A metasearch engine is a price comparison website that compares hotel rates from across the internet. It works on a basis similar to most digital advertising platforms: businesses ‘bid’ on advertising slots that appear to the users they want to attract. Depending on the site, businesses pay on a CPA (cost per acquisition) or CPC (cost per click) basis. The fundamental thing to note is that metasearch is not a booking channel: it’s an advertising platform on which different booking channels can market themselves.
A metasearch engine won’t list the rate from a hotel website, even if it’s the best rate available online, unless the hotelier is actively bidding on advertising slots. The hotel might be visible anyway, but that’s because partner OTAs will be bidding on those slots ‘on behalf of’ the hotel.
If a customer books a room at a hotel through a metasearch engine like Kayak or Trivago, the hotel owns that booking. The customer is either redirected to the website, or stays on the meta to book (depending on whether the hotel has integrated with their instant booking option) - but either way, they are the hotel’s customer. The only instance where this isn’t the case is if a customer clicks through to an OTA from the metasearch website.