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Hilton’s New Direct-Booking Discount Comes with Caveats

“Stop Clicking Around. Start Saving.” That’s the headline of Hilton’s new ad campaign, and the nub of its latest marketing push.

The “stop clicking” piece of the proposition is Hilton’s way of saying that qualifying bookings must be made direct with Hilton, via its website or smartphone app or by phone. As do all hotels (and airlines), Hilton wants full control of its customers’ buying experience, reserving for itself the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell during the booking process, and avoiding the commissions paid for bookings made on third-party sites like Expedia and Booking.com.

The “saving” piece is a discount, not just a lowest-available-rate guarantee, which has become a standard promise made by travel suppliers and online travel agencies alike. The discount varies, as follows:

  • A 2 percent discount on best-available rate for bookings made within 14 days of arrival
  • A 3 percent discount on best-available rate for bookings made 15 days or more prior to arrival, for stays Sunday – Thursday (Saturday – Wednesday in the Middle East)
  • A 10 percent discount on best-available rate for bookings made 15 days or more prior to arrival, for stays Friday – Saturday (Thursday – Friday in the Middle East)

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The best-available rate that Hilton uses as a starting point for the discounts is “a specific rate type that varies depending on time of purchase, is unrestricted, non-qualified and excludes discount rates.” In other words, it may not be the best-available rate.

Although it’s hardly a deal-breaker, it’s worth mentioning a second requirement: In addition to booking direct, travelers must be enrolled in the Hilton’s HHonors program to qualify for the discount.

And after all that, there’s yet another qualifier: “Rate subject to availability at participating hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.” So, the discount, which may not be the lowest-available rate, may or may not be available anyway.

Hilton has encumbered this value proposition with an awful lot of if’s and but’s. Too many. I may end up booking my future Hilton stays direct, but I plan to ignore Hilton’s marketing admonitions and continue clicking around other booking sites to compare prices. I’d suggest you do the same.

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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