The European Commission published the results of an external market study on the distribution practices of hotels in the EU.
This study provides the European Commission (Directorate-General for Competition) with up-to-date facts on the distribution of hotel accommodation in the EU, including on any changes that have occurred since the Monitoring Exercise conducted by the European Competition Network in this sector in 2016, as well as any changes resulting from national laws prohibiting the use of parity clauses by hotel booking platforms.
The study focuses on the following research questions:
- How is hotel accommodation distributed in the EU Member States covered by the study?
- Do distribution arrangements differ between these EU Member States? If so, what are the reasons for such differences?
- Have hotel distribution arrangements changed relative to the findings of the Monitoring Exercise carried out in 2016 by the European Competition Network (ECN)? If so, what are the reasons for such changes?
- Has the adoption of laws prohibiting hotel booking platform parity clauses led to changes in distribution arrangements in the Member States concerned?
The study covers six EU Member States, namely Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Poland, Spain and Sweden over the period January 2017 to May 2021 inclusive. It focuses on the sales and marketing practices of the following categories of stakeholders: independent hotels, hotel chains, Online Travel Agents (‘OTAs’) and metasearch/price comparison websites.
The main results of the market study
The results of the market study do not indicate any significant change in the competitive situation in the hotel accommodation distribution sector in the EU compared to 2016. In particular:
- Online travel agencies (‘OTAs’) account for 44% of independent hotels’ room sales, a slight increase relative to 2016.
- Booking.com and Expedia remain the leading OTAs for hotel bookings and there is no sign of significant changes in OTA market shares or of new OTA entry.
- The commission rates paid by hotels to OTAs appear to have remained stable or slightly decreased.
- The level of room price and room availability differentiation applied by hotels both between different OTAs and between the hotels’ own websites and OTAs appears to have decreased.
- It appears that some OTAs use commercial measures, such as improved/reduced visibility on the OTA website, to incentivise hotels to give them the best room prices and conditions.
- The relative importance of hotel sales channels (online/offline, direct/indirect) differs to some extent between Member States, but there appear to be no significant differences in the conditions of OTA competition.
- Laws in Austria and Belgium banning the use of wide and narrow OTA parity clauses in the hotel sector do not appear to have led to material changes in hotel distribution practices, relative to the other Member States covered by the study.