What does the CMA’s latest enforcement action mean for the hospitality industry?

Following the recent enforcement action announced last month by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) against a number of online travel agencies (OTAs), James Matthews, managing director of Clevedon Hall, considers the implications this action will have across the hospitality industry as a whole. As managing director of Clevedon Hall, I live and breathe the hospitality industry both across corporate and wedding events on a daily basis. The recent announcement from the CMA really sparked my interest as something that has direct implications across the sector.

Responses to the enforcement action have been mixed. Some are excited to witness the resultant changes, while others have been wary around the implications that this could have for the future of the industry.

As part of the investigation, concerns were raised around whether consumers are being ‘misled’ by pressure-selling tactics, including messages such as ‘One room left!’, as well as hidden fees and charges that undercut any ‘Best rate guarantee’ that the booking websites may be promoting.

According to the CMA, around 70% of people who shop around for accommodation use OTAs, and over a quarter of Brits have booked the wrong hotel or selected incorrect dates due to pressure from comparison sites.

The CMA’s decision suggests there’s a growing awareness among consumers that they’re not always receiving the best deal on booking sites. Customers must be reassured they’re getting the deal they expected, whether that’s securing a promised discount or receiving reliable information around the availability of rooms.

OTAs will now be required to address these concerns and review the way they rank and display rooms online. The action includes either securing legally binding commitments for those involved to change their business practices or, if necessary, the CMA can take them to court.

As one of the South West’s leading corporate events and wedding venues, Clevedon Hall combines a rich history and tradition with every modern luxury and beautiful grounds. We offer a wedding and corporate event location like no other and have 25 luxurious bedroom suites offered on the basis of exclusivity through direct enquiries.

Our elegant bedrooms have all be furnished in a country house style, proving the perfect place to crash after a party or busy away day. We also offer a self-catered cottage which comfortably sleeps up to six guests, with an enclosed garden and private parking.

Unlike many well-known venues, Clevedon Hall has never functioned as a hotel, instead dedicating itself entirely to hosting bespoke events. This offers our guests a much greater level of flexibility and exclusivity when planning weddings or corporate events, so all our guests can benefit from a completely personalised service.

By removing the ability for guests to book through a third party OTA, we’re able to remove any confusion that may be caused online through conflicting prices and pressurised booking. Our guests can rest assured that they’re receiving the most competitive price by speaking directly and booking with one of our team.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see whether the CMA extends their investigation to cover similar tactics across all hotel sites, beyond just the OTAs, and if so the impact this will have on the wider hospitality industry.

John McCarthyComment