It seems like there’s a new hotel booking engine popping up every week, claiming to have the best rates. There are some very large players that are well established in the space (Expedia, Orbitz), so I’m always skeptical when I hear that someone has “cracked the code” and has lower rates than everyone else.
When a colleague brought up Hotel Power (www.hotelpower.com), that skepticism lept to the forefront again. But, I agreed to take a look and decide if I wanted to write about it. I try to stay away from the polar opposites always and never, since they frequently get me in trouble. In this case, virtually every search I performed on Hotel Power yielded lower rates than their competitors. For my tests, I used a combination of the hotel chain’s own websites and Expedia. In each case, I searched both the hotel website and Expedia along with Hotel Power.
In an effort to keep things relevant, I didn’t search off-brand properties, sticking with major chains like Marriott and also performing searches in Las Vegas, where there’s usually reasonable rate pressure because of the density of room inventory on the Strip. I did over a dozen searched and in every case but one, Hotel Power showed me the lowest fare. In the one case where they weren’t lower, they had the same lowest rate as the others. Here’s a few examples:
For a random weekend in November, the lowest rate for The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park on their website was $550:
Expedia concurred, showing the same $550 rate:
Hotel Power was over $100 cheaper, at $439.99:
The only difference I could see in the rate structure was that the rate Hotel Power offered was prepaid and specified a room with double beds. The Ritz and Expedia rates didn’t specifically guarantee a bed type but did reference King as an option. I can’t tell if that means you’d have a better chance getting a King bed booking one of the other rates or not, but I think it was a relevant difference.
Another good example was MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV:
MGM wanted to sell me the room for an average of $97.50 a night:
Hyatt, an M Life partner, wanted to sell it to me for $108:
And Hotel Power came in $15 cheaper than everyone else:
It may not be the 970% discount they note in the above image, but it’s still 15% lower than everyone else. That’s compelling to me.
Every once in a while when I was doing a query the website would take a bit longer than I expected to show results. But, given the rates it was displaying, a few extra seconds was more than worth it.
Hotel Power also offers a membership program that starts a $4.95 for a trial membership and bills out at an annual rate of $49.95:
The club offers a 5% discount on select bookings and other benefits. I admit, phrases like these always get stuck in my craw. I like absolutes when it comes to benefits. Either I do get 5% or I don’t. So, I did a bit of research into the company behind Hotel Power, Global Travel International. They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, but there were enough complaints about other membership programs they offered that I was skeptical.
I had the opportunity to ask some direct questions of their CEO, Randy Warren yesterday. He immediately owned that they had made mistakes with other membership products, a position that sat well with me. He explained they were a small number of tens of thousands of memberships but that they hadn’t done everything they could with those products to make sure employees were trained to handle the issues properly. Those lessons were being applied here. It was a good conversation, with him being open and frank the entire time.
I also pried a bit into how their rates were lower than everyone else’s, trying to figure out the secret sauce. It seems there’s not much of a secret. Most of the rates they’re displaying are publicly available, while some are exclusive to specific channels they have access to.
One of the things I think the site does an excellent job of is displaying AAA and Senior rates. These are very popular, publicly available rates, but they’re not always easy to find. On the Starwood Preferred Guest website, there is a small checkbox in a long list labeled “Automobile Association”. So, the option is there, but it’s not very easy to find. Same for Senior rates. Hotels are making these rates available but not broadcasting them loudly. Hotel Power does, which should help the occasional traveler a bunch.
It can’t all be great news, right? For those who value elite status, these rates are likely to fall into a bucket that’s not likely to earn you elite credits or benefits. That’s no different than the titans of the space, like Expedia and Orbitz. But, it is a factor. If the rates were reasonably close in price, it might be worth it to forego those benefits. But, if you can save hundreds of dollars, it might be worth parking those elite aspirations here and there in favor of cash in your pocket.
For me, I generally plan trips “backwards”. I think about the hotel chains I patronize (Hyatt and Starwood) and figure out whether they have any properties I’d like to visit. For example, the kids wanted to go somewhere with snow for a vacation I planned recently. I focused first on destinations that those two chains had in cold-weather cities. But, I’m not normal, and most folks book more traditionally by deciding on a destination and then trying to find lodging there in their price range.
Bottom Line It For Me, Ed
Hotel Power deserves to be a part of your hotel searches. They were consistently cheaper in virtually all of my searches at properties that were recognizable. This isn’t a consolidator selling cheap rooms at properties you’ve never heard of.
While I appreciated the candor and clarity from Hotel Power on their membership program, it’s not a fit for me. I hope if one of you gives it a try you’ll report back so I can update my readers.