I am interested in exploring the search box function in OTA sites and how their search engine works. Like I wrote previously, the search box is the start of a customer’s journey. Some OTAs already kill the journey before it began by providing a poorly designed search box function, failing to cater customer’s need. The journey may also be “killed” when it provides users with irrelevant, confusing and “unfriendly” search result.
Here’s a summary of maximum rooms, adults and children available in the search box of Booking.com, Agoda, and Traveloka.
|Site||Max Room||Max Adult||Max Children|
*Note: Traveloka doesn’t differentiate between Adult and Children, so I put the number under “Max Adult” column to make it simple.
At a glance, we instinctively realize that we cannot do group booking in either Agoda or Traveloka. The only chance to book 10 rooms or more is with Booking.com.
This is interesting. It means Booking.com caters group booking and does not only care about FIT booking. (Maybe Agoda and Traveloka also cater group booking, but not via online booking.)
As far as I remember, Booking.com often make changes on the search box (as for all other features as well). In the past, there’s an option to search hotels without check-in or check-out date (of course the result will not display the rate). Now, there’s no option for it in the search box at home page. Well, that’s another subject for another story, sorry.
Let’s start doing the search. Since I want to know how they handle group booking, I searched for 1 Room / 30 Adult.
And this is the interesting part. The search engine of Booking.com is so smart that they can accommodate this peculiar request. I see many options for me. Let’s take a look.
Booking.com gave fantastic search result so I don’t need to think much about how I can book for 30 adults. The request is for 1 room x 30 adults, but the result varies. As we see from images above, I have few options that I can choose from. I can book Villa Boreh Beach, one villa for 30 adults or I can choose Villa Agung by booking 1 unit 6-bedroom villa and 1 unit of 9-bedroom villa. Aside from that, I can also choose Serenity River and book 3 unit of villas.
Instead of those three, I chose this one to examine further.
It stole my attention because it advised me to book 3 x Twin/Double Room, while, as far as I know, Twin/Double Room only accommodates max 2-3 adults (with extra bed if possible). How can 3x Twin/Double Room accommodate 30? I clicked this option to see their last available rooms. And I find another interesting fact.
It is slightly different with what was displayed on the previous page (search result). Previously, it displayed “3 x Twin/Double Room”. But, when I arrive at the hotel profile page with price details, it showed above result. I need to book 5 x Deluxe Double or Twin Rooms and book 10 x Superior Double Rooms.
Strangely, the difference doesn’t bother me because it still makes sense. The suggestion matched with the number of 30 adults. So I scrolled down to see the price table, ready to book.
The table is quite long so I cannot take the whole screenshot. Here’s what I found on the top of the room list.
Apparently, there is a special deal for groups. As shown in image 7 above, I can get a special price if I book 5 deluxe room. It was slightly confusing at first. If I select 1 room this special deal (from the table above), it means I book for 5 Deluxe Rooms instead of 1. That’s slightly confusing.
But, since I am smart, as smart as other Booking.com’s customers, I don’t bother much. I follow the recommendation and select 1 room for this special deal.
Now I have 5 Deluxe Room for 10 Adults. Where should I put another 20 Adults? Let’s scroll down the table. But.. wait a minute. I just realize that in the select room drop-down, there are options ranging from 1 to 10 rooms.
What if I select 10 rooms? Does it mean I book for 10 x 5 Deluxe Rooms equal to 50 Deluxe Rooms for 100 adults?
For the sake of curiosity, I selected 10 Rooms and clicked next to proceed with my reservation.
It’s written that my group is 30 adults (as my request) and I selected 10 x Special Deal. It doesn’t match, actually. My first conclusion is that Booking.com allows you to make mistake by booking rooms that do not match with your needs, which actually can be prevented by limiting the drop-down shown to only 3 rooms (3 x 5 Deluxe x 2 Adults = 30 adults).
And again, it contradicts their suggestion before (see image 6). Why suggest me to book 5 x Deluxe Double or Twin Room and book 10 x Superior Double Room while in fact, I can just book 15 Deluxe Room or even 50 Deluxe Rooms?
On second thought, maybe Booking.com doesn’t want to be too strict. Providing information as image 9 that “My Group is 30 Adults” but “You select 50 rooms” also meant to remind me to check if I selected the room options correctly.
Well, I just hope my second thought is the correct one.
Okay, so let’s go back to hotel profile page to select the other alternatives as their first suggestion.
As per suggestion, I must book 5 x Deluxe Room and 10 x Superior Room. I can easily spot price for 5 Deluxe Room because it is on the first list of the table. But to find Superior Room, I must scroll down and pass another 3 room type before I can spot Superior Room and select 10 rooms from the drop-down.
It will be easier for me if the order of room types follow the recommendation as in image 6 so I can easily select correctly because the room is on the first and second row of the list.
Looking at the start of my search, first I want to book 1 room for 30 adults. But I ended up with 15 rooms for 30 adults. In other words, Booking.com search engine doesn’t take search parameter as it is, but they play along and are able to give other alternatives to the user. Imagine if search engine strictly search for “room = 1, adult = 30”. I am sure it will give a poor result, or maybe none.
By the experiment above, I see Booking.com is quite helpful for group booking request. The search result helps guests choose the perfect hotel according to their needs. One or two minor issues like what I mentioned above probably just comes from a complicated mind like mine.
It intrigues me how Agoda and Traveloka handle group booking request. I will continue to explore this tomorrow. For now, let’s call it a day!
Updated: Thanks to my dear friend, Johan, who corrects the various mistakes and makes my writing more bearable to read.