Hotel chains unite against online deals

The entire industry of first-class American hotels has declared war against the so-called OTAs (online travel agencies, like Expedia, Priceline and numerous others that accept reservations over the internet for hotels they don't own). Marriott Hotels and Hyatt were the first to commence hostilities several weeks ago. They now have been joined by Starwood, Hilton and others.

And the weapon fired by these hotel giants against the internet intermediaries is a simple announcement. Each one has declared that if Americans make their hotel reservations directly with the hotel, and avoid using an OTA, they will receive better room prices — as much as 10 percent off the normal price of such rooms. "Book Direct" is the simple but unforgettable slogan that one such hotel chain is declaring on TV and the radio.

In addition to a discounted price, one other hotel chain is offering special "perks" to guests who book direct: free Wi-Fi, free breakfast or other such special privileges. And all the major chains give points on their loyalty programs to those who book directly with them.

What brought about this unanimous policy apparently is (according to the big chains) the greed of the OTAs. Some of the internet travel agencies exact a commission of as much as 20 to 30 percent from the hotels to which they send reservations. To avoid that expense, the six giant first-class hotels have unanimously declared, "Enough!"

By the way, an unspoken reason for this new policy adopted by the major chains — even though it is not publicly acknowledged by them — is that people booking directly with the hotel receive superior service and better rooms. Moreover, if anything goes wrong with the booking, the hotel obviously is required to set things right, rather than deny any responsibility.

Does this mean that OTAs will now no longer book hotel stays? Clearly not; many Americans will continue to use them, on the frequently false assumption that the OTAs offer better hotel prices to begin with. And, of course, such OTAs as Booking.com and Hotels.com represent thousands of smaller, mom-and-pop hotels that don't belong to the major chains.

Perhaps the best course for a cost-conscious traveler is to consult an OTA with respect to the date and identity of the hotel in which he or she is interested. Then, phone that hotel directly, booking with the hotel if its lead price is no more than what the OTA is offering.

source: http://www.dailyprogress.com/townnews/tourism/hotel-chains-unite-against...