Independent UK hotel operators have criticised business travel agents in a new report for being biased in favour of branded competition.

Over a quarter (28%) of the 300 independent hotel owners and managers polled in the survey felt they were not being supported by traditional business travel agents and had no choice but to directly target business travellers to increase bookings.

One in three claimed their hotels would close were it not for having access to the Internet, which two thirds (67%) said accounted for up to half of their bookings, while business travel accounted for a quarter (26%) of all online bookings.

“Frustration in attracting business travellers and getting support from traditional business agents is an understatement,” said one respondent, Raymond Flanagan, managing director of the Apollo Hotel in Birmingham.

Flanagan also accused business agents of taking away bookings at the last minute as rooms became available in chain hotels in order to enhance their override commission.

But while frustration exists with business travel agents, over half (59%) of those polled in the survey by Hotel Reservations Service (HRS) expected their sales to increase “dramatically” by developing stronger links with hotel bookings sites.

“Without the internet a huge swathe of hotels would either not be here now or would be under threat of closure,” claimed Grant Appleton, HRS Commercial Director UK.