The U.S. hotel industry plans to step up a lobbying and public relations attack on Expedia Inc. and Priceline Group Inc., hoping to convince consumers and members of the Trump administration that the travel-booking giants are monopolistic.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association, an industry group whose membership includes Marriott International Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., devised plans for a campaign saying the online travel companies use unfair practices in their search businesses, according to board meeting documents seen by Bloomberg. The trade group intends to lobby Federal Trade Commission officials on the issue and try to ensure that new members picked by President Donald Trump are friendly to hotels, according to the documents prepared for a January meeting of the group’s board.
A proposed marketing campaign aims to portray online travel companies as monopolistic by highlighting that different booking sites like Booking.com, Hotwire.com, Kayak.com and Travelocity all fall within the empires of Priceline and Expedia. “The rollout will play off the Monopoly board game to better underscore that the individual companies are really owned only by two major players,” the documents said.
“There is nothing surprising about AHLA’s efforts to educate government officials and consumers about the negative consequences of increased consolidation within the online travel agency marketplace,” Rosanna Maietta, senior vice president of communications for the AHLA, said in an email.
Struggling to Compete
“The Expedia and Priceline duopoly hurts consumer choice and the small businesses in our industry, which represent some 60 percent of all hotels in the U.S., who are struggling to compete as a result of the gouging commission rates” charged by the online travel agencies, she said.
A spokeswoman for Expedia said travel is a competitive industry and that the company plays a small part. A spokeswoman for Priceline said listing on the company’s sites is optional, and millions of properties do so to increase their business.