Which is the best hotel booking site? We often asks ourselves this question during our trips. We have a few favorite online booking sites. However, we didn’t find out so far which booking site really provides the best deals.

What we though recognized is a dependency on the region. In other words, some hotel booking sites perform better in certain areas compared to others.

There are several webpages with best hotel booking site analysis and rankings. However, they in general analyze the booking sites from a global point of view. They don’t take the regional strengths and weaknesses of the different booking sites into consideration.

We wanted to get a clearer picture for ourselves. We therefore started to analyze different hotel booking sites. As a result, we compared their performance in certain areas and ranked them.

Who is who

It’s nice to know that there are three big companies in the online booking market. These players run several booking sites and metasearch engines within their groups:

  • Booking Holdings:, Agoda,, KAYAK, and more
  • Expedia Group: Expedia,, trivago, Orbitz, ebookers and more (Tripadvisor was also part of this group but was split off in 2011)
  • International: Ctrip,, Skyscanner, Tours4fun

Difference between online travel agencies (OTA) and metasearch engines (aggregators)

There are different ways how to book a hotel online. Most hotels offer a direct booking on their webpage. However, in a first step, we often don’t know yet which hotel to choose. We therefore firstly start our online search in order to find a suitable hotel. There are thousands of hotel booking webpages available. They can be categorized into two types: Online travel agencies (OTA) and metasearch engines (aggregation services).

Online travel agencies (OTA)

Online travel agencies provide a database of hotels they have contracts with. The OTA takes our booking and informs the hotel. For this service, the OTA gets a commission fee from the hotel.

Depending on the terms and conditions, we pay the hotel booking fee online to the OTA or we pay directly at the hotel.

Popular OTAs are:

Metasearch engines (aggregators)

Metasearch engines gather information from OTAs and hotel webpages. If we start a hotel search on a metasearch engine, the information from OTAs and hotel webpages will be checked and available booking options will be listed. These search results are linked to the related OTAs or hotel webpages. In other words, the bookings are not taken by the metasearch engines. They just forward you to an OTA or a hotel webpage where you proceed with the booking.

Popular metasearch engines are:

Online travel agencies or metasearch engines: What to choose?

The concept and service of metasearch engines sounds great. We get an overview of all available booking options and we simply have to pick the most suitable hotel and the best deal offered. However, from our point of view, hotel metasearch engines have some major disadvantages.

Quality of information on metasearch engines

While metasearch engines work pretty well for flights, it’s different for hotel room bookings. The aggregation of different hotel booking databases seems to be too complex to provide highly reliable information within one system. Here some examples:

Map Quality

For us, the location of a hotel is always one of our top criteria. We therefore often start our hotel search by contacting the map. OTAs and metasearch engines both provide maps with the hotel locations. And for all platforms, wrong hotel locations occur. However, we recognized that map information on metasearch engines are much less reliable compared to OTAs. As an illustration, below a map from and with hotel locations in Sablayan, Philippines.

Hotelscombined map sablayan Tripadvisor map sablayan


We check the reviews before we book a hotel. A pool of trustful reviews from former hotel guests are therefore important for us. OTAs ask the guests who booked the hotel for a feedback on their platform. In other words, the origin of the reviews is clear, they are coming from former guests. On the other side, metasearch engines can’t approach former guests. Their reviews are coming from the public, trustyou or a pool of reviews within their group. However, the sources are unclear and therefore less reliable.

Price indication

Price indications on metasearch engines are sometimes wrong. After being forwarded to the OTA, a different price appears. Further, prices listed are not always for the same rooms and the same conditions. It needs an additional comparison on OTA level to find out the deals behind the prices. Here an example on Trivago where prices of different rooms are opposed.

Gustavs place Sablayan on Trivago

The room for 32$ on priceline indicates a standard air conditioned room, nonrefundable. For the 17$ on you get a bungalow with sea side, partially refundable.

Hotel Pictures

Metasearch engines often provide a basic amount of hotel pictures only. Tripadvisor further also lists private pictures from travelers which annoys when searching for a hotel room. For detailed hotel facility and room pictures, you have to check on OTAs.

Why we prefer direct search on OTAs

From our point of view, OTAs provide better platforms for hotel room searches compared to metasearch engines. The information on OTA level are more detailed and more reliable. To compare prices and hotels one level higher would be nice to have. But we couldn’t find any metasearch engine that provides a suitable platform with reliable information and good filters. We therefore prefer to search our hotel rooms on OTA level. To do so, we choose the OTA depending on the region we are in. Having selected a hotel room on OTA level, we then still check shortly on a metasearch engine whether a better deal for this hotel room can be found on another OTA.

Our analysis

We wanted to compare the performance of the sources only. Therefore we only analyzed OTAs. We deliberately didn’t include any metasearch engines into our analysis.

We compared the following hotel booking sites:

  • Agoda
  • Expedia
  • Regional players – if any

We started to analyze the performance of the booking sites in our most frequent visited countries. Therefore, we have made comparisons in the following areas so far:

We soon will further expand our analysis and analyze more countries.

We focused on the following criteria:

  • Hotel assortment: We would like the highest possible selection of hotels to choose from.
  • Room rates: For the selected hotel, we would like to get the cheapest price.
  • Amount of reviews: As higher the amount of reviews, as more accurate the overall review results.

We didn’t include other important criteria (search- and filter functions, customer service, hotel and room description quality, rewards and membership programs, payment methods, transparency, reservation process) into our evaluation.

For every geographical area we randomly selected ten hotels that are bookable on all the booking sites. After that, we compared room rates on randomly selected dates. To do so, we made sure to compare bookings under the same conditions. In other words: Same dates, same room type, same cancelation policies, breakfast included/not included. Besides, we counted the reviews of these ten hotels on every booking site.

For the assortment, we randomly defined four areas in different parts of country. Within these areas, we then counted the number of available hotels on every booking site.

Conclusion of our analysis

Depending on the geographical area, the hotel assortment of the analyzed booking sites varies.  As a result, some booking sites have a stronger assortment in certain areas. Further, the hotel assortment correlates with the number of reviews.

When looking at the room rates, we also could see regional tendencies. However, we couldn’t seek any booking portal that is always providing the lowest deal for a certain area without exception.

Our recommendation for online hotel bookings

  1. Start a hotel search with the booking site that performs best for your geographical area (see below). Choose a hotel.
  2. Check your hotel on a metasearch engine (for example Perhaps a better price can be found on one of the other hotel booking sites.

Best hotel booking sites for

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