Skift Take

Rogue wholesale rates on metasearch sites are the gifts that keep on giving — for travelers and the metasearch sites. Expedia and Marriott seem to be making some progress on the issue.

Series: Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.

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Online Travel This Week

Expedia Group and Marriott International both said this week that their partnership to curb the unauthorized distribution of wholesale hotel rates has resulted in around an 80 percent drop-off in Marriott’s rates of this type appearing on metasearch sites.

Skift reached out to both companies following Expedia’s announcement Tuesday that it had signed up its first domestic UK hotel group, Village Hotels, which has more than 30 hotels across the country. UK-headquartered IHG enrolled in the program in February.

Despite the reported progress in limiting metasearch distribution to consumers of discounted wholesale rates that are designed to be hidden in vacation packages and tours, Skift found some of these unfettered wholesale rates on Kayak in the first search we tried.

Four Points by Sheraton, which is a Marriott brand, was offering through Kayak a stay tonight at its Punta Cana Village property in the Dominican Republic for $142. The rate for Bonvoy loyalty program members was $139.

However, for the same traditional room, Traveluro was offering on Kayak the room for $105, Roomdi.com had it for $109, Travelup’s rate was $124, and Ze Hotels broadcast its rate as $126.

All of the rates that were lower than the $142 that Four Points by Sheraton Puntacana Village was offering busted Marriott’s rate parity provisions, which are designed to ensure no third-party websites offer rooms at rates lower than the official Marriott website. The theory is that it would taint the hotel brand and its pricing power if consumers realize they can get heavily discounted rates elsewhere.

Consumers already know this, however. They know you can’t buy an iPhone somewhere that is cheaper than Apple sells it for, but when it comes to hotel rates, there are bargains to be found everywhere for the relentless trip planner.

In theory, Expedia Group should be spanking those online travel agency sites that tout their verboten rates, and at times Expedia and Marriott hammer the transgressors.

“The program is constantly evolving and building on its established success using learnings from current partners,” an Expedia Group spokesperson said. “It also has a highly effective feedback loop that generates a positive, self-reinforcing cycle for both sides.”

The results for Marriott have been “game-changing,” the Expedia Group spokesperson said.

A Marriott International spokesperson said: “We are satisfied with the results we’ve seen so far. The distribution of Marriott’s wholesale rates has become more efficient; we achieved broader reach, increased profitability of wholesale rates, and more control.”

Marriott, which began wholesale rate distribution through Expedia in 2018 and 2019 on an exclusive basis, uses its own tech tools “to monitor our rate integrity,” the Marriott spokesperson said.

“Since the launch we’ve seen a more than 80 percent reduction of instances of unauthorized rates and inventory to be displayed for Marriott hotels through metasearch channels, ultimately strengthening Marriott.com as the official channel for Marriott hotels,” the Marriott spokesperson added.

If there has indeed been an improvement in controlling the distribution of wholesale rates — and Expedia’s addition of new partners seems to ratify that trend — it’s also clear that it’s a game of Whac-A-Mole in trying to eliminate the problem.

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Tags: airbnb, china, Dennis' Online Travel Briefing, expedia, experiences, future of lodging, ihg, marriott, online travel newsletter, tiqets, tours and activities, trip.com, tripadvisor, wholesale rates