Marriott Responds to Agent Outcry Over Direct-Booking Campaign
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Following an outcry from agents about its YouTube campaign that entices consumers to book direct, Marriott International issued a statement to “clarify” its relationship with the agency community and the reasoning behind the It Pays to Book Direct campaign
“We highly value our relationship with travel agents and recognize the service they offer to customers,” the statement said. “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.
The statement underscored Marriott’s history with travel agents, the role they play in selling the company’s brands and its agent initiatives. “The travel agency community is an important distribution partner for all our brands on a global basis,” the statement said. “We believe they provide a valuable service to customers who prefer personal assistance in their travel planning and for those agencies that support our important B-to-B corporate customers’ managed travel programs. For many years, we have worked closely with the travel agency community to make sure they have everything they need to understand and easily book our hotels.”
The statement went on to explain the reasoning behind the campaign. “Our recent Book Direct campaign is designed to create awareness of direct channel benefits among customers who choose to make their own reservations. It is designed to inform them about the benefits of booking directly with us, either on Marriott.com, through our Global Reservation Centers, or by contacting the hotel.
The marketing campaign focuses on the existing benefits of booking through Marriott’s direct channels e.g. our Best Rate Guarantee and the benefits of being a Marriott Rewards member. Customer awareness of our existing direct channel benefits is low, particularly regarding our Best Rate Guarantee, a policy that has existed since 2004. It is common practice for companies to use initiatives such as these to promote and gain awareness for its services and brands. This is not a new program, rather a marketing campaign of what our direct channels already offer today.”
The statement closed by reiterating Marriott’s commitment to agents. “As stated earlier, we believe the travel agency community provides a tremendous value to those customers who prefer professional assistance when making travel arrangements or are required to use their services due to their company’s travel policy. Marriott values these relationships, sincerely appreciates the support to our brands and looks forward to continuing to serve our mutual customers.”
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