Tips for Online Reservation Success

by Tia

Booking accommodation online at an unfamiliar establishment can sometimes feel like playing a game of chance. Will your choice of hotel, resort, or self-catering gem live up to the captivating photos on the booking site or will reality fall far short of your expectations, leaving you feeling let down and disillusioned?

Although reading reviews about accommodation can be helpful – the more reviews a place has the better – Shaun Lamont, Managing Director of First Group Hotels and Resorts says that they don’t always provide the full picture. “Different guests have different standards and expectations,” he points out. “What one guest considers ‘cheap and cheerful’ may unfortunately be another guest’s idea of ‘downright dingy’.”

Considering the star rating of accommodation can also serve as a useful method to gauge suitability, however, it is essential to understand that these ratings primarily indicate the range of available amenities offered rather than being a direct measure of quality. “So, a one-star stay might not be as basic as it sounds, and a three-star might not be as upscale as you’d expect,” Lamont explains.

And then, of course, there are the scam artists to watch out for. Holiday accommodation ranks among the most prevalent in travel scams. Fraudsters create fake accommodation listings online with fabricated reviews and photos. Alternatively, they copy-paste genuine listings onto phoney websites or social media that mimic reputable companies. “Unwary travellers may risk their money and safety by booking through these fraudulent platforms,” he warns.

So, how do you dodge disappointment on check-in day? Shaun’s provides the following tips:

1. Call the establishment before booking: Take the initiative to call the hotel or resort you’re interested in. The way they handle your inquiry over the phone can provide valuable insight into their level of service. Are they courteous and helpful? These are positive indicators.

2. Tap into your network: If you know someone who lives in the vicinity, ask their opinion or have them assess the property for you. Alternatively, seek information from your friends on social media as their feedback can offer valuable insights.

3. Verify your accommodation contact details: You can also use a mapping site like Waze, Apple, Google or Bing Maps which is often a good place to confirm an address. Many of them provide street views that will allow you to see the establishment which should match the images on their advert.

4. Compare properties: Beyond price considerations, carefully compare the offerings of each of your preferred options. Take factors such as room size, facilities, additional fees and their loyalty programme benefits, should they offer any, into account as well.

5. Check the fine print: Although it may seem tedious, always review the booking terms and conditions. Skipping over details like the cancellation policy could lead to unexpected costs down the line.

6. Rely on established brands: When uncertain, opt for well-known and reputable hotel/resort groups. First Group, for example, prioritises transparency and adheres to industry standards, ensuring a reliable and hassle-free experience for guests.

7. Make website security a priority: Always verify authenticity through HTTP Secure (HTTPS). Legitimate sites start with https:// which demonstrates their commitment to safety so be cautious if a site lacks security certification. Ensure the presence of https:// (rather than http://) and the little padlock on the URL bar, especially on payment pages. Stay vigilant and protect your personal and financial details from potential threats.

“Save the surprises for your holiday adventures,” Lamont advises. “Do your homework, so that when you arrive for that much-needed break, your sole focus can be on making lasting magical memories with your family,” he concludes.

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