Lodging Industry Wants to Slam the Door on Fraud

TSE STAFF

Washington, DC — The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), which represents the 1.8 million-employee lodging industry, on Friday commended two US Senators for urging the federal government to investigate the growing issue of deceptive online booking practices in the $947 billion travel and tourism industry.

In a two-page letter dated September .8, to Anthony Foxx, the US Secretary of Transportation, and Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Sen. Deb Fischer ( R., Neb.) expressed their concerns about the fraudulent practices. “There have been recent reports that some deceptive online companies appear to be imitating the websites of actual hotels or airlines in order to attract bookings. Further, there have been reports of scammers using fraudulent information listed on these websites to impersonate travel company representatives on the telephone, even impersonate consumers in conversations with hotels and airlines,” the two senators wrote on U.S. Senate stationery.

Some 15 million in bookings are impacted annually by these scams. Last year, consumers lost $1.3 billion in bad bookings, AH&LA officials said. An increasing number of consumers are misled into making hotel reservations through fraudulent websites and call centers that give the appearance of being a hotel’s website, but actually have no relation to the hotel, AH&LA officials said. “These issues can result in wholly lost reservations, incorrect accommodations, incorrect services guests often need, such as disability access, the wrong set of amenities, lost loyalty benefits, and clear consumer confusion,” AH&LA officials said.

Katherine Lugar, AHLA president and CEO, said 5 million guests check into hotels each day and some 300 online bookings are transacted every minute. “It is particularly important to ensure transparency and clarity in the ever growing online travel marketplace,” Lugar said. “We applaud the steadfast leadership of Senators Klobuchar and Fischer for putting consumers first and recognizing the need to stop misleading or fraudulent marketing tactics that harm consumers. We hope that the Department of Transportation and the Federal Trade Commission swiftly investigate these reports and respond with appropriate guidelines, recommendations or if necessary, regulatory action.”

AH&LA, which is based in Washington, DC is urging consumers to book direct, use only trusted sites and check the hotel’s site.

Reach Katherine Lugar at (202) 289-3148 or klugar@ahla.com