Ever wonder why you're paying twice as much for your hotel room as the person next to you?
Cheap hotel deals and discounts all comes down to revenue management — the science of deciding who gets to book which rooms and at what price. As any experienced traveler knows, hotel prices can change constantly.
At Marriott International, the world's largest publicly traded hotel company that runs 3,700 hotels in 74 countries, researchers put a lot of effort into deciding how many reservations to take, and how much to charge for the rooms. Every Marriott hotel constantly manipulates its room inventory and rates to maximize profits, said David Roberts, head of revenue management at Marriott. Roberts and his team use historical patterns to try and predict demand months out, adjusting prices and booking restrictions weekly.
"If the balance of supply and demand changes and your price does not change, you're missing opportunity," Roberts told CNBC. "If there's money that we missed on the table, it hurts me. I feel physical pain."
Sometimes, it's the guest who might feel the pain — in the wallet, that is. On one particular night at the Marriott New Orleans, for example, the prices guests paid ranged from $109 to $319 a night for identical rooms, Roberts said.
If you're looking for a bargain, Roberts recommends booking on a Sunday for that night, and leave the following morning.
But beware — don't think you can wait until the last minute, waltz into a Marriott and lowball the clerk by offering a little less than the going rate for a room. After all, Roberts said Marriott never bargains.
"The reason for that is over time, you don't want to train customers to wait and feel like they can get a better deal," Roberts explained.
If you need a room, Roberts said you're better off booking in advance, because even when a Marriott has a room available, it may not give it to you if they believe a more lucrative guest may come along shortly.
If someone arrives on a Saturday without a reservation and wants a room for one night, for example, the guest may not get a room if the hotel forecast suggests someone else may arrive wanting a room for multiple nights. That may trouble you if you're the one needing the Saturday room, but for Marriott, it's all a numbers game, a science aimed at moving more of your money into their coffers.
Tune In: Hotel: Behind Closed Doors at Marriott Premieres Wednesday, Dec. 12, 9 p.m. | 12 a.m. ET on CNBC