Can you really trust every result you find when searching online travel options? Is that ‘Last Room Available’ message true? As we become more adept at travel searching, we’re starting to question certain results so we decided to take a closer look to find out if you really can trust travel search results you find.
Travel search beginnings
It’s been over 20 years since we started searching our own travel options. In 1996, Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline were born and since then we’ve used them, and now new ones, to find travel choices, fair prices, and deals. Then as web-based security improved, we also began reserving travel online based on our search findings.
How search results are presented
For the most part, we’ve been trusting consumers, though what we see may not be accurate. Realization has started to dawn as we begin to question the motives behind how search results are presented.
The truth is that travel search providers earn their revenue from referral fees and advertising. Pay-to-play advertising typically factors heavily in the order that travel search results are presented. Often, advertiser options top the search list before unpaid options. It stands to reason that the results you see when searching on any one site can be biased with advertised “hot deals” displayed at the top. As well, travel search aggregators may have also purchased inventory that is presented in a prioritized way.
This Skift article, ‘Google is rigged. Just not the way Trump thinks it is‘ outlines how search engines can be biased when it comes to searching for travel on Google.
Let’s look at an example
We decided to compare the results of two companies owned by the same mega-corporation. We input the same search criteria to find a hotel in New York City. The two sites searched – Expedia and Travelocity – are both owned by Expedia Group. Here’s what we found.
Although some acquired companies continue to operate independently, others appear to show similar search results. Comparing the results below, we see 241 properties. Each list the same number of results that look identical. Though, sometimes, we do find additional properties showing on one list versus the other list.
It’s an interesting comparison and one you can easily test for yourself when checking search sites owned by the same mega-corporation. This Travel Search Landscape graphic shows which search companies own other search companies.
Consumer Reports, is also reporting on the legitimacy of travel search results and advocating for travel search integrity.
Source: CR January 2019, print version
The bottom line?
Now that we know the results may be skewed, how can you trust that you are finding the best deal by checking just one search provider? The short answer is: You can’t.
Because prices are continually changing, you can never be sure whether an aggregator or direct supplier (hotel, airline, rental car company) has the best deal one day versus the next. Although many search providers and suppliers will show the same price for an individual flight or hotel, this is not always the case!
No single search shows the best travel options and prices. You can’t trust just one source. It’s best to check multiple sites. Searching more sites exposes new prices or new options.
What’s the quickest way to search more sites?
Ok, so we know it’s best to check several sites before committing to a travel choice, but what’s the best way to check multiple sites quickly? Opptee(TM) Travel Search offers the quickest way to check the most sites. Opptee provides access to dozens of travel searches – search providers, aggregators and direct suppliers for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages – all listed alphabetically and impartially.
With Opptee, just enter your travel details once and then choose from a selection of online travel search providers. You may prefer Google Flights, Delta, Southwest Air, or Expedia. Go ahead, check them all. Opptee auto-populates your travel details into each to ensure your search is fast and complete.
So how can you trust travel search results? You can’t. However, by using a search tool like Opptee Travel Search, you can browse more sites faster and more comprehensively. It’s only then that you can see complete travel options. It’s only then that you can reserve with confidence!