Online travel agencies have been effectively holding Europe’s hotel industry hostage for years, thanks to rate parity agreements that put a stranglehold on the free market.
However, this could be about to change, after a House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee report Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market detailed claims that OTAs have been intimidating hotels into providing better rates, as well as posting misleading messages about vacancies and using ‘shell websites’ that pose as the hotel website to take bookings, often at a higher rate.
The report findings, which also showed that OTAs have been misleading customers with price fixing, fake reviews and doctored search options, has led to calls for greater market transparency and plans mooted for a European Kitemark on trust.
Researching for my upcoming honeymoon, I’ve seen some of these tactics in practice, watching as holiday prices and room rates fluctuated without reason on destinations I regularly viewed. Remarketing campaigns kept trying to entice me to book, while messages of ‘only X rooms left’ tried to create a sense of urgency. Comparing the price on the hotel’s own site with that being offered elsewhere highlighted the price discrepancies.