Prepare for a flood of cheap hotel rooms online after OFT ruling


business woman  at the reception of a hotel checking in

Prepare yourself for a deluge of cheap holidays to hit the internet. The Office of Fair Trading has laid the groundwork for online travel agencies like Expedia and to compete more aggressively over the price of hotel rooms.

In the past the OFT was concerned that online travel agencies may have had agreements with the big hotel chains which severely restricted their ability to discount room-only rates. It opened an investigation and called for the companies in question to respond.

Instead of providing a formal response, they signed up to a new set of rules - which is set to spark a bargain room frenzy. and have signed up to the agreement - along with InterContinental Hotels Group. It means that when you book with any of the three you'll get access to discounts - as long as you sign up to the travel agency's membership scheme, and make one full-price booking with the agent or the hotel first.

The companies have made a commitment to establish their schemes within one month, so the discounts should kick off in time for spring breaks.

The OFT said it should open up competition between the big players. It expects the move to promote competition across the sector, and encourage other companies to establish similar discounting schemes. It hopes it will attract new online travel agencies to start up too - which will increase competition still further and hopefully push down prices.

Ann Pope, Senior Director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said the move: "should increase competition and mean travellers across Europe can benefit from reductions on hotel accommodation throughout the UK."

The only potential fly in the ointment is that the OFT says it hasn't set in stone whether or not there should be a membership fee for joining the schemes and qualifying for discounts.

But whether you're choosing to stay in the hotel voted the best in the UK, or visit the best beach in Britain, you could get a cheaper room in future.

Britain's best hotels 2014

Britain's best hotels 2014