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With online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Priceline taking commissions as high as 30%, it’s no surprise that hotels are on a mission to push them out of the booking process and get more customers to book direct. However, hotels have been playing unfairly and removing basic amenities from travelers in the process.
On Monday, we learned that the Hyatt Place brand will remove free breakfast as a standard amenity and instead only offer it to World of Hyatt members who book directly with Hyatt. This is a significant devaluation for travelers who prefer to book hotel rooms through online travel agencies and other third party booking options.
But Hyatt’s move isn’t the first strike against OTAs. Hotel chains have made it practically impossible to show any form of loyalty to them without booking directly. Most hotels are no longer awarding elite points or honoring any elite benefits for guests who book through third parties. In response, OTAs have upped their own rewards programs. For instance, Hotels.com offers members one free night for every 10 nights booked through the website or app. However, without loyalty recognition in the form of perks like free breakfast or suite upgrades, their programs will never be able to fully rival those of major chains.
Hotels are also encouraging more travelers to book direct by offering lower member-exclusive rates through their sites. With all of the major chains — Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott/SPG — you can save between 3-10% by booking one of these rates. That being said, there are still many instances where third parties are offerings even lower rates. In those cases, hotels are supposed to match the lower rates with their Best Rate Guarantee programs, but as TPG Senior Points and Miles Contributor Richard Kerr recently demonstrated, these “guarantees” are becoming more marketing gimmicks than true low price matches.
Rather than add incentives for guests that book directly, major hotel chains are simply removing amenities that were once standard. Kimpton’s former loyalty program, Kimpton Karma, did the right thing by rewarding even the lowest tier rewards members with “Raid the Bar” beverage credits for booking directly and offering all guests — regardless of how they booked their stay — free Wi-Fi. But that program has folded into IHG Rewards and that added benefit is no more (note, Kimpton still offers all guests free internet).
Only time will tell what amenity hotels will take away next for those who don’t book direct. Maybe we should keep an eye on that in-room coffee…
Featured image of breakfast at the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach.
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