Book direct, but what if…?

YouTube MarriottThe latest travel supplier to attract the ire of travel agents the world over is international hotel chain Marriott with their latest advertising campaign aimed at encouraging travellers to bypass intermediaries.

The #ItPaysToBookDirect video campaign features an American celebrity Grace Helbig talking about the financial advantages of booking direct with the chain; benefits that include access to rates and the most accurate information about a property.

American travel agents have come out strongly against the advertising campaign questioning whether it is legal and truthful. The American Society of Travel Agents says it is “disparaging to travel agents, but also misleading to the travelling public”.

So while we all know what the benefits of customers booking direct would be to Marriott, an interesting article in Forbes this week asked customers to think about what’s in it for them. Particularly since the access to rates and accurate information, claims ASTA, aren’t any better than what a customer would receive from a travel agent selling the chain.

In his article “If You Like Good Service, Here’s Why You Need A Good Travel Advisor”, Forbes contributor Doug Gollan, presents the “what if” case.

“What if you book via the website or an online travel agency, you get to the hotel, and something goes wrong. Let’s say you are not one of Marriott Rewards’ top members who spend 100 plus nights a year. Yet, it’s your long-awaited, hard-earned vacation with family and loved ones. Let’s say you bought in at the best, or lowest rates, and you aren’t a regular customer for the company, and it’s your first time to this hotel. How much clout do you think you will have to get whatever your problem is resolved?”

Doug ends of his very eloquent article saying: “For the travelling public, the best way to make sure your vacation goes off without a hitch, or that if there is a problem, it gets corrected, is to have a good travel advisor a phone call away to make the phone call you need.  One thing I will bet on, is if there is a problem, you won’t be able to get ahold of Grace Helbig.”

So what do you think of Marriott’s new campaign? Misplaced or brilliant?