-case basis and if you have any experience in this area your comments are welcome.

Personally we have a pair of nice BRGs to our credit at the late Starwood now Marriott so we can tell you that it works.

Then between Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt we can say that it is equal. The difference is not in the promise but in the ability to deliver.

IHG uses the BRG almost as a tool to recruit members for the loyalty program because of the nature of the compensation. Well seen from a marketing point of view but it still bothers me a bit on the substance.

As for Accorhotels, I don’t know if at this stage we should talk about stinginess, meanness, or, as in the case of the loyalty program, mediocrity erected as a norm.

Note: the information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. If you read this article later, the terms and conditions of these schemes may have changed.

Photo : Best rate guarantee by KongNoi via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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