Niagara FallsRecently a number of travel sites specializing in group travel reservations has popped up on the Intenet.  Groople is one of these sites.  We took it for a test drive and here is what we found:

{mosimage}Over the years I have planned many trips and far too much time on the phone nailing down details on hotels and airlines for large group trips. I had always wished that booking for groups could be as easy as booking for individuals using online search engines. Until now there simply was nothing available to accomplish this goal. Enter, a group rate search engine for hotels, airfares, busses, trains, and cruises. I decided to take it for a spin and see if it was indeed the answer to my prayers.

For my first attempt at using Groople I chose a similar location and duration to a trip that I had run earlier in the year. I chose a set of dates one month away and tried a search for the Los Angeles area for a block of twenty rooms. When the search came back I was not surprised to find roughly the same price ranges as what I found when planning the previous trip. Many of the hotels came up without definate rates, instead offering to send me personalized quotes if I registered and gave up my credit card number. For the hotels with definate rates, there was an interesting mix of everything from higher end suites hotels down to mom and pop style small hotels. All offered photos and decent information about the hotel. Not a bad start to my research. Plus one for Groople.

Then I dug a little deeper. Travelocity and Groople have been partners in the online booking business since February of 2005. I did the same search on Travelocity (except only for one room) and sorted the results by name of hotel. In comparing the Travelocity list to the Groople list I was very surprised. For several hotels the Groople price was actually much higher than the same hotel on the same dates for Travelocity. For others, the price difference was only a dollar or two in Groople's favor. If you are buying a large block of rooms there is no reason that you should have to pay more than a person buying one single. Minus one for Groople.

In the end, my impressions of Groople were a very mixed bag. It is an interesting service, one that in my opinion has been badly needed. But I can't help but think that I would still get a better deal calling the individual hotel and negotiating a price over the phone. Plus, going directly to the hotel sales manager gives you a much better feel for a property, and it is always a good idea to build a relationship with your hotel sales manager, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area you are traveling to. Groople and Travelocity are great places to start when planning your next group trip, but in my opinion you should still consult the local hotels directly rather than booking your group online unless you happen to find an incredible deal or don't want to make the extra effort.

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