New AHLA Research Reveals Online Hotel Booking Scams Are on the Rise, Duping Consumers
Translating to Nearly $4 Billion Each Year
To address these issues, AHLA today announced the launch of a new "Search Smarter" awareness campaign, aimed at helping travelers avoid lost reservations, additional fees, and potentially ruined vacations. "In today's increasingly digital marketplace, consumers rely on the comfort and ease of online hotel bookings," said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AHLA. "Unfortunately, research reveals that as online bookings have surged, so have online booking scams. Too many consumers have been duped by these bait and switch websites. This kind of deceptive behavior cannot and will not be tolerated."
A closer look at online travel agencies and their marketing tactics reveals a deceptive pattern that can lead to false choices, false discounts, and a false sense of urgency throughout the booking process.
- There has been an astounding increase in the number of consumers who have fallen victim to booking scams by fraudulent websites – jumping from 6 percent to 22 percent in just two years.
- The overwhelming majority of consumers (74 percent) are unaware that when they comparison shop among these "digital middle men," – Trivago, Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Booking.com, and others – they're comparing the same two companies: Expedia and Priceline. Together, they control 95 percent of the online travel market.
- An overwhelming majority (79 percent) of consumers believe these "digital middle men" will yield better deals – a belief fueled by misleading marketing practices such as extreme discount pricing that is not based on an actual room rate set by the hotel.
- Nearly half of consumers (45 percent) are influenced by misleading messages disclosing a sense of urgency. For example, messages like: "Book now! Only two rooms left!" are not based on room inventory from the hotel, but a tactic used to entice consumers to book hastily.
"Our message is simple – look before you book, slow down, and search smarter," said Lugar. "Given the tremendous financial burden booking scams place on consumers, and the confusion caused by misleading marketing practices, we recommend booking directly with hotels or with a trusted travel agent, as that's where you'll often get the best value and the best experience. It may take a few extra seconds, but it could save you countless hours of aggravation."
To learn more about how to spot scams and ensure the best possible booking experience, visit: www.ahla.com/searchsmarter.
About the American Hotel & Lodging Association
Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the largest national association solely representing all segments of the 8 million jobs the U.S. lodging industry supports, including hotel owners, REITs, chains, franchisees, management companies, independent properties, bed and breakfasts, state hotel associations, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support, and educational resources for an industry that advances long-term career opportunities for employees, invests in local communities across the country and hosts more than one billion guests" stays in American hotels every year. AHLA proudly represents a dynamic hotel industry of more than 54,000 properties that supports $1.1 trillion in U.S. sales and generates nearly $170 billion in taxes to local, state and federal governments. Learn more at www.AHLA.com.