Following an investigation launched in 2017 into anti-competitive practices by online travel agents (OTAs) such as booking.com and expedia.com, the Competitions & Markets Authority has embarked enforcement action against them. With so many guest houses, inns and hotels across the UK dependent on business from such channels, what are readers’ own views of OTAs?
“The whole idea when OTAs first came about was they would drive incremental business that you would not otherwise have got. But then they come and steal all your direct business off you. But it is up to individual businesses to manage that and to make sure we get our fair share of direct business.”
Dan Visser, director, Langdale Hotel, Lake District
“Some of the OTAs charge way too much. On the plus side, as a small B&B owner they put my property higher up on an internet search and that has some value to me. My own website will be buried somewhere on page 10. I would never have had such a good start without them, but the percentage they charge is huge.”
Victoria Tagg, Hurst Farm B&B, Kent
“Thankfully we no longer use the services (if you can call it that) of OTAs, we have down-sized top two rooms. I note – with some pleasure – that Booking.com had an outage a few days ago, and then Expedia had two outages. This would mean that people searching would more than likely book direct!”
Hugo Woolley owner Woodlands Country House, Cornwall
“The trouble with just covering costs is you have nothing left to pay for refurbishment, which is absolutely vital because if you are not able to keep on top of the costs of decorating, carpets, beddings, towels – if you don’t have that pot of money, then your property soon looks shabby, you end up reducing your rates to compensate then you get a lower quality guest and it’s just a downward spiral.”
Claire Smith Number One St Luke’s, Blackpool
“My aim is always to convert the guest who has booked on the OTA to come back to book direct, and that is relatively easy if you just chat to them.”
Fiona, owner, Eighteen 97, North Yorkshire
“We do use booking platforms because we have to. If we didn’t, we would not get the business we need. We are five star and if you put five-star Perthshire into a search engine the first things that comes up are the booking.com pages. You do have to pay through the nose for these things, but without them I think it would be very difficult for guest houses, hotels and B&Bs to operate. You need them.
“We have had some problems – when we look at what they are saying about our availability it doesn’t always tally with what we have – and getting through to them and the amount of time you have to hold in a queue – you don’t get a huge amount for your money.”
Karen Smith, owner, Tigh Na Leigh, Perthshire
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