The British Hospitality Association has hit out at this week’s competition ruling in three European countries on rate parity and the dominance of online travel agents.
Authorities in France, Italy and Sweden accepted commitments from the hotel retailer to allow other OTAs to offer lower prices but not hotels on their own sites.
The BHA remains angry that the dominant OTAs use their power to dominate search, which accounts for 90% of booker’s initial buying behaviour.
The association claims OTAs manipulate results to favour commercial partners reducing transparency and customer choice, while taking up to 35% in commission.
It said many small hoteliers are bullied by the large OTAs due to their dominant position, into accepting expensive commercial agreements in return for online visibility.
Jackie Grech, legal and policy director at the BHA, said: “The industry is deeply concerned that online travel agents (OTAs) are stifling competition through high commissions, rate and service parity, and by manipulating search results and star ratings to attract customers to book the hotels that benefit the OTA’s own commercial interests rather than leaving the choice up to customers.
“Hotels, especially small independents, must either sign-up to sell rooms through OTAs and fork out up to 35% of their total room costs or face invisibility online.
“Customers and hotels alike will benefit from transparency and fairness. The authorities’ decision yesterday to uphold rate parity was not a meaningful solution and doesn’t return freedom to the market.
“We all benefit from an open market, especially customers who will see lower prices and greater innovation if fairness is restored to the online hotel booking market.
“While we acknowledge the effort of the competition agencies to consider this area, these commitments fall short of progress and will not benefit customers or hospitality businesses in a meaningful way.
“We all want the same thing: a competitive and innovative market for hospitality and tourism, these commitments missed the mark in aiding that goal.”
In its original statement the BHA explicitly singled out Expedia and Booking.com, but the latter complained that the claim that it makes up to 35% commission was “grossly inaccurate”.