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March 24, 2021

Priceline and Hotwire gain new discount competitor

Flexible vacationers willing to book a hotel sight unseen now have a new option.

Travelocity has recently joined the so-called opaque travel market dominated by Priceline and Hotwire where you commit to a price or place a nonrefundable bid before knowing which hotel you’re actually going to end up with.

Travelocity calls it Top Secret Hotels, and says it offers up to 45 per cent off hotels looking to fill unsold inventory that it categorizes as three- and four-stars.

The Top Secret Hotels engine works much the same as a regular online hotel search: plug in the dates, location and any special needs. Instead of the hotel’s name, you’ll then see only the star rating and price.

Only after you have put in your credit card number do you actually see which hotel you’ve booked. The money isn’t refundable.

The trade-off with all of these services is that your hotel's location will be something of a surprise. And you have to take your chances on some details. While you can usually figure out whether or not you’ll be right on the beach, you may have to gamble on other information, such as if pets are welcome.

But in most big cities, the chances are fairly good that you’ll end up with adequate accommodation.

Of course, you can easily find out the fixed price on Hotwire or this latest option, and then bid a bit lower on Priceline. If your bid is accepted, you may end up with a lower price for a similar quality hotel or perhaps even the same hotel in major centres.

Do you use opaque discounters? What’s your travel experience been like? Can you do better on your own?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...