Booking, Agoda, Expedia or Priceline?

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Vacations can be fabulously relaxing.

But booking one is another story.

The average traveler views 141 pages of travel content in the 45 days prior to booking a trip, according to an Expedia Group report.

The most popular site to visit was an OTA — or “online travel agency” — which is an industry term that describes booking websites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline. Some 80% of travelers visit one, whether they book on it or not, according to the report.

But which one has the best prices?

The travel company RatePunk has a browser extension that compares hotel prices pulled from major hotel websites and hundreds of OTAs, said company CEO Justin Albertynas.

The company reviewed more than 198,000 user searches from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, 2023, to find which websites offer the lowest hotel prices, he told CNBC Travel.

Lowest hotel rates in Asia and the Middle East

The company found that, globally, Agoda had the best rates 34% of the time, followed by Priceline (23%) and Booking.com’s mobile site (16%).

From 198,418 hotel searches. B. = Booking.com’s mobile site.

Source: RatePunk

RatePunk’s regional data showed Agoda had the cheapest rates in Asia and the Middle East.   

From 39,679 hotel searches.

Source: RatePunk

The Singapore-based company offered the lowest rates in nearly half of the hotel searches in Asia.

“Agoda … they have the really great prices,” said Albertynas. “What we see from our user bookings, they usually like to start to book, or discover accommodations, from one of the biggest, like Booking.com or Expedia, and they end up buying from Agoda.”

From 17,875 hotel searches.

Source: RatePunk

Albertynas told CNBC Travel that Agoda’s rates are about 10% to 15% lower — and on occasion “even up to 20%, but not more.” For expensive bookings, “you can you can save lots of money. But if you’re booking one night somewhere in Asia for $50, so it will be like much less savings,” he said.

Agoda is targeting Asia countries, said Albertynas.

“Asia is growing market but, in the sense of spendings, it’s quite a sensitive market,” he said. “I think it’s part of the strategy to acquire users.”

Lowest hotel rates in Europe

In Europe, Agoda had the best rates 38% of the time, but Booking.com — through its mobile and desktop sites — had lower rates slightly more than 40% of the time.

From 123,304 hotel searches.

Source: RatePunk

Across every region, Booking.com’s mobile site — accessible via mobile phones and tablets — had better prices than its desktop version.

“We see that not only for Booking but for our providers as well. But Booking has the most significant amount of cheaper properties on mobile,” said Albertynas.

Desktop sites have bigger customer acquisition costs, said Albertynas, adding that most desktop users find websites via searches.  

That means websites “need to pay for Google ads … they need to bid for keywords … and reacquire users each time the user books through them. And in case of the mobile or mobile app, it’s like much more retention in terms of getting users back.”

Additionally, some hotels provide better prices for mobile users.

“Booking.com, they have three different rates: desktop, mobile, and also a mobile app,” said Albertynas. “In what we see from our data, 80% of mobile and mobile app prices are similar, but there are cases where we can actually find the cheaper rate on the app.”

Lowest hotel rates in the U.S.

Travelers headed to the United States may want to lean on Priceline. The Connecticut-based company, which is owned by Booking Holdings, had the cheapest rates in nearly half of the some 40,000 searches that were analyzed.

From 40,656 hotel searches.

Source: RatePunk

Agoda only had the lowest rates in 13% of the searches.

But Albertynas said people traveling in the United States should keep an eye on Booking.com in 2024.

“Booking Holdings, mainly the Booking.com brand, is really trying to expand into the States,” he said. “They will be making some promotions and some kind of direct deals with the chains, with the hotels to provide a better price.”

Lowest rates in certain countries and cities

A deeper look into RatePunk’s data revealed that some websites have better overall pricing in certain countries, such as:

  • Hotels.com — in Maldives and Mexico
  • Booking.com — in Italy
  • Agoda — in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia
  • Priceline — in France
  • Expedia — in Brazil
  • ZenHotels — in Spain

The data also showed booking websites had better rates for hotels in certain cities: Booking.com for New York, Priceline for Miami and Los Angeles, and Expedia for Honolulu.

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