What’s in a name? Finding the correct lodging


Since opening GringoWasi back in 2012 I have had to deal with many online travel agencies (OTA’s) and one of the things that I have found odd is the wide variety of definitions, or more correctly descriptions, used to define properties. Some OTA’s are quite limited in their options while others have a wide variety of categories to choose from, and this has led to a bit of confusion on occasion, as to how to classify GringoWasi when I am adding it to an OTA. I guess some of this stems from my years of working as an Industrial Engineer in the States, and always being able to precisely classify things, so I thought I would share my thoughts on this subject in an effort to aid my readers when they are searching for lodgings on line.

Let’s start with simple numbers and discuss the OTA with the least number of categories first. So far in my research I have found TripAdvisor to have the fewest categories available on their sit with a very unimpressive 3, these being Hotel, B&B/Inn and Specialty Lodgings. Now I imagine they are trying to keep things simple here and most of the time that is a good thing, but considering they are mainly a review site, I would think that having a large resort hotel compete with a small hotel is not very fair. Personally I think, as a review site, they should actually be one of the sites with the most categories.

Speaking of the most categories how does 35 sound, this is how many categories Agoda has available for property owners to choose from. This I think might be a bit excessive as they have what I would consider to be sub-categories listed as categories, but I will get into that in a bit. So you are probably wondering what exactly these categories are, well here is the list.

Bed & Breakfast
Camp Site
Capsule Hotel
Country House
Farm Stay
Guest House
Holiday House
Holiday Park
Home Stay
Love Hotel
Luxury Tent
Private Apartment
Private Bungalow
Private Villa
Resort Bungalow
Resort Villa
Serviced Apartment

Now I am sure as you read this list there were a few that made you ask “what the heel is a_?” so for reference I have a link to definitions below, but for now let’s take a look at a few OTA definitions. Now before I start it is important to know that many OTA’s just allow the poster to choose whatever category they want and do not provide any definition of what should be in the category. There are a few though that do have set definitions and do enforce them and this is where I will be starting.

For TripAdvisor’s three categories the definitions are as follows

– A 24-hour front desk
– Daily housekeeping included in the room rate
– Private bathroom for each unit
– If there is a minimum-stay requirement, it must be no more than 3 nights

– Daily housekeeping included in the room rate
– Daily on-site management

Specialty Lodging:
– Multiple units/rooms at the same address that may be rented by more than one party at a time
– Daily on-site management

* Please Note: Properties that offer shared form style rooms are considered hostels, which are classified as Specialty Lodging

While I do like TA definitions as they are specific in nature and don’t use words like occasionally, sometimes and may have, they still leave a lot of open ground in an effort to include a wider range of properties. As a B&B owner I will use that category as an example, now when I think of a B&B here is what comes to mind;
1. It is somebody’s house
2. They have one or more rooms to rent out
3. Breakfast is included in the stay
4. The owners or managers live on site in the same building

Now if you look at the TA definition above you will not find any of those things. So in an effort to minimize the number of categories they are essentially diluting the definitions of properties and creating an unfair playing field.

Now the only other site that I have seen any definitions on is Booking.com, this is because there were a few categories that I thought our property might fit in and so I requested there definitions for B&B, Country house, and Home Stay, now I wish I had saved the e-mail they sent with the definitions, but they were a bit vague. In short I learned that GringoWasi qualifies for all three of these categories, which to me seems odd, what is the sense in having categories if properties can fit into more than one?

Out of curiosity I started looking into definitions for some of these terms, and to save space here is a link to 38 Lodging Definitions for those that want to read them, and to be honest I am still a bit confused. Many of the ones that I had never heard of seem to be nothing more than a term used in a different language like Haveli, Riad, or Ryokan these words should just be inserted when viewing a page in that particular language.

Next there are the assortment of categories that all appear to be similar enough to be in one single category like Aparthotel, Apartment, Private Apartment, and Serviced apartment as they are all apartments. Another example would be Bed and Breakfast, Bungalow, Cabin, Chalet, Country House, Guest House, Holiday House, Home Stay, Private Bungalow, Private Villa, or Residence. Basically these are all structures that are, or once were, built as private residences and now being rented in whole or partially and could all likely fit into two or three categories at the most.

Of course the definitions that I have taken from Wikipedia are likely to have no relevance to those used by the OTA’s for their categories, and based on what I have found in my dealings with some OTA’s, many don’t seem to care how a property is listed at all. Some of this watering down of definitions I believe comes from simple marketing, take for instance the term Boutique Hotel, according to Wikipedia they came into existence in the 80’s in major cities like London, New York and San Francisco. These are all cities that likely had a large number of luxury hotels carrying high star or diamond ratings, so I would imagine somebody in marketing came up with the idea to start calling themselves a boutique hotel in an effort to make them stand out from the rest. From what I have read a boutique hotel is nothing more than a small hotel with 5 star services, and as such should not warrant a special category.

Regretfully I do not have the experience in all the different types of lodging to propose specific definitions, but I believe the types of properties should be defined by structure type, management type, size and only the most basic of services. Things like location, and minor services should be limited to sub categories or filters. I mean a hotel is a hotel whether it has a concierge or is part of a resort, it is still a hotel and if the OTA’s keep this up they are likely to have 100’s categories before we know it.

Well this is likely way more information than many of you were looking for so I will wrap things up and just leave you with this. When looking for a place to stay on any of the OTA’s, keep in mind that they really don’t know what they are doing when it comes to classifying properties. So keep an open mind and check out a number of different categories when searching, you never know where the perfect place will be hiding.


About Lyle

I love travel and currently own and operate a Bed and Breakfast called GringoWasi with my beautiful Peruvian wife, the property is located in the small town of Huarocondo, and about 30 minutes West of Cusco Peru.
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2 Responses to What’s in a name? Finding the correct lodging

  1. samokan says:

    I always check all types of categories when search through this OTAs, and sift the result manually , like you said the perfect accommodation might not be in the category I was searching for.
    Great article.

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