There’s big hospitality news about OTAs and what they’ll no longer be allowed to do come September 1. This week, the Competition and Markets Authority announced that it will force Booking.com, Hotels.com, Trivago, Agoda, Expedia, and Ebookers to stop misrepresenting rates and fees in their listings. As small hospitalities well know, OTAs like to mislead clients with subtle tricks that small businesses just can’t replicate. Basic search rankings on commission is one. Another is pressuring clients into booking fast instead of smart. Now, the big OTAs will have to play by fair rules, starting on 1 September.
After an exhaustive investigation, the CMA found that Booking.com, at least, wasn’t actively violating any laws. Still, these new regulations are a big step in the right direction toward making the hospitality industry fair for large and small businesses alike.
This ruling only applies to Britain, of course, but it’s a step in the right direction for markets all over Europe. The research agency that determined that OTAs really were taking advantage of their position was the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) and their findings will likely be cited again as other countries make their own rules. However, Britain is defiitely a pioneer here. By forcing the OTAs to hold to ethical business practices, the CMA has not only shown that regulation is possible, but that OTAs are capable of functioning without their questionable habits of pressuring customers and hiding fees.
With the OTAs respecting fairer rules, small hospitalities will have a better chance of gaining bookings. Larger, wealthier businesses won’t be able to use commission rates to buy good search positions anymore. While the OTAs are still a necessary evil for independent hospitalities, they’ll be less harmful than before.
What should you do now?
Now is a great time to take a fresh look at your OTA listings. Are your pictures current? How about your prices? I’ve talked a lot about how to best use sites like Booking.com to make your hospitality business thrive, so head back into the archives and take a look at my advice.
Also, consider shining up your website and planning some fresh social media campaigns. Online travel agents have just had their true characters revealed to the public. Many people won’t want to book through them knowing that they aren’t getting the best possible deal. Don’t be afraid to point out that you’re the honest, locally-conscious option.
I have created a Free 5-Step email guide so you can increase your direct bookings! To get your copy, go to www.boostly.co.uk/free.