Hoteliers in Cumbria have voiced their concern over the aggressive practices of online travel agents (OTAs), after experiencing certain ‘bullying’ tactics when encouraging customers to book direct.
A number of well-known boutique hoteliers are finding themselves severely restricted by OTAs in how they market their business to guests and many have accused OTAs of misleading customers.
While OTAs are a necessity in the hotel industry and can increase a hotel’s bookings along with traffic to its website, they take a significant commission and now hoteliers are becoming increasingly concerned with just how controlling they have become.
Hoteliers in Cumbria have said they feel ‘dictated’ to, with OTAs telling hotels how they can advertise their rates and advertising savings that don’t exist.
Director of sales and marketing at Langdale Hotel & Spa, Dan Visser is one of those affected. He said: “There is no doubt as to the positive power and influence of OTAs, but it is getting to the point where they are dictating what we put on our own websites and how we communicate with our guests and future guests.
“If we actively encourage our guests to book direct with us, we are pulled up on this and it’s bordering on the line of bullying. We want to maintain a good relationship with OTAs but we need the freedom to advertise effectively. We want consumers to be aware of the benefits of booking direct.”
Simon Bennett owner of Augill Castle near Kirkby said: “We recognise OTAs are here to stay and they have a place in the market. What we need to get across to customers is that a hotel’s best rates and best choice are often only available by booking direct – for instance, the only place you’ll find all our room types and bang up to date availability is on our own website.
“We can’t allow the OTAs to dictate how we run and market our own businesses. Nobody can argue that direct isn’t best and the OTAs have no business trying to stifle that message.”