Travel agents demand Marriott axe campaign to push direct web sales
Marriott has angered a major travel agency group with its latest advertising campaign to encourage travellers to bypass intermediaries.
The campaign was launched earlier this week under the title #ItPaysToBookDirect and features Amercian comedian, actress and “YouTube personality” Grace Helbig in a series of videos designed to extol the financial virtues of booking direct with the chain.
The chain argues that guests who book on the brand’s website or via its call centre will be able to access the rates and obtain the most accurate information about a property.
Marriott plans to show the ads online as one-minute spots and then extend the campaign to Facebook during November.
Nothing wrong with that, some might argue, given the challenge most hotel chains have to secure more direct bookings and “own the customer”.
Unfortunately for Marriott, some are hoping the campaign will be curtailed quickly.
The American Society of Travel Agents concedes that suppliers “have the right to market their product however they choose”, but has questioned whether Marriott’s campaign is “legal and truthful”.
ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby says the campaign is “disparaging to travel agents, but also misleading to the traveling public”.
“It is incomprehensible that Marriott would position itself as just another price-driven brand while intentionally disparaging the same professional travel agents that Marriott selects to help market its services.”
The organisation, which says its membership sells 80% of all travel sold in the US via travel agencies, has upped the ante further by claiming the campaign’s message about the best rates are only available on the direct channel as “simply not true”.
“Professional travel agents, using numerous tools at their disposal, have access to Marriott inventory at the same prices that appear on Marriott’s website.”
ASTA says it wants Marriott to withdraw the campaign but in the meantime will “resist in every available forum attempts to limit consumer choice”.
Marriott has yet to respond to requests for comment.
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