The travel industry is like the Olympics . . . minus the sports. Craving fierce competition? We’ve got that. Need international appeal? Yup, that’s the travel industry.
In the “booking engines” event, the top finalists are all worthy competitors: hotels.com, booking.com, and tripadvisor.com. What sets each one apart? What are the pros and cons for travel industry operators? Which ones handle reviews the best? Which are most secure?
We have reviewed these three contenders and our findings may surprise you:
Review of Hotels.com
Hotels.com may be one of the best known booking engines, and for good reason. It offers many photos of the property, as well as detailed descriptions.
Hotels.com offers many customer reviews as well as a widget for easily identifying the Tripadvisor rating for the hotel. Hotel administration can respond to reviews and the replies are visible to future visitors.
Hotels.com offers customers a “best price guarantee,” but for the best prices, consumers generally need to book and pay on their site. They also offer a (generally higher) price option that can be paid at the hotel. The site is secured well with a VeriSign Class 3 Extended Validation SSL SGC CA. The connection uses TLS 1.2 and is encrypted using RC4_128, with SHA1.
The site also has its own rewards program to attract return visitors and social sharing widgets.
We give hotels.com a solid 5-stars for easy navigation, informative data, and ease-of-use for both consumers and hotels.
Review of Booking.com
Though possibly even more popular worldwide than hotels.com, we have given booking.com our silver medal, by a hair. Though it is a great site, we find it a tad below the high standard set by hotels.com.
For the Nairobi Hilton, our test property, Hotels.com had 69 photos, while booking.com offered 44. The price offered by Booking was comparable to that of the winner.
However, Booking did offer more reviews (242, compared to Hotel.com’s 107) with better pros vs. cons formatting.
Like hotel.com, this site also offers a more expensive price for users who prefer to pay at the hotel rather than book online.
The security of the site is guaranteed by Thawte with the same type of certificate, connection, and encryption as hotels.com. Consumers can enjoy a secure browsing and reserving experience.
We give booking.com 4.8 stars for competitive pricing, easy navigation, and ease-of-use.
Review of TripAdvisor.com
Our bronze medalist could have won by a landslide if we were reviewing “travel review sites” instead of “booking engines.”
TripAdvisor offers a wealth of informative reviews and traveler advice, but its booking engine per-se is inferior to the two leaders. As it is not truly a booking engine on its own, searching for travel dates on TripAdvisor.com, shows a comparison of several other booking engines.
An interesting concept that may possibly be even better for consumers and hotel operators alike, but not a booking engine by definition.
In addition to its exceptional traveler reviews (and photos!) and hotel responses to the reviews, TripAdvisor does supply lots of information about the property.
We give TripAdvisor 4.5 stars as a site for offering easy access to other booking engines, enlightening reviews, and many other features.
Honorable Mentions: Expedia.com and HotelsCombined.com
In the fiercely competitive travel industry, there are big players and small ones and new sites are constantly being added to the mix. Two other noteworthy sites, expedia.com and hotelscombined.com are also fantastic sites for both travelers and travel operators: offering photos, information, reviews, and secure browsing.
The Top Booking Engines
In truth, there is no one site that dominates the travel industry. In the search engine world, for example, few can compete with Google. But, in travel, there is no clear “Google-like” site. The top 3: hotels.com, booking.com, and tripadvisor.com are certainly Olympians, but expedia, hotelscombined, travelocity, and others still have a chance to overtake them before an all-time champion is crowned.
Kate Gathii is in charge of Sales and Marketing in Zanzibar and Tanzania for 3G Direct Pay Limited. 3G Direct Pay provides global e-commerce and online payments solutions for the travel and related industries. She has vast experience in the fields of e-commerce, travel and payments, in East Africa.