Online hotel booking scams cost consumers $ 5.7 billion annually

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Nearly one in four consumers are deceived by online reservation scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and deceptive travel websites, according to a new study from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

In fact, in 2018, 23% of consumers said they had been misled by third-party booking sites, resulting in more than $ 5.7 billion in online booking scams, the AHLA said. . These third-party travel resellers use various marketing tactics to mimic hotel websites and call centers, but are not actually affiliated with the hotel.

The study was conducted by Morning Consult and Kalibri Labs and interviewed 2,200 adults in the United States in July 2019.

“In addition to third-party websites that mimic hotel and call center websites, but are not actually affiliated with a hotel, costing consumers time and money, this new research shows how much of a problem with deceptive advertising on some online travel agencies. websites, ”said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of AHLA.

Over 40% of consumers were upset to learn that when they compare their purchases among these “digital middle men” – Trivago, Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Booking.com and others – they usually only compare the same two companies: Expedia and Priceline, which together control 95% of the online travel market.

The AHLA encourages consumers to “Search smarter, A campaign that aims to help travelers avoid lost bookings, additional fees and potentially wasted vacations by booking with trusted travel agents or directly with hotels.

“There is still a lot to be said about the human connection and the personal touch for travelers who want to ensure they have a great experience away from home,” said Roxanne Boryczki, MCC, President of AZ Trails Travel. She has seen first-hand clients who have needed help with hotel reservations they made online that didn’t match what they wanted, or that they made in error and got away from it all. found stranded in non-refundable rates.

“On a few occasions we were able to contact the booking platform and get a refund for the customer,” Boryczki said. “We have also had clients who walk in the door and ask ‘what a travel counselor is doing for me’ and then they talk about how they got kicked out by the online booking engines and moved into different hotels. Usually we explain to the customer that this is exactly the reason why you are booking with a professional travel counselor. Then we and they have more control over the hotel experience.

“What the public often doesn’t realize is that for agents who always book in a GDS system, we have access to Expedia rates, BAR rates, and Radius rates, so we can get them a good price, but we can do it in a way where we have some influence on the outcome. If a hotel has placed our guests in a room that is not acceptable, they know they need to contact us and we advocate on their behalf to resolve the issue.

A majority (77%) of Americans want the government to place a higher priority on enforcing consumer protection laws against third-party hotel resellers. The AHLA said it will continue to advocate for congressional adoption of the Online Booking Scams Act, 2019 (HR 3956), a bill that would protect consumers by increasing the transparency and security of the online reservation process.

Introduced in July by Reps Peter Welch (D-VT), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Lois Frankel (D-FL), it would ban third-party vendors from online hotel reservations who are not affiliated with the hotel from advertising, promoting or selling a reservation if they represent or imply that they are the true owner or operator of a hotel. It will then be examined by the Energy and Trade Committee, before possibly being forwarded to the Chamber or to the Senate as a whole.


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