The Travel Trade has welcomed an investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority into the trading practices of hotel booking sites.
The CMA announced last week that it would look into whether such sites are misleading customers and breaking consumer law.
AITO chairman Derek Moore said: “Such online hotel booking sites, largely controlled by American interests, have seen exponential growth over the last five years.
“They now control virtually the entire market in hotel reservations – it is estimated that 80% of all hotel bookings in Europe are made through these sites.
“It seems that many online brands across Europe are in fact now owned by just two or three of the main US-controlled players.”
Expedia owns Hotels.com, Trivago.com, Venere.com, HomeAway.com and Travelocity.com, while~the Priceline group owns Booking.com, Kayak.com, Agoda.com, OwnersDirect.com and Cheapflights.com. TripAdvisor owns HolidayLettings.
“AITO looks forward to the CMA conducting a full investigation into their interrelated behaviour and will be submitting its members’ views on how their big-company trading practices affect both SMEs and consumers,” added Moore.
However, he was critical of how long it has taken for the CMA to act, adding: “This investigation should, of course, have been instigated several years ago, before these online reservation sites had gained such a high level of control over the market. There seemingly isn’t a shack in the hotel world that is not featured by them.
“It is AITO’s strong belief that, with power and market dominance, should come a commensurate level of responsibility. Such responsibility is notably absent here, which is very disappointing. We at AITO urge the CMA to ensure that these super-large brands take stock of what they are doing and rethink their modus operandi, taking on board the importance of shouldering responsibility for their actions.
“Additionally, the sheer lack of transparency is worrying and does not serve well either the travelling public, the hotels featured on these sites or, indeed, the American companies’ UK-based competitors.”