LastMinute.com are our recommended booking agent for all Secret Hotels, if you’re ready to book, you can visit the official booking page here.
What is a Secret Hotel?
Even the finest hotels do not want rooms left empty, so, on the condition that their name remain a ‘secret’, they are willing to selloff unsold rooms at a significant discount, typically 45% below the usual list price… There is no compromise on quality, and willing travellers can expect to receive the same level of hospitality and service enjoyed by other hotel guests.
How does the booking process work?
After specifying a destination and travel date, customers are given a list of available Secret Hotels in that area – for each hotel, the booking agent provides a rough location, star-rating (usually certified by HOTREC), and the facilities on offer.
Of course, the one catch is that the customer is not provided with the name of the secret hotel they have chosen until immediately after their booking is confirmed. So it pays to spend some time reviewing the hotel facilities and crosschecking the said location with Google maps.
As regular travellers ourselves, we understand the risks that come with such an opaque booking system…
Our mission is to help travellers book with confidence, expanding on the hotel facilities provided by the booking agents, and detailing activities and attractions in the surrounding area.
Of course, we can never reveal the actual name of a mystery hotel… But by providing you with the location, star rating, and nearby attractions, you can rest assured that you will not be disappointed when you book through SecretHotels.eu (see below for cancellation and refund policies for each booking agent).
About our Secret Hotel reviews
In a recent survey of our website visitors, we found the location of a Secret Hotel to be the largest source of potential disappointment, particularly amongst travellers heading to unfamiliar destinations… Our local experts aim to give a broad spread of activities and venues located around each hotel. Catering for families, romance, culture, shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Secret Hotel Providers
LastMinute.com’s Top Secret Hotel™ brand is the largest opaque booking system in the UK, offering savings of ‘up to 45%’ off standard room rates. All deals are exclusive to LastMinute and come with a price match guarantee. Note that prices are for ‘room only’, and as a result, use of some of the facilities listed in the hotel descriptions may incur additional charges.
LastMinute’s anonymous description pages give the most detail out of any booking agent we cover, displaying the overall TripAdvisor rating for the hotel (you won’t be able to read customer reviews, but the overall score helps alleviate is extremely useful). LastMinute have also integrated Google Maps, including rough outline of the hotel’s immediate area – perfect for those travelling to unfamiliar destinations.
Travelocity also operates under the Top Secret Hotel™ brand. Like LastMinute, they offer savings of ‘up to 45%’, and reveal the hotel name immediately after the booking is confirmed. Again, bookings are for ‘room only’.
HotWire’s ‘Secret Hot Rate’ deal offers savings of ‘up to 50%’ and comes with a price match guarantee. Like LastMinute, Hotwire have also recently integrated TripAdvisor ratings on the hotel description pages.
Expedia’s ‘Secret Saver Hotel’ brand offers savings of up to 40% and also comes with a price match guarantee.
LowCostHolidays launched their Secret Hotel offering in the summer of 2013. A little late to the party, they have placed a focus on beach venues. You can read more about their offering here.
Secret Escapes do not offer an opaque booking service like the ones mentioned above but are commonly associated with the Secret Hotel concept.
Travellers sign up using their email address or Facebook account and are sent luxury deals boasting savings of ‘up to 70%’ (we recommend signing up to the weekly newsletter rather than the daily, as it can be difficult to keep track!).
Note that due to the ‘flash sale’ style of this service there have been, albeit rare, instances of hotels overbooking, forcing the operator to cancel reservations.
Cancellation & Refund Policies
Lastminute, Travelocity, LowCostHolidays, Expedia & Hotwire reservations cannot be cancelled, exchanged, refunded or even transferred after confirmation (note that this only applies to ‘secret’ reservations, not standard hotel bookings).
Secret Escapes bookings are also non-refundable and non-transferrable, although the risk of disappointment is lower considering that customers are provided with the hotel name before making their booking.
We called the company and they told us that in extreme circumstances, they would be prepared to contact the hotel to request a refund or amend a booking, but warned that the final decision rested with the hotel, not Secret Escapes.
What if I find my hotel listed cheaper elsewhere?
All booking agents offer price match guarantees on their respective Secret Hotel brands.
If, after learning the name of your secret hotel, you find it listed cheaper elsewhere, contact the booking agent right away. The Hotwire price match guarantee is only valid within 48 hours after making a booking, and LastMinute customers have just 24 hours to make a claim.
Both booking agents will require the name of the cheaper booking agent, a screenshot that clearly shows the lower price, as well as the search criteria used to secure that booking.
According to TravelClick, the opaque channel accounted for 6% of all hotel reservations for major brands in 2012 (that’s up 2% from 2010), and in early 2013, Hotwire announced that they would be adding 5,000 hotels to their ‘Secret Hot Rate’ offering.
From an industry point of view, the growth seems warranted. In one of the few academic pieces published on the topic, K. Jenrath et al concluded that opaque selling increased hotel profits without disrupting sales made through regular channels. In other words, the concept allows for the unlocking of latent demand via multi-tiered pricing structures, a phenomenon covered in depth by modern economic theory. Given the high fixed cost nature of the hotel industry, the increased marginal revenue is welcomed!
‘Secret Hotels’ are here to stay…
A research piece by Chen et al concluded that when hotels sell off unsold inventory without hiding their name (i.e. transparent bookings), the effect is downward pressure on prices as travellers wait until the last moment before making their booking… And there is indeed much evidence to suggest that consumers do delay bookings in a hope for lower prices, with one of the major opaque providers, LastMinute, stating that 50% of Top Secret Hotel bookings are made on the day before they are needed.