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Struggling hotel industry urges consumers to skip online booking sites to get best deal

The struggling accommodation industry is urging consumers to book with them directly to stop millions of dollars in commission fees going to offshore booking websites.

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Hotels have to pay up to 15 per cent to online travel agents like Trivago, a cost they can’t afford at the moment. Source: 1 NEWS

The sector has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdown and is battling to get back on its feet.

Occupancy rates are worryingly low, with Wellington’s James Cook Hotel "sort of hovering around 10, 15 per cent", according to staff member Steve Martin. 

"We really need some more business coming in," he said.

The Hotel Owners Association estimates the sector lost $185 million in April and May, and 80 per cent of jobs have been cut.

Online booking sites such as Trivago and booking.com have also added to the financial pressure.

"Online travel agents charge us commission, so it's 15 per cent per booking, which is quite substantial to a business like ours," Bolton Hotel’s Hannah Chinnery said.

Last year, hotels paid $58 million in commission to third-party websites.

Now, Labour MP Kieran McAnulty is launching a campaign urging consumers to take out the middleman.

"If we just make that small change and contact these people directly, it's going to make a huge difference to their ability to withstand this difficult period,” he said.

The industry is backing the call.

"We have people that are driving up to hotels and checking out a rate in a hotel and then going across the road and checking out a rate at another hotel. It's actually bringing people and hotels closer together,” the Hotel Owners Association’s Amy Robens said.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s Chris Robert urged people to look online to see the different deals on offer but also "try to book directly with the hotel" to ensure that "every dollar you're paying stays with that hotel". 

Booking in-person will benefit consumers, too, hotel staff said.

"Booking direct you always get the best package, the best deal, and also, sometimes, the best room,” Ms Chinnery said.

However, the way to get the best deal might be to pick up the phone and call the hotels, with a contract with the website stopping the accommodation providers from publicly offering better prices.