And why we choose Agoda for our hotel needs25 February, 2012 by Chad
It may be a little forward of me to tout one of our sponsors so directly like this. But with the NATAS Travel Fair going on right now at the Singapore Expo, many are taking this opportunity to sneak in less than honest travel “deals”. It’s a similar situation to computer fairs in Singapore.
Below is a short collection of knowledge acquired from my previous trips and through the fortune of having friends who have worked in the travel industry both in Singapore and Japan. Perhaps it might look like common sense to the more experienced travellers.
First off, if you’re looking for short guided tour packages, NATAS does offer some attractive options. You can see some of the deals they are offering online at the NATAS Travel site. This once a year fair brings together travel agents around Singapore to help plan your holiday for the upcoming April peak season. There’s another NATAS fair, NATAS Holidays in August, which focuses on the end year period instead.
If you’re going down this weekend beware of hard sells and those claiming limited deals. We learned the hard way during our last trip, that feeling rushed to book a hotel or flight can lead to devastating results.
With the internet at everyone’s disposal, you’re not going to find flights cheaper than at the source directly. I really advise readers to book their flights directly from the respective airlines and look out for their offers. Going through a 3rd party source will almost always be more expensive. The only thing you’re really saving on in tour packages is on accommodation, when the travel agencies negotiate for group prices.
But if you’re planning to go free and easy, NATAS offers little choice. And the only offers available for free and easy tours are far too limiting. Before you go jumping onto decisions, take some time to do some homework and compare the prices elsewhere. A little slacking off could cost you potentially hundreds and there is no excuse with the convenience of the internet. Evidence shows that 91% of travelers book their flights and hotels online now. It’s the smart thing to do.
I’m going to plug Agoda a little bit since it’s our sponsor. Agoda pioneered online hotel bookings back in the 90s when it was called Planet Holiday. These days, it’s owned by Priceline.com one is one of the world’s largest hotel booking sites. They have offices in ever part of the world, including Singapore. The reason why you don’t hear nearly as much about Agoda as other bookings sites is because Agoda doesn’t have a public affiliate program. There is a strict process to become an Agoda Partner and membership is limited to quality sites and big names like PayPal or Google only.
The secret is, that instead, as one of the oldest travel sites on the internet, Agoda’s tightly controlled reseller system is actually adopted by the other newer hotel booking sites. I’m not excusing Agoda’s clunky user interface (they’d get a lot more bookings if it wasn’t so unintuitive) but they’re main focus is selling a platform rather than direct sales.
Agoda provides a content management system to hotels for them to manage their hotel rooms themselves. And in turn, Agoda also provides their hotel booking API for other hotel sites to adopt. Truth is, many of the other travel sites utilize Agoda’s API to resell hotel booking services, adding a few dollars on top as “service fees”. Which is why chances are, if you’re willing to go to the source directly and brave Agoda’s non-Web 2.0 interface, you’ll end up saving a noticeable amount of money, which can be better spent on other things.
I’m going to provide a comparison here between Agoda and other sites. We’ve put in identical dates. You can see the differences. Note, both prices are before taxes (these are imposed by the Japanese government on hotels).
This is not to say that Agoda is for everyone. The Agoda system provides a convenient means for medium sized hotels (most 2-3 star) to manage their bookings. If this is what you’re looking for, then Agoda is a fine match. It still benefits you to look around a few places though. Sometimes certain hotels forget to update one of the platforms, or prefer to focus on a single one. When this happens, you’ll might be able to get the same room cheaper. I recommend checking out Expedia directly as well, which is another popular platform. Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and Hotels.com are all resellers of Expedia.
However, smaller establishments such as home stay and dormitories see little use for this system and are under represented. You are also better off booking larger hotels in the 4-5 star range directly, as they often have their own independent websites and systems to manage their bookings already.
Agoda is also not a very good place to turn to if you’re looking for last minute hotel bookings (few are). Hotels only set aside a certain number of rooms to be sold by the system and they tend to sell out about 2 months before the check-in date. Agoda does not mark up the prices of hotels at the last minute but you’re not going to find any discounts, or many choices if you’re going to book your hotel at the last minute.
Instead, Agoda specializes in “early bird” styled specials. Rewarding users who book at least a couple of months in advance. This is only a natural thing when it comes to traditional travel agencies, but is not implemented by more online sites for some reason. This of course is where Agoda truly shines. You won’t find a cheaper option whenever a hotel goes on offer on Agoda.
A final tip. Though it may sound selfish, if you’re traveling in a group be the one to do the booking. Between 4-7% of the hotel fees is turned into credits which you can use to offset subsequent bookings when you book from Agoda directly instead of resellers. You also get cash credits for reviewing the hotel after your stay.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.