The Hidden Cost of Booking Sites

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Did you know that every time you make a booking for a hostel or a hotel through a booking site, you are increasing the cost of your room?

That might sound a bit absurd to you, but let me explain…

Almost every single booking site charges commission to the hotel or hostel when you make a reservation.

Now you’re probably thinking, well that’s pretty obvious isn’t it? The booking sites have to make money, how else are they supposed to do it? Partially true. The commission model isn’t necessarily the only way that booking sites can make money, but obviously it works for them.

But does it work for you? Obviously there is massive convenience in using booking sites to search, being able to compare different accommodation, including different types of accommodation, quickly and easily.

The problem is that most booking sites charge anywhere between 12-25% commission on every single night booked.

This commission is kept by the booking site and the hotel or hostel never sees it. You might think that this is purely the hotel’s problem, it’s not an extra charge for you on top of the room price right?

But, think about it. Say a hostel or hotel receives 50% of their bookings through online booking sites, at a rate of 12% commission. That means that 6% of their total room revenue is lost. This tends to translate directly into higher costs for the customer, since the accommodation has to raise their prices to account for this loss in revenue. Say that, instead, the hostel received all of its bookings directly. The hostel would then be able to either lower their prices by 6% and still receive the same revenue for the same number of bookings. Better for you, the customer, at no harm to the hostel. Alternatively, the hostel could keep the prices the same, but use that extra 6% to improve the property, either improving facilities, or providing more value to guests (such as free wifi or free breakfast).

You can argue that deals on booking sites save you money. Maybe in the short term, but this is still lost revenue for the property and has to be accounted for in the long run by raising prices at other periods. Nothing comes for free.

The worst part is, a lot of booking sites have rate parity clauses in their contracts. Rate parity means that the booking site has to be given the same rate as other booking sites and even the accommodation’s own site. This means that we can’t even encourage you to book directly on our website by offering you a better rate.

Some booking sites even use the commission we pay them to directly compete with us, by paying for adwords related to our property, making them pop up higher in searches than us. They have a lot more clout than we do when it comes to paying for things like this, making it difficult for small accommodation providers to compete.

So why do we list on booking sites?

Unfortunately at the present time it is a necessary evil. I’m pretty sure that if you asked any hotel or hostel manager in the world, they would say that if they could take their properties off booking sites and not suffer because of it, they would do it in a heartbeat. Booking site commissions are a huge, huge cost to any accommodation provider. Commissions on reservations seem to be steadily increasing as well. Previously most places charged 10% commission, which then climbed to 12% and the feeling is that soon this will go up to 15% (some places already pay this). Other booking sites are already over this amount.

The problem is because there are so many places listed on booking sites, it’s hard to survive if you’re not listed on there.

But it’s so easy to book on booking sites, why should we do it differently just to help out hostels and hotels?

What we would suggest is this; use a booking site to compare prices and reviews, then head to the booking site of the individual property, all you need to do is give it a quick google, and book on their website, where they pay no commission. All it adds is one small step for you, but makes a big difference to the hotel or hostel.

An even better idea is this:

Call the hostel.

Most sensible hostels, if you call them up and say you’re thinking about booking online, but would book directly over the phone if offered a discount, would give you a discount. Say a hostel normally would pay 12% commission, most would happily give a discount in the region of 5-10% as this is still saving them money and you get a discount too. Both customer and accommodation win, so why wouldn’t you do this?

This post makes us sound like we have an axe to grind, that’s not the case. We generally have a very good relationship with the booking sites, however we find that a lot of our guests truly aren’t aware of the facts regarding online booking sites. If you have any comments, or disagree with us, feel free to comment below!

The key lesson? Book directly and save! Either directly, or indirectly, the more you book directly, the more money you will save.

To book directly with us either head to our booking page, email us at or call us on +61 89 227 1400.

Rottnest Island Travel Guide – 5 Things to Know

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Islands off the coast of large cities often have a dubious history. Historically, they are where we send societies undesirables (think Robben Island, Alcatraz, Rikers!). Rottnest is no exception.  Shortly after European colonisation of the island in 1829, Rottnest became a prison island for the indigenous Aboriginal people. Now, it is where Australians send the new undesirables; the tourists!

Recently, I made my first visit to the island via Rottnest Express, the islands foremost ferry operator. It exceeded all my expectations, and probably one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done since living in Perth. Everything is touted as a ‘MUST DO’ these days, but for me Rottnest cannot be missed.

Here are 5 things I learned on my maiden voyage that will make your visit to Rottnest that bit more enjoyable and I think should be added to any Rottnest Island travel guide!

  1. RENT A BIKE: Upon booking you might be suspicious of add ons. Fair enough, if you really don’t want the snorkel or the Subway lunch you can do without. But get a bike. Rottnest Express will have it waiting for you as you disembark the ferry and off you go, free to explore the island at your own pace and as per your own schedule.

A bike is an essential!

  1. CHOOSE YOUR PATH WISELY: Rottnest is bigger than I thought. A full loop of the island is 22 km (3-5 hours). The roads are well paved and it’s not mountainous, but there are some hills. A 5 hour bike ride in Perth’s glaring sun can quickly turn into a feat of endurance rather than a leisure ride. We went for the 10km route, which loops inland after Salmon Bay and found it perfect for a day trip.

Pick your route to suit your pace!

  1. WATER, ALL THE WATER: Water fountains are few and far between on Rottnest. Drinking water is mostly centred around the main settlement (Thomson bay, Kingstown Barracks). Don’t get caught out 15 km from a drinking fountain without a bottle. Bring as much as you can. It will make life a lot easier.

Cycling is thirsty work

  1. FIND YOUR OWN BEACH: There’s some beautiful reef around the island, perfect for snorkelers of any skill level. If you just fancy a swim, the beaches at Parakeet Bay, The Basin and Little Armstrong Bay come highly recommended. However I’d encourage you to be adventurous and find that tiny stretch of white sand behind a rock or in a cove that you can have to yourself. Grab a couple of beers from the general store… paradise.

Find a quiet spot to relax.

  1. CATCH THE FERRY FROM B-SHED: There is an option to leave from Barrack St. jetty in Perth city, and although the cruise down the Swan River to Fremantle might be enjoyable there are some disadvantages. For one, it costs more. It obviously takes longer too, with a number of stops along the way. And the timetable is limited. I’d recommend grabbing the train (20 minutes) from Perth Stn to Fremantle Stn. From Freo Stn. It’s a 5 minute walk to B-Shed (go right out of the station, follow the tracks, and cross towards the warehouse shed with the large B painted in red on it). Your ferry will now be a direct 25 minute transfer to Rottnest. On your return you will have more timetabled departures to choose from, scheduled right into the late afternoon.

B Shed is where we recommend to catch ferry from.

If you want more information about Rottnest, or want to book a trip there before you arrive, fill out our contact form or just send us an email to

– Written by Adam Burke, our weekend manager.

Our Top 10 Surprisingly Important Items When Travelling

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What are the items that you wouldn’t go travelling without? I’m not talking about the standard things, but the stuff that you find important. Or the items that have found to be surprisingly useful and versatile?

This is our list. Some items may only be useful in certain situations, others might only be useful for certain people… There are items missing from this list that I would always take (like at least one good book, book exchanges are available in most hostels, including ours).

Disagree with any items here or have some more suggestions? Just let us know in the comments!



“But I don’t smoke!” I hear you say. It doesn’t matter. A lighter is an incredibly versatile tool. Personally I don’t go anywhere without one. Here’s why.

Ever been craving a beer and found yourself with no bottle opener? Use a lighter! (If you don’t know how to do this yet, you need to learn).

About to go out and have a loose thread dangling from your clothes? Don’t pull it, burn it! Doing this can stop it happening again, whereas pulling it can ruin your clothes.

A hot guy/girl comes up to you looking for a lighter and you actually have one… instant ice breaker!

Stuck in a hostel where the stovetops don’t light themselves? Use your lighter! Not necessary at our place by the way…

Found yourself with a hot guy/girl and are in need of some emergency romance? How are you going to light those 100 candles on that beach without a lighter?

Ok so the last one is a bit lame but you see what I mean?

Neck Pillow


Ok so this might not be something everyone would take. I used to laugh at this myself. Until I took one with me (thanks to my beautiful girlfriend for opening my eyes). Revelation!

I’m not talking about the new squishy ones that take up loads of space even when not being used. I’m talking about the old-school blow-up ones.

These things kick ass. You know those long flights where you can’t get comfortable and the guy behind you has his knees all up in your back, stopping you putting your chair back? Blow up your neck pillow and slip it around your neck and you’ll be nodding off before you know it. Neck pillows can be a true sanity saviour on long flights. Ok they’re not perfect, but they can really improve comfort in uncomfortable spots and are easily portable (after your flight/bus/boat/camel ride/space shuttle, just deflate and off you go!).



Personally I’ve never taken one of these travelling with me but I know many people who do and swear by them. They can make life much easier in many situations, fumbling around in your bag in your dorm at night, reading without disturbing your room-mates, going to the toilet in the middle of the night in the jungle, barbecuing on a beach in the dark, you name it!

Insect Repellent


More important in hot countries than cold ones, but can save you a ton of pain and misery. Once you have spent an evening sitting outside being sucked dry by mosquitos, you’ll turn to the insect repellent and never turn back. OK, it doesn’t smell great, but who cares when it saves you from days of itching?

Vacuum Bags & Watertight Bags


Vacuum bags make packing much easier and allow you to cram more stuff into a smaller bag. They also help to keep your clothes clean and dry in case of shampoo explosions or bag soakings. Same goes for the waterproof bags, carry your electronics, passport and travel documents in here in case of downpour, massive waves or a capsizing boat (you never know).

Deck of Cards


Best. Boredom. Killer. Ever. A deck of cards is a brilliant thing to take with you. A game of cards can help break the ice with a new group of people, can help save your sanity when you’re stuck in an airport waiting for your delayed flight, or help you while away the day on a beautiful beach. Just don’t try and learn card tricks to show people how cool you are, it doesn’t usually go down well (unless you’re spectacularly good).

Needle & Thread (alternatively, Duct Tape)


Bag ripped? Sew it up! Split jeans? Sew it up! Even very basic sewing skills can save your bacon in a tricky situation. Plus, if you need to put a new sim card in your iPhone, the needle comes in very handy. The lazy alternative is duct tape, which is possibly even more useful (you can even make cups out of it in an emergency). I doubt you can use duct tape to replace your sim card though (send me a video if you managed it somhow).

Hypodermic Needles


This might seem like a bizarre suggestion and it’s not necessary in most countries, but if you’re ever going somewhere where you’re a bit unsure about the local medical situation, maybe take your own clean needles with you in your first aid kit, in case of medical emergency. Better to be safe than sorry! By the way, this really isn’t necessary if you’re coming anywhere in Australia, medical care here is pretty awesome.

Emergency Cash Stash


You know the waterproof bags we mentioned earlier? Keep some emergency cash in a waterproof bag wrapped tight and safe and stored somewhere unexpected and away from the rest of your important stuff. Stashing it somewhere like under the inner sole of your shoe may sound stupid, but could save you in the event that all your stuff gets stolen or you lose your wallet… We would suggest keeping some USD as your emergency stash (unless you are just staying in one country, in which case just use local currency).



I know it sounds sappy. But at the end of your travels wouldn’t you like to have something to remember everyone by and you can look through it and remember all the good times? I’m not talking about writing a diary, but maybe get everybody you meet to leave you a little message in your journal before they disappear from your life. You will meet some amazing people and maybe won’t be in touch with them ever again, so make sure you get something to remember them by while you can!