Hospitality Today Summer 2017 (#38) - Page 18

18 | Hospitality Today | Summer 2017 OTAs: an ‘abusive relationship’ or ‘the hand that feeds’? “The UK Bed & Breakfast Association is taking on the might of the big American online travel agents” wrote The Times on 7th August, under the headline “B&Bs try to make online travel giants do it by book”. This followed the filing by the B&B Association (representing the 25,000 small businesses in the B&B and guesthouse sector) of five complaints of misleading and anti-competitive behaviour by OTAs. Here we reproduce the Travel Weekly op-ed piece by B&B Association Chairman (and proprietor of Special Publishing, HT’s publisher) David Weston, outlining the Association’s stance - and also the response by Christophe Klenner on behalf of the OTAs: Are OTAs abusing their power? The two global giants are not being fair, either to the consumer or the accommodation owner. by David Weston (far right) Chairman of the B&B Association. What comes between a hotel or B&B, and its client? Not so long ago, it could be a travel agent, who added value with their knowledge, and took their 10%. Then online travel ‘agents’ (OTAs) appeared – initially to do a similar job. Now, though, OTAs are nobody’s ‘agent’ – they don’t give the consumer the unbiased choice and transparent information they think they are getting, and they certainly don’t act as ‘agent’ of the accommodation owner. This is now an unequal and unfair relationship, at times verging on the abusive. The imbalance of power is extraordinary between a B&B or independent hotel and the two giant American OTA groups who have some 80% of the market (Priceline group, who own Booking.com, Kayak and many others; and Expedia, who own Hotels.com, Trivago and many others). Our members as B&Bs have no negotiation of terms with these global giants – it is “take it or leave it”. And what we have to “take” often seems unfair. How have these giant platforms carved out such a dominant position in our industry, extracting such a significant and growing ‘cut’ from the prices paid by consumers, and driving up prices?