The Pitfalls and Benefits of Mystery Hotel Bookings

This week our members discuss the advantages and pitfalls of booking mystery hotels. Hotel booking sites Wotif.com, Lastminute.com.au and Hotwire.com are among a range of websites that offer such mystery hotel deals. Customers can blindly book a hotel, which remains a surprise until after the room has been paid for. The sites promise big discounts, though it comes with an obvious catch – you don’t know exactly what you’re paying for.

As adventurous as our members are, many don’t like the idea of a potentially nasty surprise when it comes to booking a hotel. However some savvy members have been able to identify the mystery hotel before booking. Our members reveal that this may be possible by comparing the amenities and services listed on the mystery hotel booking page with those offered by other hotels with the same star-rating advertised on the same website. Often it can be possible to figure it out by process of elimination, though of course this method is not always full-proof!

I ‘ve used mystery rooms quite often on lastminute.com. Usually you can work out which hotel it is with a reasonable degree of confidence and save reasonable $$$. It does take time and effort – so it depends on if you enjoy the hunt or not.

Often the hotel will list under it’s name – but be half a star different (higher) to the mystery listing. The silly / lazy listings are when they use the exact same wording on both listings. The easiest are when they leave in the name of a restaurant or a feature like “great views from our 11th floor bar” or “we have 246 rooms” and you can do a quick cross check via google.

Many members spruik mystery hotels as a way to save some significant coin on hotels. Though there are a few pitfalls to be aware of. Firstly, some mystery hotels listed as “five star” may not actually be five-star hotels, rather three or four star hotels that have self-rated themselves as a five-star hotel. Secondly, if booking an “airport hotel”, the hotel may not actually be close to the airport as one member discovered after booking a mystery hotel on Expedia. Thirdly, one member points out that a hotel may be a “mystery” for a reason – and not a good one.

Unfortunately there are some traps. Sometimes the mystery hotel is a ‘mystery’ because they have building works… or the pool is closed (etc). Or you’ll get an unrenovated room. Sometimes the ‘5 star’ is not actually 5 star but ‘self rated 5-star’. It might be a 3.5 or 4 star hotel, and by that stage your ‘mystery price’ isn’t really all that great.

Some members believe the discount gained by booking a mystery hotel is not as much as it once was, when compared to the publicly available rate at a given hotel.

A final pitfall of booking a mystery hotel is, as with most bookings made through third-party sites, that hotel loyalty program members may miss out on earning points or qualifying stays. However for at least one member, the savings from booking mystery hotels have been more than worth it.

The only negative is that I do not earn any night credits booking through 3rd parties, and have lost around 30 nights that could have been credited to SPG (my preferred hotel group) which would have helped me towards lifetime status.

Join the discussion HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]