In recent years, the demand for travel and Internet usage have both expanded with rising affluence of people around the world. Hence, it is natural that the Internet has evolved to become a very useful search tool that can be used to plan overseas trips, especially with the ready availability of information online.One area of overseas trip planning that is becoming increasingly popular is researching about the different hotels available and making bookings online through the use of online travel agents’ and hotels’ websites. These hotel online booking websites have empowered travelers to make informed decisions about hotel bookings by having all the information that they need and the means of direct hotel booking at their fingertips. Let us explore how these websites are helping the online consumer make the right hotel booking decisions.Dawn of the Internet – Power to the online consumerIn the past, researching about hotels was a tedious process that relied almost exclusively on traditional channels including broadcast media like television and printed media in the form of brochures and pamphlets. The potential guest also has to telephone or write to the hotel or visit a physical travel agent to find out more about room availability and room rates. It was also very difficult to find out if the hotel would be well-maintained and able to provide them with a comfortable stay until they actually stay there. This is because it was easy for the hotels or travel agents to hide any unsavory aspects of the rooms or facilities from unsuspecting guests.However, the Internet has opened many platforms for the free exchange of ideas and information, including both factual information about the hotels as well as feedback from past guests on forums and hotel review websites. Thus, the online consumer has been empowered to make informed decisions about hotel bookings. He can also place his booking directly on online reservation websites without much hassle, thus freeing more time to prepare for his trip. He can even stand to enjoy cost savings by finding out the best deals through websites that specialize in searching for the best deals for each hotel.Online consumer benefits from online travel agents’ information sharingThe sharing of hotel information between the hotels and the online travel agents makes this information readily available to the online consumer on the latter. These websites are a one-stop shop for these consumers as they can browse different hotels’ room rates, facilities, amenities and services, compare prices and make their bookings at a single website, thus saving lots of time and effort. Hence, all parties stand to gain as the hotels gain publicity and bookings, the online travel agents receive commission payments for bookings done through their website, and the online consumer has a large database of hotel information at his fingertips. Even the smaller online travel websites are not left out as the availability of a single database of information means that all agents, large and small, are able to supply online consumers with such information and in turn, the power to make informed booking decisions. The ready availability of this information means that some online travel agents may liaise with the hotels to obtain special rates to compete amongst themselves for customers, which can only be good for the online consumer.Unique booking experience through hotels’ own booking websitesIn this information age which promotes choice, there is another alternative for the online consumer to place a hotel reservation online – through the hotels’ websites themselves. Hotel websites which have a booking engine enabled allow guests to make real-time online bookings and in addition, provide a unique browsing experience to the online consumer through the use of stylized design and detailed content which cannot be found on intermediary websites. This would help to build up and reinforce brand loyalty which enables these hotels to retain its customers over a sustained period of time. Furthermore, the online consumer is much clearer about the terms, policies and rates by booking directly with the website as such information might not be communicated clearly or comprehensively by intermediary websites.Empowering yourself to make the right hotel booking decisionsIt is often easy to be lost amongst the plethora of websites that have a hotel online booking function when searching for one that empowers you to make an accurate and informed hotel booking decision. You might be looking for a website that is easy to use, supplies you with adequate information that is needed to make the right decision and offers you the best deals.