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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is to get tough with third-party online booking sites and will refuse to work with those that do not meet its criteria. The new policy will apply from 20 May across all of IHG’s 3,500 hotels and all its chains, including Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and InterContinental itself.

The group said it would in future only work with distributors and their affiliates ‘who do not engage in confusing and potentially unclear marketing practices, who clearly present taxes and fees to consumers, who respect IHG’s trademarks, and who ensure reservations are guaranteed through an automated and common confirmation process.’

Practices IHG wants to stamp out include:
* Hotels being listed as “sold out” on third-party sites, when they still have rooms available
* Customers being lured by promises of huge discounts on recognised hotel brands, only to find that these only exist in small quantities
* The use of inefficient manual processes, including faxes, by third-party sites when reserving rooms with the hotel

IHG said bookings through third-party websites were becoming an increasingly unattractive business model for hotel owners and were making it hard for them to guarantee customers that they will get the best rate if they book direct.The system of working with third-party internet sites also made it difficult for hotels to increase their prices when demand was strong.

IHG said some third-party channels were making 20% to 30% profit on bookings, a level far in excess of that made by traditional “offline” travel agents.It said: “IHG will only work with distributors who want to share internet efficiency gains with hotel owners and guests”.

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