A Queenstown hotelier wants an urgent review of a deal that stops local operators from advertising cheaper rates online than the big travel agents Expedia and Booking.com.
TRM are delighted to hear on RadioNZ this morning that the AA are threatening legal action on the shady deal between the Commerce Commision and Booking-dot-com to hold motels to ransom by restricting them from advertising lower room rates. They criticise OTA’s (Online Travel Agents – like booking-dot-com etc.) for their bullying tactics against motels. It is clearly anti-competitive and bullying tactics. Good stuff!
This was previously reported by TRM Daily Report on Monday 31 October and Tuesday 1 November – repeated below…
To illustrate their extraordinary arrogance at mining the tourists – (they imagine we work for them at your expense?) i.e. See ref. 2 & 3 below –
If you read this Daily Report regularly you will know TRM does have a wide range of different room rates for regular inmates as many stay for several weeks for fishing, but under Booking.com’s contractural rules we are not allowed to publish or market offline rates online ?
Tourists really get ripped off by booking through OTA’s – Online Travel Agents suck! It is a commercial scam.
So if you wish to book for a few days you can save on their excessive fees – bypass them and always book with TRM direct –
or free phone 0800 187688
BOOKING.COM CONTRACT UPDATE
First, let me thank you for your trust in Booking.com and the business we do together. We appreciate our partnership and what you do for our mutual guests every single day.
I would like to ask for a minute of your time to personally inform you of the outcome of the recent agreement reached between the Commerce Commission NZ and Booking.com, whereas Booking.com has agreed to extend the commitments it has rolled out in the European Union to all accommodations in New Zealand (the “Commitment”).
Please accept this letter as an official notification of the Commitment and confirmation and assurance of how we intend to continue to do business together going forward (see below).
Here is a summary outlining of what changes for you pursuant to the Commitment.
1 You may set different room rates and offer different conditions and availability on different OTAs
This means you don’t have to offer the same room rates, conditions and availability on Booking.com as other OTAs. This gives you greater flexibility to manage your offering across distribution channels.
2 You may offer lower rates or better conditions through offline channels (such as telephone bookings and walk-ins) provided you do not publish or market offline rates online
We have had feedback that our partners want the ability to discount through offline reservation channels without having to give us the same or better rates. From now on, we will not require the same or better rates in respect of rooms sold via offline channels, provided that you do not market those offline rates online (e.g. on your website or on meta-search sites).
3 There is no restriction on the unpublished room rates or conditions you may offer, provided you do not market those rates online
We understand it may be important for you to offer special rates to your loyal customers through non-public channels (such as closed-user groups) or to negotiate special rates on a bilateral basis (e.g. a special private group discount). Through the Commitment we have clarified this position.
4 Parity with your own direct online channels and some availability
Going forward under the amended provisions, you are still contracted to give Booking.com parity in respect of room rates and conditions offered on your own website (which includes meta-search sites such as Trivago, Kayak, Tripadvisor or Google Hotel Finder when they redirect the consumer to your own website for booking). As set out above, we no longer require you to give us the same availability as our competitors, but in order to give meaning to our relationship, we require at least some availability in respect of all rooms and room-rate types.
Pursuant to the Commitment, our contract with you is partly changed in respect of the relevant provisions. The relevant provisions that have been amended as a result of our Commitment (and shall apply pursuant to your continued use of our service) are available through the following https://admin.booking.com/hotelreg/terms-and-conditions.html. The rest of the contract with you remains unchanged.
The Commitment (and the relevant changes to our relationship) will take effect as of 1st November 2016. With your continued use of our service after 1st November 2016, we trust and assume that you accept and acknowledge the changes made to our contract following the Commitment.
We believe that these changes will give you more pricing and condition flexibility, while ensuring a positive experience for consumers and ensuring that Booking.com can continue to help generate global customer leads for you to help you further grow your business.
We are pleased with this outcome and look forward to continuing our partnership with you and thank you for your loyal trust, patience and understanding pending the outcome. We will work hard to attract the best rates, conditions and availability that you have to offer on Booking.com – by providing you better service and terms than our competitors. As always, if there is anything we can be doing to make this relationship work better for you, please reach out to us.
No specific action is required from you. Should you have any questions about this letter, please do not hesitate to reach out to your contact within Booking.com who will be happy to assist.
Thank you for your continued support and partnership.
And as if that isn’t bad enough here is another OTA suffering poor attitude…
Expedia rep tells customer “F**k you!” in shocking reports
Teacher and mother Cara Viramontes shared screenshots with CBSLA of an email she received from Expedia with the words “F**k you!” and a notification her $600 trip had been cancelled.
The email was allegedly sent after she had filled in a customer service survey with an unfavourable employee review. “I was honest,” she told the local news site. “I said: ‘You know what, the lady wasn’t helpful. I asked to speak to a supervisor and she wouldn’t let me speak to a supervisor.’”
Perhaps more distressing than the use of expletives, the Expedia email also notified her of a trip cancellation she had not requested. “No one can believe a company as credible as Expedia would ever do something like this,” Ms Viramontes added.
According to the reports, Ms Viramontes rushed to call Expedia’s customer service line but was informed that it was her fault the reservation had been cancelled. At this point, she sent the department supervisor a screenshot of the ‘f**k you’ email. “It’s clear as day what was written and I haven’t received a response,” she said. “Nothing.”
Expedia responded to a request for comment from CBS2, saying: “We take this matter very seriously and have opened up an investigation analyzing every click and action made by our customer service agents.” The online travel agency also noted it would rebook Ms Viramontes’s flights, refund her money and send her a $500 voucher.
What do you think? It begs the question: would accommodation providers get away with something like this? Arguably, the nature of online reviews prevents it because a guest booking direct who receives poor service will simply share their experience in a two-minute review, which would immediately harm the provider’s reputation. The same rule doesn’t seem to apply to OTAs because there is no real review-outlet equivalent, other than to do as Ms Viramontes did and turn to the local news.
Tourists complaints of increasing difficulties selecting a suitable motel?
Who do you believe?
With the proliferation of OTA’s (Online Travel Agents) all competing for your holiday $$$ budget it is so important to accurately select the right motel for your requirements. To do that you have to believe their descriptions of your holiday accommodation? You have now been warned – some of their comments are complete utter rubbish. Even their motel photos can be wrong…
If you think you have problems then believe me, so do the motels and other holiday accommodation suppliers who have been misrepresented by OTA’s.
These days the OTA’s predominate on the web above motel rankings to make sure they suck you in first to their best deals. Of course they claim their slick on-line booking system is easier and is more convenient? The problem is they are not the best deals. They all have to carry hefty commissions on top of any room rates offered to pay for their services.
Just for example, for this review we have chosen at random a nice friendly little motel in the middle of the North Island half way to everywhere.
The following is their existing description on Booking.com – it looks like it was composed by a ten year old (English as a second language?) student but apparently we are advised it was entirely computer derived – their TRM specification is as follows:
“Offering free bikes, Tongariro River Motel is located in Turangi, 700 m from the city centre. Free WiFi access is available in public areas.
Each room here provides guests with a seating area, a flat-screen TV, satellite channels and a washing machine. There is a full kitchen with a microwave and an oven. Featuring a shower, shared bathroom also comes with a hairdryer.
At Tongariro River Motel guests will find a garden. Other facilities offered at the property include ski storage and laundry facilities. An array of activities can be enjoyed in the surroundings, including cycling, fishing and hiking. The property offers free private parking.
The property is 31 km from Tongariro National Park.
We speak your language!
Tongariro River Motel has been welcoming Booking.com guests since 21 Apr 2015.”
In fact this nice little friendly motel had previously dumped all the OTA’s (like Booking-dot-com) due to their obvious incompetence with booking issues but, as indicated above, had to rejoin again in April 2015 as the OTA’s reported on all their sites that TRM was no longer in business… They left no options.
So TRM had to reluctantly rejoin them even if we did not want to use them. The reasons are obvious as illustrated above – no motel wants to be described like that. It is not only quite inaccurate (i.e. a washing machine in every room?) but is a disgrace to the English language.
It is so unfortunate when we have to rely on travellers’ natural cautious instincts to recognise that the OTA’s descriptions are rubbish. The big problem is that these OTA’s have taken over the on-line booking system and then misrepresent the customers who have little choice.
We only discovered this misleading description this week. It has probably misrepresented TRM for the last year? We had no idea the TRM write-up was so misleading.
So the problem for prospective guests is to know who to believe?
(More exposure of OTA’s commercial arrogance in tomorrow’s TRM Daily Report… Don’t miss it.)
Recently a TRM Daily Report described how misleading these OTA’s are when they featured a remote trampers hut on the Tongariro Northern Circuit which the OTA had used to illustrate what TRM accommodation was like – complete with images of the shared kitchen!. That is probably still being promoted and confirms how tourists can be misled by their false descriptions.
That 31 August TRM Daily Report is repeated below. So for this little motel alone, one OTA has the wrong property and the other a misleading incorrect description. It does make you wonder about all the rest…
TRM are very fortunate in having a local guru – Christine from redDog – wonderful patient understanding innovative professional consultants for anything to do with computers and marketing on the web. She has regularly saved TRM again and again from such awkward situations – in dealing with OTA’s over the last decade. SWMBO could not even imagine managing a motel without her valuable input. Her ancient feeble assistant in the laundry has just about given up – he has to go fishing almost every day to maintain his sanity.
The unfortunate OTA description for TRM is one of the reasons why TRM decided the most effective method to persuade our existing customer/guests base and any new prospective guest is to communicate using other guests’ own comments and descriptions and experiences – far more genuine and believable than the usual tripe from OTA’s, PR agencies or even motel operators. Now you can see why TRM have had to introduce “Inmates Interviews” every Sunday – a weekly entertaining summary of unbiased comments from guests – if you wish to view them they are stored on YouTube.
Also below is a more realistic description of Tongariro River Motel. Christina will try to replace the existing Booking-dot-come comments but don’t hold your breath. They may prefer their version and not like to promote the truth from motel owners?
Tongariro River Motel has been serving the needs of local anglers and tourists for over fifty years. The completely self contained motel units vary from studios style to large 2 bedroom units with seven different designs and layouts sleeping up to six to provide for every requirement. Being ‘self contained’ means they have fully equipped kitchens with every unit having full size ovens, microwaves and fridges. The larger units have full sized fridge freezers and even a pantry. Other features include sky tv with 50 channels, free wifi, under cover parking for every unit. Special features include bikes available, commercial smokehouse, fish cleaning facility, large freezer capacity, plus rod racks inside units, heaps of fishy books and maps and magazines in the library, fully equipped laundry, etc. The mighty Tongariro River is only a few minutes walk. Other local tourist attractions include the Tongariro River Trail for bikers and hikers nearby, many other bush and alpine walking tracks plus a shuttle bus service to the Tongariro Crossing is available.. The Turangi town centre is 5 minutes easy level walking distance.
This is to explain again why we have to go on and on about them and why you should not rely on them… Even though they are our photos that have been used, TRM is not featured. If they cannot get the correct basic info would you trust them with all your confidential cc details. ??
SWMBO blames DOC of course. That is their Waihohonu Hut featuring as Tongariro River Motel?…
The following is the sort of nonsense you can expect when you troll the internet looking for the best deal… we have no idea who this OTA is, apart from the fact they have obviously pinched the info with no understanding of what TRM is, but no doubt will get a commission for on-selling your enquiry to booking-dot-com or a similar OTA.
They have no idea of what they are even describing. This one describes Tongariro River Motel as a two star hotel (?) with but then goes on to say:
Tongariro River Motel 8.8 stars Very Good
The Tongariro River Motel enjoys a prime position right in the centre of the town. Lake Rotopounamu is within a 10-minute drive away, and the property offers free parking.
Guests of the Tongariro River Motel can enjoy a range of services, including free bike rental.
Facilities at the motel include laundry facilities, a playground and free Wi-Fi.
The motel also offers ski lockers during the ski season.
Included in the rooms are a refrigerator and a microwave.
The Tongariro River Motel has its own on-site restaurant, perfect for those wishing to dine in.
The motel enjoys a prime location, allowing guests easy access to a range of popular attractions. Taupo Airport (TUO) is within a 40 minute drive away.”
(More exposure of OTA’s commercial arrogance in tomorrow’s TRM Daily Report… Don’t miss it.)
Further recent press releases are not kind to OTA’s – i.e.:
OTAs hitting hotel owners where it hurts: real estate values
A new report from the AHLA has sent a ripple of concern through many hotel owners.
According to the report, entitled: Demystifying the Digital Marketplace, “the revenue retained by US hotels after paying all customer acquisition costs declined by almost 0.4% or US$600 million… That US$600m in additional cost would have contributed directly to net operating income. Using an 8% capitalisation rate (which most investors require), these additional acquisition costs of $600 million reduced the asset value of the overall hotel industry by at least $7.5 billion.”
Translation: costly third-party bookings are eroding profits and overall hotel asset values.
The situation for many owners is even more serious in markets with new supply and growing Airbnb listings. Meanwhile, pricing power and occupancy everywhere seem to be peaking, which restricts revenue even further. All of this, in conjunction with acquisition costs rising, appears to be signalling an impending slowdown in RevPAR. All of these factors mean hoteliers are left with less net revenue each month, with only one smart option to pull them out of the sinkhole of eroded margins: to drive bookings from the hotel’s direct channel.
The only way for hoteliers to increase their margins is by reducing the fees they pay to third parties and focusing their efforts on increasing direct, higher margin bookings.
You may not be able to ditch OTAs altogether, but you can leverage them as a customer acquisition tool and convince the guest to remain loyal from that stay forward. Not only then do you “own” the customer, guests who book direct tend to be more loyal, spend more and stay longer.