Hoteliers group urges visitors to fill in survey on online bookings
A Blackpool hoteliers group is urging people to fill in an official survey about online hotel booking sites in a bid to create a level playing field.
The Competitions and Marketing Authority is asking customers for their views on using the sites after claims that pressure selling and misleading discount claims were continuing in some areas.
Stay Blackpool has had concerns about some of the sites used by people for booking holidays online and also about so-called Sharing Economy sites such as AirBnB which many fear is being used by unscrupulous hotels businesses to avoid regulations and undercut conventional operators.
The CMA carried out an investigation and introduced enforcement action on booking websites late last year. It said some sites advertised "just one room left" to get people to book quickly or failed to include hidden costs in the advertised price. It has now launched another customer survey to monitor the situation.
Former Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism's investigation into the Sharing Economy and said that, while those websites began with homeowners making additional income from renting out a spare room, there was significant evidence that some are using these platforms to run tourism accommodation businesses.
It recommended setting up a a low-cost statutory registration scheme for tourism accommodation businesses administered by local councils, ensuring businesses complied with regulations on fire and health and safety, making sure they paid the right amount of tax and having enforcement officers with a database of tourism accommodation to make sure they comply with the law and ensure a level playing field.
At the time Gordon Marsden said: "In the Inquiry that our Parliamentary Tourism Group published last summer (2018) looking at the huge growth of the so-called Sharing Economy, which includes AirBnB and other ‘gig’ economy platforms, we underlined how critical it was that the battery of checks needed on hygiene and safety for all properties visitors stay in should be done, trusted and enforced, with a level playing field so as not to disadvantage our successful, and longstanding visitor accommodation."
Ian White from hoteliers organisation Stay Blackpool urged people to complete the new survey and said: "StayBlackpool has many concerns regarding the practices of the On Line Travel agents and their dominance when booking accommodation.
"Having been instrumental in submitting evidence leading to the setting up of the enquiry and providing significant evidence during the enquiry, we believe not enough has been done to prevent the booking public from being significantly mislead and properties (particularly at the lower end of standards) from being totally misrepresented.
"Many of the issues are so subtle people just cannot appreciate what is going on, with one or two companies standing out as the worst offenders.
"Ironically UK government could hold the key by having the accommodation sector licensed in a similar way to taxis. Sadly this would be a long way off as there are other issues the government has to deal with."
The survey can be found at https://maxcma.typeform.com/to/a56WYE