/ Travel & Leisure

Can you trust ‘best price guarantees’ on hotel sites?

When you’re booking with a major hotel chain, you want to make sure you get the best price. Many chains promise this with ‘best price guarantees’, but we’ve found these are often not worth the sites they’re written on.

I’d like to believe in guarantees. There’s a nice old-fashioned feeling about the word that suggests they’re part of a Victorian gentleman’s bond of honour and anything attached to them should be safe.

I get that feeling when I look at the big ‘best rate guaranteed’ badges on hotel websites. The guarantee is supposed to mean that the hotel will match any cheaper price found elsewhere.

I’m quite a lazy shopper (terrible admission for a Which? employee I know), so sometimes I’m likely to see that badge and think it’s not worth the effort to search elsewhere for something cheaper. After all, hotel chains wouldn’t put the promise on their websites if there were cheaper prices around would they?

Why promise if you can’t keep it?

Well from our Which? Travel’s investigation, it seems they would. We looked at 14 hotel chains that were offering ‘best price guarantees’ and found better prices for the same hotel on the same date for 12 of them.

However, when we went back to those 12 and asked them to put their guarantee in to practice, we were disappointed. Only two of the chains – Britannia and Jurys Inn – immediately offered to match the prices we had found.

Most of the chains told us that their guarantees only applied if we had booked a room with them first, at the higher price. Once we had paid for the room, we could then submit our evidence of the cheaper price and the chain would decide if it qualified for their price match guarantee.

And often the claims procedure was inconvenient in itself – involving online forms, pricey 0871 numbers, currency conversions and being told to wait up to three days for an answer. This wait could make the guarantee worthless – if the decision went against us we could have lost out on the cheaper option and paid more than we needed to.

I think that any hotel chain offering a price guarantee should match a cheaper price as soon as you tell them about it. After all, they can quickly check online to see if you’re telling the truth.

Until they start doing that, I’ll be ignoring these guarantees. They might as well put a badge on their website advising ‘shop around for the best price’.

Jo says:
2 March 2012

In January I booked a twin room at a discounted price at the Jurys Inn in Birmingham through an internet web site I’m not now sure whether it was Lastminute.com or Concerthotels but the price on the site was the price paid for the room and it was a very good room. The Hotel was very good as well and within easy walking distance of the NIA where we attended a show.

My partner and i have stayed at Premier Inn Greenock on numerous occasions.
We have yet to receive discounted charges there in spite of Lenny Henry’s enormous welcoming poster advert at entrance advertising rooms at only £29.00
Why are Premier allowed to advertise such blatantly non-available prices?

I have found this coming weekend (3rd & 4th March) that Premier Inn are charging two different prices for the same type of room in Coventry.The hotels are not far from each other in Coventry.

Michael says:
2 March 2012

I found a small B&B establishment near Porthmadoc, through Hotel.com or similar, and accepted their discount and booked.

Later I went to the hotels own web site were I found a much better discount.
I rang the hotel and asked for the discount and was told if I cancelled the .com booking they would be very please to offer me the discount, which I did and I found the establishment excellent.

Good service, good meals, good accm – I found they had a small room, not offered by doc.com which was even cheaper

I won all round and THEY had a very satisfied customer who tells his friends about it.


oldgit71 says:
2 March 2012

As with one of your respondents already, I’m fed up with miselading promotions. I am a fan of Premier Inn – they give good consistent relaible value but…….
1 – They advertise £29 a night – Book now!….and these hotels are in Inverness or Outer Mongolia and not where I want to stay
2 – I book well in advance (they’re popular) and they come along afterwards (much later and very near the date) saying ‘Book now and get such and such a discount’ when obviously very few places are left to secure. It’s an offer that has very little substance – Disingenuous, at the least.

Jacki Hughes says:
2 March 2012

Last weekend I stayed in York at Lady Anne Middleton’s hotel at very short notice, maybe 2 days. I had found the hotel on a late booking site, not sure which, probably late rooms.com. I rang the hotel direct and asked if I could have the same price as shown on the late rooms site if I booked direct with them and they said yes! We needed to stay an extra night and they were also very fair about the price of that too, I can’t recommend them highly enough

David Kent says:
2 March 2012

A similar problem to this arises out of advertised hotel room upgrades, ‘..when available..’, which seem never to be available even in hotels which are obviously not fully booked.

I have tried on several occasions over the past 2-3 years to find a Premier Hotel that can match Lenny Henrys promise in the areas or time that I would need one and so far Premier have FAILED both on the area and the time. OK they can help a little if your trip is between the middle of January to February and you do not mind diverting 25-40 miles or so, but otherwise utterly misleading.

Paul Hargreaves says:
2 March 2012

It’s the same with Travelodge. £10 SALE, try to book and it’s £19 for the first date and £29 on the return journey. (Going to France from Dover). But that’s not all, the following week it’s now a £19 SALE, tried to book for some friend’s and it’s now £29 and £45 it’s all just a con.

Bobbio says:
3 March 2012

Last Summer I booked a room at Holiday Inn Strathclyde via the HI site. I later found that Last Minute.Com were offering it at a cheaper price. I went through the procedure to notify this on the HI website and got the price I paid to HI reduced to 10% below the Last Minute.com price.

No problems, all worked fine

My experience with Premier Travel Inns is the same as other subscribers. Ever tried to find the £29? Usually £65 plus, wherever we’ve wanted to be. It’s a farce. It’s possible the £29 might be available in some obscure places just to justify the claim. We now look at them with derision.

Jim Careyt says:
5 March 2012

Booked hotel room with Holiday Inn Express in Edinburgh, online. Found it cheaper elsewhere – phoned their advertised priority club line and had the price reduced to the cheapest found elsewhere – worked for me

I have booked 4 nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin with hotels.com for half the price for the same room from them. I would have preferred to book directly with the hotel chain and gain reward points but they advised of the price match procedure which was to book first with them and then claim a revised price on the basis of a price match scheme which may not have met their own terms and conditions. Even their own telephone agent advised me to take the offer from hotels.com. When I challenged Radisson (Club Carlson) on this ridiculous procedure which was more likely to lose customers all they wanted to know was the time I spoke to their operator so they could discipline him for speaking true! I did not tell them of course but protested about a price guarantee which doesn’t actually reward customer loyalty.

Tony Farrell says:
21 December 2012

I think the problem is caused by hotel central booking schemes. I have tried many times to talk to hotels direct in order to negotiate a price but get directed to something other than the hotel I want to stay at. Get rid of the indirect booking system and things would be cheaper and better for consumers. I say this because someone has to pay for the middle man that has been intrioduced for no other reason than to reduce employment at the front end.
I have a lot to say about your particular subject but feel there is no use doing so. As with many things Which does, there is never a cheaper option that is realistic so what real term benefits do I get for being a member? I will look more closely about my membership options in 2013.
‘Get real and get a deal’ is my advice but do it by direct person to person negotiating. Something you cannot do when forced to use automated systems with robotic voices and numerous options that serve to confuse.
Have a lovely Xmas


Tony Farrell