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Organize your holiday in Greece online

03 July 2014 / 17:07:03  GRReporter
6160 reads

Ivan Petkov

The most searched holiday in Google rankings for 2013 in Bulgaria was in Greece. The search for information and then subsequently for bookings of holidays, vacations and trips is not limited to finding useful information alone. In Bulgaria the trend of hotel booking and buying tourism offers online started due to a very simple market fact, namely that, in order for  Bulgarian tour operators to be competitive on the international market, a few years ago they started  to offer their services at significantly lower prices than those offered in the country. This made many people look outwards and start planning their vacation through the websites of foreign tour operators.

The advent of the Internet has contributed towards the appearance of many websites that collect and present offers in one place, advertising them as the best possible ones. Therefore, both major international services and popular local websites have established themselves over time. In this article, I will try to tell you a bit more about these websites and services and believe me they are countless!

Businessmen, families on vacation, retirees...people who prefer clean and nice hotels, want better treatment or require certain extras such as good internet connectivity and even those who require a certain level of luxury are the potential customers of booking websites. You will not see them hitchhiking, sleeping in hostels or on an exchange basis. This group of people has its own subculture and uses websites that offer such services. Now we will talk about those websites that the majority of us would use.

I will present a few of the many websites without being comprehensive. As mentioned above, the sector is dynamic, more services are constantly appearing as well as media that are trying to offer a diverse choice to their potential customers.

The websites that I used for comparison and as the basis of this article include Booking.com, Tripadvisor.com, Trivago.com (now available with a local version for Bulgaria). Here are a few words about them. I chose them as they provide different types of services in terms of both content and structure.

Booking.com is a Dutch booking website that was established in distant 1996, according to the Internet standards. In 2005, it was bought by the US company Priceline, which develops a similar business and has a popular website of the same name. It is an interesting fact that Booking.com accumulates more than two-thirds of Priceline’s profits. I will use this opportunity to mention another acquisition of the US company, which is defined as one of the most successful websites for trips and bookings in Asia, namely Singapore Agoda.com. Booking.com is available in over 40 languages. When I visited it, I was faced with the localized Bulgarian version.

Tripadvisor.com is considered as one of the largest media in the industry and it does not offer hotel booking and accommodation alone. The platform allows you to buy flight tickets, book a table in a restaurant and to apply for participation in different activities that you can perform near the location you have chosen for your holiday or business trip. Tripadvisor is the largest social network of travelling people and it includes more than 100 million users. It is among the first websites that started using user generated content.

Tripadvisor has a version in Greek, but not in Bulgarian. The language version is manually selected, the default version being in English.

Trivago.com is a platform that collects offers from major websites for trips and bookings. It is of German origin but it was acquired by the former owner of Tripadvisor, the US company Expedia. The popular website Hotels.com is part of Expedia media group as well. Trivago has a local version in the Bulgarian language.

So, which is the best website?

At first glance it seems that these media provide the same type of service, but they actually differ in terms of how they obtain content, how they sort it and evaluate it. Some offer a rating made by the website itself, sometimes this rating is formed entirely by the users and a third group uses a combined system of evaluation. This is important because, more or less, the rating influences our choice.

There is another point. The information is very dynamic and it is possible to come across information that has not been updated. I will give you two examples of random searches of hotels in Greece.

First example: I decided to look for a hotel in Halkidiki and my attention was attracted by an offer the price of which was significantly higher compared to the other proposals. The price was over 1,000 leva per night. It turned out that the offer was for luxury villas located on the beach. In another website, the only offer was for 6,000 leva. In the end, it turned out that the offer in question was for the most luxurious "presidential" villa, with the highest level of luxury.

Second example: I searched for a hotel in Athens and came across one with a high rating (over 90%). Its prices in different websites were similar, with a margin of only a few leva. The difference was that, for the period I had chosen, there were no rooms available on two of the websites whereas the third one offered available rooms.

The general conclusion is that there is no best booking website. In terms of the many posts that I found on the web, some were better in comparison with others and referred to the middle segment that includes 3- and 4-star hotels. For each of the media I found various criticisms and examples that I will mention without being specific, because I cannot check their reliability.

The opinions for one of the three websites were that its offers were the most expensive. From what has been previously mentioned, it can be concluded that this often can be attributed to the different types of information and websites updates. And when there are specific differences, they are within a few leva.

As for the other media, there were complaints that the ratings did not correspond to reality. As our perception is subjective, what is good for one is not good for another. As we are typical representatives of the Balkans, I should mention that the suspicions of manipulated ratings always exist and a number of known and proven cases of this only make them more intense.

Last but not least, I found that there were some discrepancies in the information provided by the third of the websites on the hotel category i.e. how many stars a hotel has. I cannot give a definitive opinion about this since I do not know how this information is being obtained and who updates it.

More importantly: How to search?

  • The first and most important tip: use at least a number of sources. I know it takes time but the efforts are worthwhile compared to a spoiled holiday. Use at least three platforms. In the previous example, two of the websites had no available rooms, while the third had.
  • Do not reject the offer only because of the price. We saw in the second example that the price difference for the same place can be as high as 6 times but after careful consideration, we saw that the class of luxury was different. It is quite possible that the place, which we considered expensive at first, offers lower prices for the cheaper villas.
  • Just in case, check the website of the hotel you have preferred. Generally, as booking websites take rooms "in bulk", they obtain discounts from the hotels, which is why they can offer the end customers lower prices than the standard hotel rates. However, there are many special cases, in which direct contact with the hotel, if possible, could bring extra price discounts to you. For example, when the hotel has not been able to fill its capacity, it makes a last minute offer. Alternatively, when it comes to a large group of people you can negotiate a special price. These, of course, are special cases that do not relate to a particularly high volume of requests. Usually one uses the platforms for distant and unknown destinations. However, when you want to travel to a neighbouring country, the above tips apply with full force.
  • Ask acquaintances. As social networks are all over, you can always obtain information, even if you do not have time to call or see each of your friends. Then you can update and compare the information using some of the ways previously mentioned.
  • Last but not least, when it comes to a destination that no one of your friends has visited, you should search posts from at least several independent sources. You will surely find them. Totally positive or totally negative opinions are questionable. Either the place is heaven/hell for travelling people or the opinions have been manipulated.

I am sure that the topic can be expanded almost indefinitely. The fact is that we will increasingly buy our holidays online because of the discounts, the convenience of obtaining information from one place and the confidence that popular websites enjoy. There is no perfect system, but with a little attention and practicality, we can find a reasonable offer to take us on an unforgettable holiday or successful business trip.

Very soon GRReporter will provide you with the opportunity to browse, or to search for, interesting offers in Booking.com through our website.

Do you use booking websites?
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