Online travel agents taken to task for dodgy practises


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Six of the major Global Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) have signed undertakings to stop “pressure selling, false discount claims and hidden charges” following 14 months of investigation by the UK Competition & Market Authorities (CMA).

In what has been labelled a landmark decision, action has been taken against and Expedia – who control 85 per cent of the Global OTA Booking Revenues Market Share – as well as four other OTA Brands: Trivago, Agoda, and eBookers.

In 2017, generated US$12.7 billion; and Expedia US$10 billion.

Gerry Ireland, Director of Port Douglas Direct, a local Tourism Advocacy Group, which has been advocating against the same sharp practices, and ever-increasing OTA Market Share dominance in Australia, said he hoped the ACCC followed the CMA’s lead.

“We hope the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will follow the example of the UK’s CMA and implement a strict Code of Practice beyond their recent ‘Room Parity Disgraceful OTA Practice’ findings,” said Mr Ireland. 

“We also need to ensure that Global OTA’s pay their full share of State and Federal Taxes before remitting their Booking Commissions Revenue back to Head Offices in the USA.”

Tara Bennett, Executive Officer of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree, said today her organisation supports these measures.

“TPDD fully supports compliance measures that make the online landscape more competitive and improve consumers purchasing experience.

“By investing in their online presence and booking capability, Port Douglas and Daintree operators will be able to fully benefit from this decision,” said Ms Bennett.

The aforementioned six have signed undertakings to stop “pressure selling, false discount claims and hidden charges”. In addition they must stop giving Tourist Customers a false impression of a Room’s Value, Popularity, and to provide the “full cost of a room upfront”.

All compulsory charges such as taxes, booking and resort fees must be shown in the headline price.

A common practice is to insert “sold-out” hotels within search results in a bid to persuade buyers to commit more quickly. 


“Sites have now committed not to do this,” says the CMA.

The UK authority’s chairman, Andrew Tyrie, called such practices “wholly unacceptable,” and said other online sites would now be targeted: “The CMA will now do whatever it can to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.”

Mr Ireland said that leadership in the tourism sector, and in particular from Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) and Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) should be demonstrating support for more compliance to ensure a more competitive playing field for Tourism Customers, Resort and Property Owners and Managers.

“It’s simply not good enough to have no OTA Strategy in the face of eroding Tourism Business Sustainability in Tropical North Queensland, Douglas Shire and beyond.

“Worse still they must not engage in any further Joint Venture Promotions with OTA’s as we witnessed in August and September 2018 with the TPDD/ YOU and ME NEXT WEEKEND ESCAPE,” said Mr Ireland.

Mr Ireland said sustainability for Resort and Property Owners and Managers is tough enough without having local LTO’s and regional RTO’s working against you.

“They should be doing much more to promote a more profitable outcome for Property Owners and Managers through strategies aimed at increasing Tourist Customer Direct Booking Channels, to ensure a ‘face-to-face relationship with customers’, and avoid paying exorbitant Booking Commissions to Global OTA’s.”

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