ASTA Slams Marriott’s “Misleading” Direct Booking Campaign
Hotels are doing whatever they can these days to drive
guests to direct bookings and away from the high-cost OTA channel, but TMCs and
traditional agents are firmly caught in the crossfire. ASTA is speaking out
against the latest example, a Marriott campaign that tells travellers the best
rates will be found only on Marriott.com.
have the right to market their product however they choose, as long as the
advertisements are legal and truthful,” the agency association says in a
statement. “Marriott's new marketing campaign, which tells consumers that they
can only find the best rates on Marriott.com, is not only disparaging to travel
agents, but also misleading to the travelling public.”
It’s not the 1st time the issue has come up with
Marriott. In March of this year the hotelier angered TMCs with a campaign
promising guests free WiFi, but only if they booked at Marriott.com.
Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen then dismissed concerns that the approach
encourage travellers to book out of policy and could damage Marriott's
relationships with many corporates. Sorensen said that most contracts have a
WiFi offer built-in.
"If you are a meaningful corporate customer and we have a corporate
rate with you, which will often be the case, it will be reasonably clear that
your employees are going to get free WiFi. The top percentage of corporate
accounts get it anyway,” Sorensen told industry website
Considering that research shows bookings made by
retail agents and TMCs tend to offer good returns for hoteliers, ASTA believes
the aggressive tactics are unwarranted.
"Professional travel agents help consumers
distinguish what brand may be the right fit for them based on the buyer's
stated preferences and budget. In doing so, agents do not disparage an entire
brand. They use their information sources, expertise and judgment to help
consumers make the choice that is best for them in a marketplace teeming with
options,” the ASTA statement continued.
“This advice often involves price, but is also based
on other factors that the consumer values. Therefore, it is incomprehensible
that Marriott would position itself as just another price-driven brand while
intentionally disparaging the same professional travel agents that Marriott
selects to help market its services.”
ASTA called on Marriott to withdraw the campaign immediately.
"This Marriott marketing campaign sends the
message to consumers that the 'best' rates can only be found by booking direct.
This statement is simply not true. Professional travel agents, using numerous
tools at their disposal, have access to Marriott inventory at the same prices
that appear on Marriott's website.”
ASTA added: “The professional
travel agent is the best search engine the consumer can find."