Marriott Doubles Down on Direct Booking, Offering Member Rewards
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One month after Hilton Worldwide launched the largest campaign in company history aimed at encouraging direct booking, Marriott International has followed suit, enhancing rewards for members who book direct by offering the best available rate.
Set to launch next month, Marriott recently introduced its Marriott Rewards Member Rates. The exclusive room rates will be available to Marriott Rewards members who book through a direct channel, including Marriott.com, the company's app, its call centers and approved corporate travel professionals.
Marriott said the rates will be "broadly available" beginning April 11, 2016.
In a statement, Marriott's global marketing officer Karin Timpone echoed earlier sentiments from Hilton that the program aims to expose a common misconception.
"We also want to help dispel the myth that other travel websites offer better rates for our hotels," said Timpone. "The simple fact is that you will find the lowest rates across our portfolio when you join Marriott Rewards and book direct."
Marriott's announcement comes seven months after it rolled out a controversial direct booking campaign titled "It Pays to Book Direct" that promised to reward Marriott Rewards members that booked direct with free Wi-Fi and other perks. The popular YouTube series was met with resistance from the travel agent community, with American Society of Travel Agents CEO Zane Kerby calling it "disparaging to travel agents" and "misleading to the traveling public."
However Marriott quickly responded to the outcry, reaffirming its commitment to and support of travel agents.
"We highly value our relationship with travel agents and recognize the service they offer to customers," Marriott said in a statement issued last August. "The current digital marketing campaign is simply another common practice effort to create awareness of our existing site to inform customers who choose to make their own reservations."
In last month's announcement, Hilton specified that its exclusive room rates would be made available to its loyalty program members who booked through "approved travel agents," with Hilton's Vice President Of Global Marketing Andrew Flack telling TravelPulse the company has "always been 100 percent committed to the travel agent community that books through GDS booking systems."
Marriott has promised that if a Marriott Rewards member finds a better rate elsewhere within 24 hours of booking direct it will match the offer and provide an additional 25 percent discount.
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