Marriott International is calling its new direct booking campaign just another “common practice” aimed at creating awareness of its website for travelers who choose to make their own hotel reservations.
That explanation came in a statement the hotel giant issued in response to a series of YouTube ads in which comedienne Grace Helbig tells viewers “It pays to book direct.”
ASTA, along with the travel agents who’ve viewed the ads, has denounced the campaign. Zane Kerby, ASTA’s CEO and president, said the campaign is both “disparaging to travel agents . . . and misleading to the traveling public.”
In its statement, Marriott said it values its relationship with agents and characterized the book direct campaign as not new, but “rather a marketing campaign of what our direct channels already offer today.”
“It is designed to inform them [customers] about the benefits of booking directly with us, either on Marriott.com, through out Global Reservation Centers, or by contacting the hotel,” the statement said.
Its “direct channel benefits” include its Best Rate Guarantee and its Marriott Rewards program, according to the statement.
Low customer awareness
“Customer awareness of our existing direct channel benefits is low, particularly regarding our Best Rate Guarantee, a policy that has existed since 2004,” the statement said. “It is common practice for companies to use initiatives such as these to promote and gain awareness for its services and brands.”
Marriott also reiterated its commitment to travel agents as an important distribution partner for all of its worldwide brands.
“For many years, we have worked closely with the travel agency community to make sure they have everything they need to understand and easily book our hotels,” the statement said.
Marriott said its agent partnership initiatives include its HotelExcellence! training program, discounted agent rates, and its double commission guarantee.
The double commission guarantee ensures that accredited agents who make reservations at commissionable rates will have commission checks processed within 15 business days of the client’s checkout.