Marriott International took down an ad that was part of a new direct booking campaign which drew harsh criticism from ASTA and the travel agent community. The ad was one of three YouTube videos introduced in early August. “Scenic Route,” the ad that was pulled, was viewed as particularly insulting to agents. It featured comedian Grace Helbig stepping in to help a lost couple find their destination although a gas station attendant was advising they take the scenic route. A Marriott spokesperson said the company withdrew the ad on learning the agent community believed the gas station attendant was meant to be viewed as a travel agent. He said Marriott’s intent was never to offend agents. The other two ads remain on YouTube.
Commenting on this latest development at ASTA’s Global Convention in Washington DC., ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said the association had “had very good dialogue with Marriott and is appreciative that they were responsive to our request” to take down the ad. “This was the most egregious ad [of the three],” Kerby said. “We’re thankful there were some sensitive ears [at Marriott] and that they responded and withdrew the ad.” He said ASTA is now talking with Hilton Hotels regarding a box on its website that tells Hilton HHonors members to “Book Direct."