When was the last time you read a contract you were signing? We mean, really read it – every single word.
NB: This is an article from Vizzly
Hoteliers often look to technology providers for solutions that might otherwise not be available in-house. With that comes a level of trust that this provider will do the right thing and help them succeed.
Unfortunately, some technology providers know you won’t go through your contract with a fine-toothed comb, so they bury details about what you’re really signing up for in the fine print.
Take, for example, BookingSuite and their WebDirect solution; a product which gives hotels a property website to “drive more direct reservations through [an] integrated booking engine.”
The big drawing card here is the integrated booking engine, which creates a seamless booking experience for travel shoppers. BookingSuite does this by creating a “sleeve” over the hotel’s actual booking engine (otherwise known as a proxy) to match the overall look & feel of their website.
Take a look at the example below from the Comfort Suites Waco in Texas.
When you click on the Reservation button of their website, it redirects to a booking engine page (see below), which looks like it is part of the same website. The blue background is the same, the Comfort Suites logo is in the top left, but this is in fact a different website (look at the URL).
From here, travel shoppers enter their booking details to complete the reservation. They enter their travel dates, number of guests, room type, personal details, payment details, etc.
All seems standard, right?
But Here’s What You Might Not Realize
The booking engine above is actually a “sleeve” BookingSuite has created that sits in front of the hotel’s actual booking engine (in this case, the Choice booking engine). By doing this, any guest data entered on this page can be captured by BookingSuite as it goes through to the Choice booking engine. This data is then sent by BookingSuite to Booking.com, their parent company, to use for advertising and remarketing purposes.
Just consider what that could mean: Booking.com now knows the name of your guests, their email address, where they are traveling to, how long they are travelling for, what their budget is, and what rooms they have booked. That’s valuable guest data being handed over to them for free. From here, they could send these guests other hotel offers without your knowledge.
Your Responsibilities In All of This
Something else that’s easy to miss, this time in their Terms & Conditions, is that YOU are responsible for telling your guests that their data is being shared with a third-party (Booking.com in this case). Yes, even if you’re unaware that it’s happening, it’s your responsibility to let your guests know according to the data protection laws of your state. BookingSuite absolves themselves from any legal responsibility.
Here’s that outlined in their Terms & Conditions:
“2.6.2. The Accommodation acknowledges and agrees that the Accommodation is solely responsible for informing the End User and obtaining their consent if required under applicable data protection law with regard to the processing of End User Data in relation to the Property Website Services including the transfer of End User Data to BookingSuite, Booking.com B.V. and/or its affiliates, and the use of such data for analytical and marketing purposes.”
If you think about it, BookingSuite’s business model is pretty smart – for them. They sell hotels on a low-cost website and a seamless booking experience using their webpage “sleeve.” They sell their solution as one that helps drive direct bookings, but what they’re also doing is collecting information about your guests.
In other words:
YOUR WEBSITE IS A FREE LEAD GENERATION TOOL FOR BOOKINGSUITE (OR MORE ACCURATELY, BOOKING.COM). AND AS WE ALL KNOW, THERE IS A LOT OF VALUE IN YOUR GUEST DATA.
This highlights a certain level of hypocrisy on the part of OTAs. They will typically share minimal guest data with hotels but, in this case, take as much guest information as possible from hotels to serve their own interests.
It’s Time to Fight Back
Many hoteliers are fighting back, switching to other website providers that don’t have a conflict of interest when it comes to guest data.
With Vizlly, our digital marketing solution, hoteliers have peace of mind that their guest data is 100% theirs. Unlike BookingSuite, our sole focus is on helping our customers drive more direct bookings through their hotel website, not in collecting guest data.
Your guest data is valuable. Don’t hand it over to someone else for nothing.