Leading travel technology associations in Europe and the US have hit back at the UK Bed and Breakfast (B&B) Association over its accusations that online travel agents (OTAs) “mislead” consumers.

The UK B&B Association has filed a series of complaints to the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) against Booking.com and other OTAs.

It alleges ‘rate parity’ clauses “imposed” on accommodation providers in contracts are driving up prices and that OTAs are misleading consumers with “false discounts” and “false availability claims”.

The association has also complained about “manipulated default search rankings” and “forced bidding” by OTAs on hotel and B&B names, and it has demanded Booking.com cease a consumer advertising campaign promoting ‘Free Cancellation’.

B&B Association chairman David Weston accused OTAs of imposing “an unfair relationship” on accommodation providers, one “verging on the abusive”.

But this week Christoph Klenner – secretary general of the European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA) – Stephen Shur, president of the US Travel Technology Association (TTA), hit back.

In a comment piece for Travel Weekly Europe, Klenner and Shur insist: “OTAs are a cost-efficient and risk-free channel that allows smaller properties to compete with big chains.

“B&Bs benefit from increased exposure without the costs these small businesses would incur if they had to advertise on their own.”

They suggest: “A good part of Mr Weston’s association members are actively working with online travel sites.

“Not only would the implementation of burdensome regulations on OTAs prove harmful to the traveling consumer, it could have a negative impact on B&Bs.”

Klenner and Shur argue: “Consumers rely on the convenience of shopping across multiple travel brands in a single place.

“Without these platforms, consumers would have to visit dozens or even hundreds of websites [and] it is unlikely consumers would stumble upon Mr Weston’s members.”

They add: “OTAs save consumers money and offer them more choice.

“They put heads in beds and help B&Bs market unsold inventory. They deliver customers through the front doors of hotels and B&Bs unlike any other channel.”

ETTSA represents OTAs including Booking.com, Expedia and Hotels.com in Europe, as well as travel technology companies Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport and metasearch sites such as Skyscanner.

The TTA represents many of the same companies in the US, including Expedia and Booking.com parent Priceline.


Opinion: Are big OTAs abusing their power?

Comment: Don’t bite the hand that feeds