It was Eugene Fodor who said “You don’t need to be rich to travel well”. He was right – many of the worlds best sights can still be experienced whilst traveling on a shoestring. However, it is still true that the lions share of any travelers budget is spent on accommodation and flights.
So when we heard about GenieTraveler, a new online travel booking site that says it can offer discounts of up to 70% compared to the usual major travel booking sites, we had to take a closer look.
This post is our review of GenieTraveler, based on extensive research and comparisons to other well-established online travel agencies.
What you probably don’t know about online travel agencies
Many people may not know that there is a duopoly in the world of online travel agencies. Only two companies own pretty much all of the online travel agencies – Expedia and Priceline. Priceline are an online travel behemoth. They own booking.com, agoda.com, cheapflights.com and others.
In the 12 months leading up to July 2017, their share price grew by 50%. Expedia is no different – they own hotels.com, trivago.com, tripadvisor.com and their own brand expedia.com, as well as many others. Forbes included them in their 2017 2000 Growth Champions list.
Because of that, these two companies can control the prices that the everyday traveler is paying for their flights and hotels. If you search online, you will find very small variation in the prices offered for the same hotel room between more than a dozen different online travel agencies.
The myth that there are travel deals to be found online is a really just a marketing tactic used by these big firms to secure your booking.
The only way to find genuine travel deals online
Until now, the only way to genuinely purchase reduced cost travel was if you are a huge company who is buying wholesale – purchasing large quantities of travel bookings in one go to secure a discounted rate, but spending tens of thousands at a time.
These companies are the ones who buy up travel bookings at discounted rates of up to 70%, and sell them on to the online travel agencies. They will then add their own markup. Hence the price of a hotel is usually fixed to a certain level with little variation.
The corporations who buy up these travel bookings at vastly discounted rates are called Closed User Groups (CUG). This is a group, company or organization that requires a secure gateway to access the information.
In the past, CUGs have only offered their discounted rates to travel agencies, both online or the traditional bricks-and-mortar agents. However, one CUG has now decided to open its doors to the general public. That group is GenieTraveler.
How does GenieTraveler work?
GenieTraveler offers an online booking portal for browsing and booking hotels and flights, with discounts of up to 70% available depending where or what you are booking. As GenieTraveler are a CUG, you need a secure login for their network to be able to use the service.
The service is therefore subscription-based and currently starts $3.99 per month for an annual membership offering access to hotel bookings. $4.99 per month (annual membership) gets access to all their current travel offers which will soon include entertainment and car rental, in addition to flights and hotels.
We conducted extensive research on the discounts offered by GenieTraveler, compared to the usual online travel agencies.
What we found is that there are indeed some hefty discounts available by booking through GenieTraveler!
Particularly in the Americas and Europe, the hotel discounts we saw were jaw-dropping.
For example, the Andaz Wall Street Hyatt Hotel in NYC was offered at a price of $466 on hotels.com.
GenieTraveler was offering the same room on the same dates for $243.50, a discount of 48%!
Just one night in this hotel booked with the GenieTraveler discount would cover the cost of the cheapest GenieTraveler annual plan for hotel bookings, more than four times over.
We also found that the CasaSur Bellini Hotel in Buenos Aires was offered at $302 and $332 on booking.com and hotels.com respectively:
Whereas on GenieTraveler the same hotel room on the same dates was offered at $159.77. Even at the lower booking.com rate, the discount amounts to $142 or 47%!
We found similar discounts in London. However, when we searched for hotels in Hong Kong, the results were not quite as successful. Hotels.com were offering one night in Hong Kong hotel the Harbor Plaza Metropolis for $120.
In this case, the same hotel on GenieTraveler was on for $134.89.
However, GenieTraveler do state on their website that if you make a booking on their site and subsequently find the same room at a lower price, they will either refund the difference or allow you to cancel the booking with them. This effectively means you will never be any worse off for having booked with GenieTraveler as opposed to any other booking site.
A GenieTraveler representative also informed us that the company is about to get 1 million more hotels and have a stronger Asia presence, which should hopefully improve the offering in this part of the world in future.
A search for flights from Toronto to Atlanta on both Google and GenieTraveler came up with the same Westjet flight as being the cheapest. Google was offering the cheapest ticket at $183.
GenieTraveler had the same ticket on at $177 – only a marginal difference of $6.
A bigger discount could be found on a long-haul economy-class round trip from Singapore to London. Again, both Google and GenieTraveler flagged Emirates as being the cheapest airline. However, Googles lowest price offer was $672:
Whereas GenieTraveler beat that down to $617.50 – around 8% lower.
Again, even this discount would cover the cost of an annual GenieTraveler membership including both flights and hotels. If you combined the flight with a discounted hotel offering in London from GenieTraveler, you’d be quids in.
Like hotels, we discovered that flight options within Asia are also not as favorable as they are in the Americas and Europe. On searching for a ticket for a short-haul flight from Danang to Hong Kong, Google gave us the option to fly with Hong Kong Express for just $40:
Whereas strangely, GenieTraveler was offering the exact same flight for $100:
The hotel discounts offered by GenieTraveler, particularly in Europe and the Americas, are legitimately fantastic compared to the online travel agencies. Definitely enough to make an annual membership a no-brainer.
Even if you are only planning to book a few nights in a big city in Europe, US or Latin America you could easily save enough on one booking to pay for the membership and have plenty of change left over for some great activities during your trip.
Flight discounts, if you are looking for long-haul tickets, are also well worth the investment.
If, on the other hand, you are planning a budget backpacking trip around South East Asia, GenieTraveler may not currently offer you much compared to booking via the online travel agencies or direct with hotels/airlines.
However, they do offer a free trial! So no matter what your budget or travel plans, there is no reason you can’t take take a look before you book elsewhere. Over time, GenieTraveler may well become the one-stop-shop for travelers all over the world to get the best discounted deals on their travel bookings.
Join GenieTraveler using our discount code NOMAD18 for 18% off for life!
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