Online booking scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and misleading travel websites cost consumers $5.7 billion in 2018, according to research released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“The numbers we saw in this research are completely unacceptable,” Chip Rogers, president/CEO of AH&LA, said in a statement. “Consumers are being robbed of billions of dollars every year by bad actors. 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.”
Some takeaway statistics from the report include:
- 23 percent of consumers said they’d been misled by third-party resellers on the phone or online.
- One out of four consumers have experienced a problem with their reservation when booking through a third party.
- More than 40 percent of consumers were upset to learn that when they comparison shop among sites like Trivago, Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Booking.com and others, they’re usually just comparing subsidiaries from the same two companies: Expedia Group and Booking Holdings (formerly The Priceline Group). These two companies together control 95 percent of the online travel market.
- 94 percent of consumers believe they should know who they are doing business with online when booking a hotel room.
- 77 percent of consumers agreed the government should make it a higher priority to enforce consumer-protection laws against third-party hotel resellers.
“Given the continued fraudulent issues we’re seeing, [the AH&LA] 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,” Rogers said. “We recommend consumers look before they book, take advantage of loyalty programs and book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent.”