20 | Hospitality Today | Summer 2017 They use their size and market power to promote their brands extensively online, on TV and in email marketing campaigns to an extent that even the large hotel groups like Hilton or IHG cannot now compete with They promote the idea that consumers can easily cancel what they book through an OTA, whereas this might not be so easy directly (resulting in vastly higher cancellation rates on OTA bookings, and hidden costs to hotels and B&Bs) even though in fact cancellation fees may be due (and in such cases, members tell us that OTAs routinely pressure B&Bs to waive their proper charges for the OTA’s ‘client’) They create misleading urgency by statements like “only 2 rooms left!” (when there may be more, eg by booking direct), “in high demand”, “booked 6 times in the last 24 hours”, or “3 people are currently looking at this property”, and by false discount statements like “-41% TODAY!” when the OTA has no discount on that room today. Don’t bite the hand that feeds Begrudging OTAs for being good at what they do makes no sense. by Christoph Klenner (above), secretary general of the European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA), and Stephen Shur, president of The Travel Technology Association in the US. A recent op-ed on Travel Weekly Europe attacking online travel agencies (OTAs), by David Weston, chairman of the UK We have raised the bad and anti-competitive Bed & Breakfast Association, is peculiar practices of OTAs with the EU and the UK coming from an industry that is a direct Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), beneficiary of the existence of OTAs. and are calling on them to take action now To start with, by partnering with OTAs, to ensure that OTAs are transparent, honest the B&Bs that Mr Weston represents and unbiased to consumers, and allow benefit greatly from increased exposure accommodation owners a fair measure of on a global scale without the costs these commercial freedom. small businesses would ordinarily incur We are also calling on OTAs to stop if they had to advertise on their own. promoting the idea of free and late OTAs are a very cost-efficient and risk-free cancellation. Booking.com’s current TV ad’s channel that allows smaller properties to central message is: book what you like – compete with big chains for domestic and, you can always cancel it later. Coping with especially, foreign guests. the resultant high rates of late cancellation It is safe to assume that a good part of can be financially devastating if you only Mr Weston’s own association members have a handful of rooms. Is this a fair way are actively working with online travel of treating the small businesses Booking sites and generating additional business. likes to call ‘partners’.