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Get better service, upgrades & prices if you use an agent to book lodging?

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We are leaving in a few weeks for our second trip to India. I have a trusted agent I used last time to mainly arrange a driver. He made a few bookings for me last time, but I did most of the booking on my own since it is relatively easy to do it online. And, all over the rest of the world we always make our own arrangements rather than using an agent. We tend to stay in small, family-owned types of places rather than large chain hotels.

For a small fee, the agent will make bookings for me. This is worth it to me if a place wants a deposit wired or a bank transfer made because they won't take credit cards; it saves me a hassle and money. My agent says I will pay the same published rates just as if I were making the booking directly. But, I think that even with smaller places the agency probably cuts a deal whereby they pay lower rates than an individual does, thereby earning some more money for the agency.

Now I am starting to wonder if I might get better rooms etc. if the place knows that they are dealing with an agent who will give them return business rather than just a sole traveler who will be coming through only once. If so, I'd be happy to pay the agent the small fee to book for me. On the other hand, perhaps with today's ubiquitous use of Internet review formats like Trip Advisor, places don't give any special treatment to those who use an agent to book.

What are your thoughts? And, remember that I am talking about smaller places rather than chains like the Oberoi or Taj or Radisson.

Thanks.

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