WASHINGTON—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released new research that reveals online booking scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and misleading travel websites continue to deceive and confuse consumers. In fact, 23% of consumers report being misled by third-party traveler resellers on the phone or online, which amounted to $5.7 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions in 2018 alone.
“The numbers we saw in this research are completely unacceptable. Consumers are being robbed of billions of dollars every year by bad actors,” said Chip Rogers, president/CEO of AHLA. “In addition to third-party websites that mimic hotel websites and call centers, but are not actually affiliated with a hotel, costing consumers time and money, this new research shows just how big of a problem deceptive advertising is on some online travel agency websites.”
According to the research:
When booking a hotel reservation through a third party, one out of four consumers experienced a problem with their reservation.
Over 40% of consumers were upset to learn that when they comparison shop among these “digital middle men”—Trivago, Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Booking.com, and others—they’re usually just comparing the same two companies: Expedia and Priceline, which together control 95% of the online travel market, according to the report.
Consumers almost universally (94%) believe they should know who they are doing business with online when booking a hotel room.
An overwhelming majority (77%) of consumers agree the government should make it a higher priority to enforce consumer protection laws against third-party hotel resellers.
AHLA encourages consumers to Search Smarter, a campaign aimed at helping travelers avoid lost reservations, additional fees, and potentially ruined vacations. The transparency campaign encourages consumers to book smart by booking directly with hotels or trusted travel agents.
“Given the continued fraudulent issues we’re seeing, AHLA reminds consumers to Search Smarter, a campaign to educate consumers about these problems and encourage consumers to slow down when booking a hotel and not be pressured by misleading advertising or deceived by fraudulent websites,” said Rogers. “Our focus in the hospitality industry is to make sure guests have a smooth, stress-free experience, from booking the room to checking out after their stay. We recommend consumers look before they book, take advantage of loyalty programs and book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent.”
The AHLA will continue to provide travel booking tips as well as advocate for Congressional passage of the Stop Online Booking Scams Act. Together, the organization hopes both efforts will heighten consumer protection and ensure guest satisfaction.