India has progressed a long way in harnessing the internet for all purchase related processes, be it a flight ticket, or home appliance or of late even hotel bookings. Hotel bookings were mostly restricted to filling up the required details online, and waiting endlessly for someone to either call you or mail you regarding your booking. This could be an agent or well, the hotel management itself in some cases where the hotel was well known.
There were many anomalies in this kind of scheme. One for instance is that I sent an email via the form on the internet only to receive no reply after - well about - 5 years now!! Another instance is that I got a response from the hotel after about a month, which was of no use practically for me since I had exhausted the travel date for my trip. Atleast this was bearable to some extent but there was one more case where I began receiving spam for the query I sent which made it a bit intolerable.
From those days, hotel booking has steadily progressed to be associated with branded websites who advertise services like hotel bookings, airline bookings, taxi bookings, etc on all media both print and television and even on the net on partner sites. There are a few sites that I would like to highlight for their services (of which I have already used some of them and found it extremely satisfactory)
Ezeego1 is a website that is fairly simple to use (but I don't think it is web 2.0 enabled as yet - which means more of page refreses than normally required) and gives me all the data I need to see neatly arranged on one single page. I can see the hotels, the photos of hotels, prices with and without taxes and even sort by popularity or price, etc. The site even provides me with a price slider which I can slide to knock off hotels out of my budget range.
This is a unique thing which I liked a lot. Try it out yourself! The photos of each hotel pop up in another window but what I did not like is that in the current age of digital cameras of 7MP and more, I still get to see photos which are dumb and thumbnail sized not giving me the true picture of what I can expect when I land at the hotel. Shame on such photography! The rest is rather straightforward - add hotel to cart, confirm cart, pay and off you go on your holiday equipped with an online confirmation!
Ezeego also has a chat option along with toll free telephone and email customer care.
Travelguru is somewhat similar to Ezeego, but with some changes. First they are web 2.0 enabled which means I don't divert away from the hotel booking search results page even if I want to say see some photos of a particular hotel or its rates or features. Everything refreshes then and there only in that part of the page. I am impressed! It's just awesome to use web 2.0 technology! Travelguru also allows me to pay at the hotel which is an internet first that I have personally noted.
Travelguru has toll free telephone and email customer care.
Cleartrip is yet another hotel booking service of a different kind. Firstly all results are displayed much like in other sites, with prices of rooms with and without taxes neatly explained. What I also liked about this listing is that next to the hotel name, is a thumbnail photograph of the hotel, with relevant icons showing its available facilities (such as swimming pool, gym, etc). Upon clicking the thumbnail, there is an in browser page pop, using web 2.0 again, which shows some real good quality photos which presents more or less an actual picture of the hotel that is to be booked by you. With these photos, I am more or less confident of what I can expect at the actual hotel. You wont be probably disappointed.
The rest is the same, add to cart, present your details and make a payment. Cleartrip has among other things a toll free phone and email customer care.
HotelsCombined is a multipartner hotel booking network which caters both national and international too. Their objective is simple; they search for a hotel in your city using their multipartner tie up to find the best deals for you. Since this is based on querying multiple hotel booking partners, you may most likely be diverted to the relevant website while you book a hotel offered by them. In that case you must remember to contact only the partner site in case of issues/queries and not Hotelscombined itself. I don't really know if I would prefer something like this, since it sounds a bit complex for me to reach many other people.
The photos of the hotels themselves are picked from partner sites, so you may not expect the best photos that show you what you get at the hotel really. Sometimes I ve even found that the photos are just thumbnails only. The room cost does not include taxes and the taxes are shown as either at actuals, or zero or sometimes as 'unknown'!! The partner website though has all room price details, etc with their own contact numbers to ensure you can do the booking of your choice easily from anywhere even outside of India.
It's to be noted that Hotelscombined does not offer a direct toll free number to contact them for reasons beyond my understanding. While the local sites would go well with domestic customers, HotelsCombined would do a good job if you are looking at a hotel in another country/city from your current location and would provide more than enough details on such listings.