Marriott is pitching consumers the idea that going straight to the source—booking through the company’s website — is cheaper.
"It’s amazing what being direct can get you!" says one of the company’s newest ads, which features YouTube star Grace Helbig. "It pays to book direct."
Is that true?
"It sounds good on the surface," says Steve Shur, President of the Travel Technology Association, a trade group for travel websites. "The reality is you don’t know what you don’t know."
In other words, Shur says that without exploring the various options available on aggregation sites like Expedia and CheapTickets, consumers will have a tough time finding the best deal.
Many travelers already operate under this assumption.
"Sometimes I’ll go directly to the web site. Other times I’ll go to an Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity," Dan Margaz of Morgan Hill said as he prepared to board a flight at the San Jose International Airport this Thursday. "It all depends on where I can get the best rate," he added.
NBC Bay Area analyzed pricing on Marriott’s website compared to several third party booking sites, and looked at the cost of booking a hotel room in three major cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — over one weekend in early October.
The JW Marriott Essex House near Central Park in New York City is $479 a night on Marriott.com, which is slightly cheaper than the $490 posted for the same hotel on Travelocity and CheapTickets.
However, take one look at the total tab, including taxes and fees, and the total price is the same across all three sites: $1130 for two nights’ stay.
That principle held true for Chicago and Los Angeles, too.
In other words, there was no discount for booking direct.
There is one caveat.
According to Marriott’s website, the company will match lower rates found on other sites, as well as provide a 25 percent discount, so you’ll have to do some true comparison shopping to make it pay to book direct.