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Destination Guide

Beware: Hotel

Price-Shopping Pitfalls

Price-shopping for hotels can sometimes be tricky. You're likely to encoun-

ter three major problem areas, on or off the Internet:

 

• Most hotels quote prices per room, even in promotions. However, you

sometimes encounter prices featured as "per-person, double occu-

pancy" at half the real price. Although it's deceptive, per-person

pricing is deeply ingrained in cruise and package-tour promotions,

and no amount of railing on my part is going to change that. How-

ever, per-person pricing for just a hotel room is inexcusable. Watch

out for it in some of the promotions you see on the Internet (or any-

where else).

• When they advertise in Europe, European hotels are required to in-

clude value-added tax (VAT) in their featured prices. Unfortunately,

some European hotels quote a pretax price in their U.S. ads. Read the

fine print of these ads carefully to see which prices include VAT and

which don't.

• Hotels often promote their ratings—a certain number of stars, for

example—that might or might not mean anything. Some countries,

including Austria, Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland,

Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United King-

dom (recently), and Yugoslavia, have government-run or industry-

run hotel-rating systems. Presumably, they're policed and reliable,

provided you know the system. But other important countries-

including the United States—have no official standards and no stan-

dards at all other than proprietary (and often inconsistent) guidebook

ratings. The net result is that any hotel here can declare itself to be

"Five Star," with nobody to argue.