For a long-time the unspoken contract between consumers and most travel websites that peddled hotel rooms has been: lock in your booking with us in advance, and we'll give you a significant discount.
It was a way for Orbitz, Booking.com, Travelocity and their kin to wrest business away from the hotels directly. Why else would any traveler give up the right to cancel their reservation at the last-minute, should their travel plans change, or should they find a better deal?
Well, mighty Expedia has decided to shift the paradigm. With its new "Traveler Preference Program", vacationers will be able to make a reservation well in advance, but pay only when they check-in at the hotel (at the desk). The new website Skift, which is aimed at readers in the travel industry, broke the news this week. So far, these types of reservations will only be available at Hilton, La Quinta, Marriott and Barcelo Hotels through Expedia.
So why should us non-travel industry insiders care? Because it give us another tool with which to game the system. Now we can make a reservation well in advance through Expedia (hopefully at a savings, though you never know until you research) and then play the field, looking for last-minute deals or bidding blindly on Priceline.
Of course, the new program will only be really useful if more hotels sign on. We'll have to watch and see.