It's no secret that you may have to sell your first born to afford a decent hotel room in London for a week, but hopefully with the help of the London Tourism Board's new online booking system all that's changed. Let me explain.
It seems that Visit London.com got the memo, and has made significant improvements to its website in the hopes of luring more would-be tourists to the city with a more user-friendly interface (it's pretty cool) and wallet-friendly features. One of its superb new functions is a small search engine that will comb over 250 hotels citywide to find travelers the best rates going. The properties, which range from two to five stars, have all been inspected and assessed for quality. It's even offering an unprecedented "best price guarantee" that states that if bargain-hunting travelers find a lower rate at the same hotel for the exact same dates they will be refunded the difference, or they can cancel their reservation without penalty. The thing to note here is that all claims must be submitted within 24 hours of making the reservation via the VisitLondon.com Hotel Reservation Service. It should also be mentioned while we're dancing around the fine print, that the said "guarantee" applies only to hotel reservations and not to other deals and promotions purchased online through Visit London.com.
Search and Enjoy
Once on the website, look for the box that says "Book Hotels Online--best prices for London guaranteed" in the upper left-hand corner. The hotel bookings home page will spotlight the top deals going and provides users with space to plug in dates and other criteria for their hotel reservation. A recent list of Top Deals read like this:
- Comfort Inn Kensington (**) was $96, now $64
- Days Inn Westminster (***) was $77, now $67
- Marriott Kensington (****) was $129, now $85
- City Inn Westminster (****) was $153, now $85De Vere Cavendish (****) was $146, now $101
- Berners Hotel (****) was $153, now $102
- Royal Garden Hotel (*****) was $243, now $119
But how does this nifty little search engine stack up against big guns such as Travelweb, the joint online booking venture between the Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Marriott hotel groups, Orbitz and Hotels.com? Well, let's take a look.
Not surprisingly, the quotes for the above-mentioned hotels were all over the map, so to speak. There was not an ounce of consistency between the engines "lowest rate" quotes, nor was any consistency as far as room availability for the dates suggested. In addition, the other engines did not list all the Top Deal properties mentioned on VisitLondon.com, instead each of the other engines covered a handful at best, but no more. So, if you're looking for comprehensive listings of London hotels, VisitLondon.com seems to be the place to turn.
Crunching the numbers
Now for the true test--prices. I'm pleased to report that VisitLondon.com's efforts have paid off. It was the clear winner, head and shoulders above its immediate competitors. Orbitz came in second, Travelweb third, and Hotels.com trailed far behind in last place. For example, when plugging in the same dates (in this case, Dec. 12-15, 2003) for rate quotes at the Comfort Inn Kensington, Orbitz came back with $94/night, Travelweb with $108/night, Hotels.com with $114/night, but none of those held a candle to VisitLondon.com's $64/night. In the case of comparative shopping for rooms at the Royal Garden Hotel, a five-star property in Kensington, there was as much as a $105 difference between VisitLondon.com's quote, and those of the others. This discovery is argument for more detailed, localized search engines, and good news for London-bound travelers indeed.
For more information about Visit London's online hotel booking service, or the city of London, go to www.visitlondon.com or call 011-44-(0)-845-644-3010.