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sep 12

Is Hotwire a safe bet for European hotel bargains?

It's been a while since we checked in with Hotwire.com. It's an opaque site, which means that you don't find out which hotel, airline, or car-rental company you're working with until your selection has been accepted and your credit card charged. (Unlike Priceline and other bidding sites, Hotwire customers see prices for hotels, car rentals, and airfares. Hotwire also sells standard travel products with all the details disclosed, too.)

What's new at Hotwire? We asked that question of Clem Bason, the VP of merchandising for the company.

When travelers are booking hotel rooms in Europe, they may be nervous about booking “blindly” without knowing the name and exact location of the hotel where they are saying. Why should travelers be willing to trust Hotwire?

I can understand how people might feel more uncertain about using an opaque site like Hotwire for overseas trips. We try to assuage any concerns by

a. Focusing only on major European cities, and carving out a large number of neighborhoods for each, anchored by points of interest well known to US visitors (e.g., in Paris, the Louvre-Marais is one neighborhood, then there is the Eiffel Tower, Musee d'Orsay, Invalides, etc.)

b. Focusing only on higher star ratings. A four-star experience is a four-star experience, whether you’re in the US or Europe. If you search Paris hotels on Hotwire, you won’t see anything under three stars (and those are only a couple of the top 12 results).

If you're interested in European travel, you should check out (Hotwire's Europe deals page). It is something that some consumers might not be aware of, but we always try to have at least 10 percent off, with savings going above 60 percent.

How many hotels does Hotwire have in Europe?

About 1,700 spread over 17 major cities, including London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Venice, and more...

How many of those hotels are “branded”—meaning they'd be reliable with standardized amenities and customer service?

Almost half of the results displayed for Hotwire hotel searches for Europe are from major chains that would be well-known to US travelers (e.g., Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, Intercontinental)

What are some of the best deals so far for Europe for travel during the fall and winter?

1. Our Europe deals page has a 4* in London for only $116 a night (yes, that’s dollars not Euros) and a 4* in Paris for $139. Prices also look particularly good in Spain right now—we have a 4* in Barcelona for only $83 a night, and a 3.5* in Madrid for $79.

2. We also have more 4.5 and 5* hotels available on Hotwire this year in Europe. Read our current list of our best luxury hotel deals. This page features a 5* in London (Soho even!) for only $186 a night. In keeping with the Spain comment above, there’s a 5* in Madrid for $199.

3. As for flights, prices are still high relative to past years, due to the price of oil. That said, you can still find deals available if your dates, and especially your airports, are flexible. Travel Ticker by Hotwire has several fare sales featured right now into airports in Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark. [Editor's note: For more info, see our blog post on Travel-Ticker.]

Why are there not more opaque car rentals in Europe?

Hotwire does have some opaque car rentals in Europe (via the major brands that we work with in the US, like Hertz, Avis, and Budget). But overall, it is not a large business, because

1. We have only recently started to focus on the market.

2. We do not have existing relationships with all the major car rental companies (e.g., we have not worked with Europcar and Sixt, to date).

3. We are building those relationships, but the process is slower than it was in the U.S.

a. Longer period to negotiate contracts, as we resolve differences in national laws.

b. Longer period to set up the technology, as these companies run on different platforms.

UPDATE 9/15: Breaking News: Alitalia in Crisis

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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