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.
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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