Qualitative study of online hotel booking systems


By Caroline Henry

SKEMA Business School

Paris, France



The explosion of online booking systems has completely changed the direct channel and contractual relationship between hotels and customers. From now on users have the choice of several distribution channels to book a hotel room. The objective is to study those different online booking systems and identify the best alternative from a customer’s point of view. This paper is based on a qualitative study using a multi-attribute decision-making and fishbone methods, websites and articles analysis.

Third party websites have completely taken control of online booking systems to the detriment of hotel websites. Indeed, most customers are seeking several offers on a single website in order to find the best quality-price ratio with as little wasted time as possible. Even though the use of online booking systems seems very convenient at first sight, many studies show how risky those contracts can be for customers.

Once benefits and dis-benefits of online booking systems will be compared and analysed, the study will conclude on the importance for customers to use a direct channel and book their room on hotel websites.

Key words: Online Booking Systems, Hotel industry, Independent Websites, Distribution channels, Reliability of alternatives


According to the Statistics Portal 2017 survey, 88% of Americans 78% of French book their hotel using Internet.1  The first question that can be raised is the validity of this type of contract. Do online hotel bookings constitute contracts? Three aspects must be taken into consideration:

–        An offer

–        An acceptance

–        A consideration

The hotel offers the availability of its rooms to customers at specific dates. This later has the choice to accept the offer or to turn down on it. The lawyer Mark Pestronk announces “a reservation is a binding contract consisting of mutual promises: the hotel agrees to provide the accommodation at the quoted rate, and the client agrees to pay.2

Consideration is the exchange of value on both sides. The customer ensures he will occupy a room and pay for it. Hotels make sure the room is available for the customer at specific dates. Consideration comes along with the payment or a deposit. It can take different forms such as money or promise.  By sharing credit card information, the customer “promises” payment. If customers do not provide any information, there is no consideration. Once all conditions are fulfilled, acceptance is close. Online bookings definitely constitute a contract.

Hotels use the Internet to increase their visibility and attract customers. In a world where competition is increasingly tougher, different channels have been created to catch customers’ attention and gain market shares. Online booking systems have complicated the direct contractual relationship between customers and hotels and can constitute risky contracts.  By risk, it must be understood the “probability or threat of damage, injury, liability, loss, or any other negative occurrence that is caused by external or internal vulnerabilities, and that may be avoided through pre-emptive action.”3

To summarize, this paper seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What are the different channels to book a hotel room online?
  • What are the risks for customers to book their hotel on independent websites?
  • What is the most efficient alternative for them?


To read entire paper (with footnotes and references), click here


Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared as a deliverable for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director, at [email protected]

About the Author

Caroline Henry

SKEMA Business School
Paris, France


Caroline Henry
is a student at Skema Business School (Paris), Msc Project and Programme Management and Business Development (PPMBD). She joined Skema in 2014 and through those years she has enhanced her knowledge in terms of finance, marketing, management and others before deciding to focus on project management. She also had the opportunity to develop her professional experiences through different long-term internships. Her last work experience was a six months internship in Airbus (Blagnac) as a project manager officer in the Sales and Contracts Department. Learning about the basics on project management in the company helped her to decide her orientation in the PPMBD Msc and complete her knowledge.