ASTA Slams Marriott’s “Misleading” Direct Booking Campaign

Open Jaw

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

"Suppliers 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, 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 CEO Arne Sorensen then dismissed concerns that the approach would further 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

In July, Hilton also got aggressive with a campaign telling travellers the lowest price is only at

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."

(will not be published)