Australian moteliers are reporting a 25 percent rise in direct bookings thanks to a campaign by prominent businessman Dick Smith.
The entrepreneur’s viral social media video urging Aussies to bypass commission-charging online travel agents (OTAs) and contact motels direct has prompted an explosion of in-person bookings.
Accomnews last week revealed the anti-OTA campaign has drawn a strong indication from the Australian consumer watchdog of an imminent law change banning rate parity clauses from contracts between online travel agents and accommodation providers.
Now New Zealand accommodation providers are hoping the action across the pond may trigger changes in the law and consumer behaviour here.
Nik Kiddle, owner of Queenstown property Villa del Lago, said: “Let us hope that now that Dick Smith has raised the profile of this in Australia, our competition authorities will finally give it the attention it deserves.”
Kiddle currently has a submission before parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee urging members to recommend the government adopts amendments to the Commerce Act that would empower it to launch investigations – such as one into the “anti-competitive behaviour” of US internet firms.
“On behalf of accommodation providers in NZ, I have been arguing for the NZ Commerce Commission to review its stance on this same issue since 2016,” he said.
“Our letters to the commerce commission and to ministers have so far failed to spark any meaningful interest into investigating this anti-competitive price fixing behaviour by US firms. Our appeal to Hospitality NZ in October 2016 met with no response.”
When asked how she would like to see New Zealand move forward on OTAs and rate parity, Hospitality NZ’s new chief operating officer, Julie White, told Accomnews: “I personally would like to see more hotels take back control of their inventory and transparency / accountability from OTAs on how they pass on rates.
“In the duopoly environment that they operate, I would welcome a code of conduct.”
White also said establishing “a fair playing field and regulations that will come from this” were among the major challenges of her new role.
“What this looks like is still uncertain, but a framework needs to be established,” she said.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Budget Motel Group is reporting a huge jump in direct bookings following the campaign to raise awareness of how OTA contracts and commissions work.
Budget’s operations manager, Chris Fozard, said: “We have had some great feedback from our members about the increase in direct phone bookings they are now receiving, as well as an increase in bookings done on their own websites by an average of 25% across the Budget Motel Chain.”
“We are really excited about what is happening.”
Among the feedback are the comments:
- Hi, I just had a three-day booking. They saw Dick Smith on the tele and wanted to book direct ya.
- I have had two customers say they saw Dick Smith and did not realise the OTAs were doing this to small businesses. I gave them a discount on the room rate.
- Had our first enquiry about calling direct for better rates on the weekend. They heard Dick’s message!
- A staff member of a company told their office to only book direct now. The office sent thorough their credit card details to put on file.