Ever trusted your travel agent to find you that perfect couple’s suite, only to get put into a shoebox with the stench of cigarette smoke when you check in? Australian travelers are taking accommodation matters into their own hands and heading online.

Names like Wotif and Lastminute.com.au were almost unknown four years ago, but now have become one of the first stops Australian travelers head to when planning overnight stays during their holidays. Research by Roy Morgan has revealed that 33% of local travelers book their travel accommodation directly, with 16% opting to use the Internet. In fact, the internet is a favourite method of booking hotel stays, having increased from just 9% in 2007. Phone bookings, on the other hand, have dropped from 18% to 16%.

Jane Ianniello, director of tourism, travel and leisure at Roy Morgan Research says: “An increasing percentage of Australians are using the Internet on a regular basis and it is now the preferred method for researching and booking a holiday. Using the internet to directly book accommodation avoids the cost of a telephone call and it also allows the consumer to search for discount room rates and special deals.”

There are also numerous websites that allow holiday planners to view and compare rates from a wide variety of hotels, and sometimes even offer exclusive discounts, such as Wotif’s Mystery Deal and lastminute.com.au’s Secret Hotels Deal.

However, according to Tania Tandora, online marketing manager of STA Travel, consumers should not be so hasty in foregoing travel agencies. "We get access to exclusive deals that beat what the individual can find direct with the hotel. It's a matter of perception as people think they can get the best deal by booking direct, but often overlook that through a travel agent, they get a better deal based on staying multiple nights and packaging products," says Tandora. 

At the same time, Tandora touches on the importances on building relationships and having support when travel agents are involved in holiday plannings. "The relationship doesn’t end when you leave a store or hang up the phone – our advisers are in constant contact with our customers should they need any form of support, during and after their trip. We also compile feedback from all our travellers in the form of Accommodation Reviews on their return home; our aim is to give them access to as many unbiased opinions as possible."