US lodging association calls out online travel agencies on misleading strategies

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has launched a new Search Smarter consumer awareness campaign aimed to put a halt to what it describes as misleading marketing strategies by online travel agencies and travel search sites, as well as to fight rampant bookings fraud.

The group particularly focuses on Expedia and Priceline’s dominant control “95% of the online travel market,” describing them as creating “false choices” for consumers by operating separate brands.

“The overwhelming majority of consumers (74%) are unaware that they’re just comparing between the same two companies: Expedia and Priceline. Expedia owns thousands of online affiliates, including Trivago, Travelocity, Hotwire,, Egencia,, Classic Vacations – controlling 75% of the online travel marketplace. Priceline owns Kayak,, Agoda, as well as thousands of online affiliates.”

The Association also raises concerns about the marketing strategies of these online agents.

“Recent data shows 79% of consumers use ‘digital middle men’ because they believe they will find better deals. That belief is fueled by misleading marketing practices like ‘slash’ or deep discounted pricing, which is not based on an actual room rate set by the hotel.

“Booking directly with the hotel results in a better value for consumers.

“Almost half of consumers (45%) have reported being influenced by messages that say: ‘Only 2 rooms left!’ These messages aren’t based on the full room inventory from the hotel. They’re just marketing tactics used to make consumers book faster.”

Online booking scams coordinated through fraudulent websites and call centers, AHLA says, are on the rise, with mobile sales channels particularly vulnerable.

“In 2015, just 6% of travelers reported booking on what they believed was a hotel’s official website, only to find they had booked on a fraudulent site not affiliated with the hotel.

“Just two years later, the number of travelers who have experienced this has nearly quadrupled to 22%. That amounts to 55 million hotel bookings of this type each year, translating to some $3.9 billion in bad bookings.

“As consumers increasingly move to mobile booking, smaller screens also make it harder for consumers to differentiate between the scam site and the legitimate hotel’s website.”

To address these threats, AHLA suggests that consumers book directly on the hotel booking site and verify they are on a secure https:// URL, sign-up for and take advantage of hotel loyalty programs, and call the hotel directly with questions on their reservations.

“Transparency, consumer choice, and guest satisfaction are at the core of the hotel industry’s business model. AHLA is raising awareness among consumers,

“Congress, and federal agencies to make sure guests have all the necessary information prior to booking their hotel reservations. With so many ways to book a reservation, it’s important to make sure consumers understand how to slow down, search smarter and make the best decisions throughout the booking process for themselves and their families.

“Consumers should know what to look for before they book a hotel reservation.”

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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  1. J Williams

    These companies have also created a monopoly on vacation homes! They have changed what was a growing grassroots business where private owners provided beautiful affordable vacation alternatives to an industry controlled by just 3 players – Expedia, Air BnB and TripAdvisor. Traveler’s are mislead into thinking they are getting a better deal and that there is more security in booking through the massive commercial websites that saturate the internet by these 3 companies. The truth is that these websites have started charging large fees and adding it to the price of the vacation rental. The actual owner of the property does not receive any of the booking fee — it goes straight into the pockets of these conglomerates. Adding insult to injury, the owners of these vacation homes feel that they have lost control of a private vacation home and are abused and subject to the demands of the impersonal effort to industrialize their beloved homes. Travelers would do better just looking for groups of vacation homeowners on Facebook in the area they seek. Going directly to the private homeowner is beneficial to both the traveler and the vacation rental homeowner.

  2. Thijs H. Aaftink

    Interesting Marisa,

    Do you have similar information on the vacation rental industry?

    Thanks Thijs


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