Saturday, September 28, 2019

Online Travel Tricks

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking – why is this site suddenly talking about travels and online travel tricks. Well, sometimes it’s nice to take a break and take a diversion – like a short vacation to a leisure destination or a heritage destination. Besides, PM Narendra Modi, on I-Day, urged Indians to visit at least 15 tourist destinations by 2022. And while at Houston, he also asked NRIs and Indian-Americans to bring along 5 non-Indian families on a trip to India:
So, when the PM makes the call, it is our duty that we all go on a vacation. At least those who can afford it should do so. Frankly, I have already been doing this job for years as I make at least 10 trips a year and use hotels. But those who aren’t – to complete 15 tourist destinations, they will have to make 4 trips per year in the remaining three and a half years till 2022 or, they will have to make 1 long trip that covers 15 destinations. It’s not a pain at all, most of us would love to go on a trip to new places or a pilgrimage to heritage destinations we haven’t been to before. A word of caution: The PM’s words are not to be mistaken for people going from Mumbai or Delhi to their “Des” in Samastipur or Dindigul to visit their families on their annual visits. That will not count as tourism.

Since all this came to my mind, it is also my job to put in a word of caution on associated scams with online travel bookings. And that’s the main reason to write this. Scams are a topic of interest to this site. Indian tourism classifies seasons into two. April to September is “Off season” and October to March is “Peak season’. Although, there are summer vacations in schools and courts, so families take vacations to visit relatives or hill stations. Others like celebrities, Bollywoodias, lawyers, judges and Rahul Gandhi go to the playgrounds of Europe where the climate is cooler during our summers.  The first step in travel is obviously ticket booking for transport – Bus, Rail or Air. Here, we aren’t going to talk about Corporate travels as they have their regular systems and hotels for travel and even rate-contracts. We will be talking about individual and family travel, which the industry refers to as “FIT” (Free individual traveller).

Govt bus-fares don’t fluctuate by seasons but private operators might hike their fares a bit depending on the demand. Train fares are also stable except for the “Dynamic fare” element in the AC cabins of some trains like Rajdhani and other Superfast trains. Airfares are a bit hard to predict and there is no pattern in their rates. Contrary to what you might think, the early bird doesn’t always get the worm in air bookings. Here’s a sample on airfares from Mumbai to Chennai and back:
Normally, airfares are higher if the date of travel is very close. However, in the above case the travel for September 27-30 return ticket is cheaper than the same travel for November 14-16. Airfares also go up excessively if there is a major event at the destination. For instance, fares to Delhi around the weeks leading to I-Day or R-Day will be dramatically high. Similarly, travel to major luxury tourist spots in Diwali season or year-end or to Goa during their February carnival will go up substantially. Since our PM’s call does not fall under “Emergency” travel, one must start planning at least a month before the travel and keep watching the fares for at least a week and then book when comfortable that fares will not fluctuate much in the remaining days.

Don’t rely on some travel-agent. He will probably want a higher fare as it increases his commission too. But the biggest trick in travelling is not the transport fares – it is the hotels. Rail and Air travel are regulated by the Govt. but there is absolutely no regulation for the hotel industry and online bookings. It’s an open “Swayamwar’. Their tricks are so coordinated that only an expert traveller can decipher their games and the manner in which they fool customers. The inexperienced one will invariably lose money if he books hotel rooms without learning their tricks. Let me take you through some of the trickery involved in this business. To provide samples for this, I took screenshots of some destinations for hotel booking. Let’s start with one of my favourite places – Udaipur. A Google search for Udaipur hotels produces some hotels like these:
There’s a hotel called Justa Inn for which Google showed two properties and rates. When I actually clicked the Rajputana link, it took me to MakeMyTrip which showed a lower rate of 2497/- as against 3933/- in the Google result. Mind you, when you further click on the 2497/- they might some taxes and fees or 2497/- may be “all-inclusive” as it often is. The travel dates I gave were September-30 to October 1, which is pretty close. But choose more nights instead of one night stay and the results are not very encouraging:
MMT shows rates from 3146 to 3186 for 2 nights and 4 nights. The next best rate is GoIbibo. In all the results, you will always find MMT and GoIbibo as the first or second lowest rates. It’s magic. Given this, what fools on earth would offer rates 5000+ or 7000+ for the same property and the same dates? That then is the question on what these travel sites are doing to the public. Are they in cahoots like a cartel to present you extremely high rates for the same property, same dates so that the two big players can be quickly chosen? Do the two big players pass on commission to the “decoys” who compel you to choose them by those putting up prohibitive rates? Let’s see some more.

So, I looked up the same property (Justa) in Gurgaon as they have properties in various locations. The Google search and their “view more rates” page showed up these rates for Gurgaon:
 Once again, MMT and GoIbibo are the best rates and others are priced around 1000/- more than them. How is it possible to play the game for the same hotel, same dates, same rooms with such a big difference in rates? Some of the ones with higher-rates may be just “parking plots” to divert business. But I have good news too. When I click on the link and go to MMT for dates within the range shown in the above image, I get a price that is dramatically lower for the same property:
But I haven’t got lucky. When I click on the 1876/- and try to make a booking, the final rate shown is 2974/. The 2974/- has some taxes and fees but when they show the 1876/- they often don’t mention “taxes extra” or “fees apply” – no such warning. The first thing is to get you at their door. In the next step they will almost compel you to buy. But when you see 2974/- you will end up searching again. And MMT will put up a caution when you try to leave the page with a pop-up “If you leave this page, this offer may not be available again”. At least they have some sense of humour in fooling you. Surprisingly, the 2974/- is for a night on October 1. But if you check for one night for September 27, there will be a dramatic fall in the price:
And all of them show the original, inflated price as some 5075/- and in some cases even over 12000/- for the same property. They are all fishing for “Bakras”. An unfortunate NRI or a traveller with extra money will usually fall for these tricks and pay a lot more than necessary. The other thing that travellers should be aware of is that both MMT and GoIbibo are the same company – they merged in 2018. But when it comes to online booking, they act like “Salma-Sabrina” of hotel bookings:
How do they do it? Firstly, when you visit them, they track your IP address. Each time you search with them, they will give you almost identical results as the previous search. How do you beat this? Here are some simple tips:

# Unless there is an emergency, for leisure trips wait till the last 3-4 days to book a hotel online. When the hotel rooms threaten to go empty, the rates fall dramatically. So, the best chance is to book only 3-4 days before. However, if it’s a peak festival season make a prudent decision as rates will not alter dramatically.
# When you are closer to your travel dates, clear the history from your laptop and mobile and all cookies. This will give you the latest rates which will normally be lower than what you saw before.
# If you have multiple mobiles, check the rates from each mobile as you get closer to the date of travel. DO NOT give your mobile number or email ID while merely searching as they will tempt you stating “Unlock Special Offer” by registering your email ID or mobile phone. That’s just a silly trap to fool you. And these sites are like “Strip-dancers’ that will keep tempting you with ads that show more reduced rates for the same property on sites that use Google Ads:
These price-games and trickery are mostly in the medium to higher end hotels. Sometimes the minor rate difference can also be for “With” or “Without Breakfast” inclusion. If you go through OYO rooms for budget hotels, they have hotels ranging from 500 to 5000 a night and more. The lower end rooms don’t fluctuate in rates all that much and are more stable. Lastly, take the images of the hotel rooms with a pinch of salt. Photography also uses trickery that can be deceptive. Some travellers also put up pics of their hotel experience, check on those too. Many online sites have a “Pay at hotel” option without a change in rates. If that is available, take that option and don’t pay in advance. Most OYO rooms have this option. Just for fun, if you wonder where that Justa Inn rate will end up 2 days before your travel – I predict around 1800, all-inclusive, if it’s not peak season or some festive days.

We cannot expect the PM to regulate the hotel industry. It’s “Buyers Beware” business. But the Tourism minister should surely take note of these online tricksters where online hotel booking is concerned. And online booking will still be cheaper because if you land up a hotel without a booking, then the same hotel is likely to charge 25-30% more than the online rate. In any case, India is a vast country with thousands of great places to visit. One lifetime won’t be enough but make the most of it if and when you can. 

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

HowdyModi Vs RowdyJihadi

Six years ago, September 2013, then Paki PM Nawaz Sharif had a breakfast meeting with two Jihadis, Barkha Dutt and Hamid Mir, in the US. News leaked out that Sharif had referred to former PM Manmohan Singh as a “Dehati Aurat” who was constantly whining and complaining. Had this not come out, we would not have known that Barkha was literally eating from Paki hands. Yes indeed, the Pakis throw bones to many media-poodles from India who serve as their laundry-women. The UPA govt then didn’t complain. The Congress party didn’t complain. The only prominent politician to condemn the insult to MMS was Narendra Modi. PM Modi again slammed Barkha for not walking out of that Biryani-breakfast during his LS2014 campaign. He slammed the Congress for tolerating the insult to MMS. It’s simple common decency. Whatever our internal fights and politics, when the PM is abroad, he represents the whole of India and all Indians. Any insult or offence to the PM while abroad is an insult that shouldn’t be tolerated.

In recent years, it’s not Pakis or foreigners that are raining insults and taunting offences on PM Modi while he’s abroad or about to undertake a tour, it is Jihadis within India. The hate-mongering club of Congis, some journos and assorted dancers of the Lutyens Scotch Circuit who are the most worked-up over Modi’s foreign visits and events. The HowdyModi event (to be held Sunday night IST) has brought on more such insults, taunts and even mobilisation of orchestrated protests. Nothing would please Rahul Gandhi, Barkha, Suhasini and other Jihadis if the event flopped, if there was violence and destruction and overall chaos. It takes extremely psychotic sluttery to desperately desire a happy event to be ambushed and to fail. And this is not the first public event that Modi is participating in on foreign soil. But the recent junking of Article 370 and the decisive war against terrorists in Kashmir have rattled Pakis in Pakistan and Pakis in India. The cup of joy of these Jihadis which used to continuously overflow has run dry and has been broken. So, they are mobilising Jihadis in the US – with mosques as the “Transporter” to agitate against HowdyModi:
Over 50000 people from different walks, mostly of Indian-origin will be packed in the Houston stadium for the event. No PM of India has ever made such an impact on the world stage before. No PM in the past has ever evoked so much emotions of joy among Indians and their supporters anywhere in the world before. The impact can be measured by the fact that President Trump has of his own free will decided to join the event and not miss out on the celebrations. He, as do other US politicians, understands the significance of such a popular event as US elections approach. All across Houston hoardings have come up welcoming and celebrating the event. The promoters also include the Indo-US trade groups like the Texas-India forum:
Many key US political leaders and Governors are holding individual meetings with PM Modi during his trip. Modi is also scheduled to meet with 20 world leaders on the side-lines of the UNGA. India is finally on the road to be a global leader on various issues and the ones whining and agitating are those that are now pieces of worthless junk that even a Kabbadiwala will refuse to buy:
The Sociopath that Rahul Gandhi is, he concocts a figure of 1.4 lakh crore being spent on the HowdyModi event, alluding to the corporate tax cuts. And there is the other grovelling crawler Jairam Ramesh who claims the latest corporate tax cuts are timed with the Houston event. This is what happens when a political party is completely depleted of any intelligence or brains. And the picture of the economy being painted is far from reality. Sure, there is a slowdown and the economy isn’t growing at a rate we would like but it’s certainly not a calamity or disaster as these Congress-Jihadis would like to paint. It seems the GDP is growing at 5% and that’s a figure that scamster P. Chidambaram once claimed to be decent and nothing to be alarmed about.

Even it was to be 2% I wouldn’t be alarmed at all. The economy has cycles of ups and downs and will continue to have them. Trolling and trashing Modi by these political-dimwits will not pay. They don’t seem to have learned any lessons from the past or even the recent past. Minhaz Merchant rightly slams idiots like Sitaram Yechury and Pappu - currently the most worthless pieces of junk in India. The ordinary safety-pin has more utility and worth than these two useless characters who bring nothing of value to India. They are no different from the Jihadis and terrorists who want to destroy India. I have not known the moron Pappu or Yechury to have made one single positive contribution to India ever:
Then there is the media. The Paki doormats have been facing grief for quite some time. The Balakot strike and other policies have left most of them agonised widows. These terror-wives just as desperately want the Houston event to fail and violent agitation to visit it. Among these media-Jihadis are some smooth-talking idiots too. Contrary to popular belief, snakes don’t hiss because they want to attack; they hiss as a self-defence mechanism as they sense a threat. You won’t find a more frightened snake than Suhasini Haidar. She often seems confused whether she wants to be a full time or part time Jihadi but she consistently bats for Pakis and anti-India forces no matter what the issue:
Suhasini claims “some issues”. What issues? That some US lawmakers rant against junking of 370? That is all? We have more idiots in India ranting against junking of 370 than in the US. Usually these are Democrats funded by Jihadis and whose media is also funded by Islamists. Suhasini is no less a moronic Somali-Jihadi like that Ilhan Omar who claimedSome people did something on 9/11”. These are also Congi lines like that guy Sam Pitroda, who has now disappeared into some hole used in the LS2019 campaign. Pitroda also claimedsome people came and did something” on 26/11 and Pak cannot be blamed for it. All that apart, there is a marked difference between cultures. The Hindus at Houston have already broken out in dances and celebrations over the event. While the Muslims from Pakistan, US and some from India want to break out in another agitation. The image below represents two contrasting cultures – one that celebrates life and one that is eternally in agitation against someone or something:

The mosques in Houston and surrounding areas that are mobilising Muslims to protest are undoubtedly motivated, influenced and funded by Pakis, their Indian Jihadi-colleagues and a variety of terrorists. Needless to say, the ISI and Paki hand is shuffling their cards in the whole exercise. They are making a serious mistake. Even otherwise, PM Modi has a high level of security wherever he goes and the events he participates in. But given that the most protected man on earth, the US President, is also at the event, the place will be swarming with Secret Service, FBI Agents, ATF Agents, Texas Ranger squads – the whole JingBang. They will certainly be keeping a close watch on the Jihadis and also getting them on film. Besides, the Democrats and others who are also involved in mobilising these Jihadis will suffer another blow to their electoral prospects.

In India, idiots like Pappu, Yechury, Suhasini are running around like scaredy-chicks caught in heavy rains during this monsoon. Narendra Modi famously said in a show with Rajat Sharma on IndiaTV “Kuch logon ko darna padega”. Whether it’s the Congi scamsters or Jihadis, it is “fear” of extinction that drives them. Like I said, snakes don’t hiss because they are in an attack mode – they hiss because they sense fear and hiss out of a self-defence mechanism. Trying to damage the HowdyModi event will cause them more damage than they are out to inflict. Enjoy the event.


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