ORLANDO, Fla. - Hurry up online hotel reservations cost the American consumer a staggering $5.2 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions last year, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
AHLA spokesperson Amy Travieso said that sometimes a site might show that a hotel has only a few rooms left when that's not actually the case.
“The only place that can verify how many hotel rooms are available is the actual hotel property," she said.
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Many times sites that appear to be part of a major hotel chain are really third-party resellers that make promises and reservations that are misleading.
According to Travieso, 39 percent of travelers report that they usually book their hotel rooms through a third-party website leaving them potential targets for online scammers.
“We’ve had guests that had arrived and there’s no room for them,” Travieso said. “The hotel doesn’t have a record of them and it was a transaction made by a third-party affiliate not directly with the hotel property.”
According to the AHLA:
• Among the 23 percent of consumers misled by third-party traveler resellers, 46 percent say they were charged extra fees on their credit card
• 34 percent had their reservation lost and had to book another room, losing the cost of their original reservation
• 44 percent made a special room request that was not relayed to the hotel.
Here are tips for searching smarter:
• Look out for misleading messages on websites: “Book now,” “3 rooms left,” “Other people are looking at this hotel right now,” and “Sale ends tonight.”
• Double check the website’s URL: Some third-party booking sites will go so far as to use a hotel’s brand name in the URL. Make sure you’re on the hotel’s actual website, not a third-party vendor using a hotel’s identity without permission.
• Make sure the site is secure before payment. The URL should have a small lock within the search bar and start with https:// with an “s” as opposed to just http:// without an “s.”
• Know and understand the cancellation/change policy.
Booking directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent can:
• Help ensure you know exactly what you are getting from your reservation, and often provides the better value.
• Offer benefits such as loyalty programs, rewards and discounts.
Learn more about the hotel’s Search Smarter campaign at www.ahla.com/searchsmarter.
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