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PHOTO: The Hilton Los Cabos. (Courtesy of Hilton Los Cabos)
A new Hilton Worldwide campaign announced Tuesday appears to be another effort by hotels to lure travelers into booking direct. But the devil is in the details.
The company's largest marketing effort to date, known as "Stop Clicking Around," will reward HHonors members who book directly through Hilton's brands and other approved channels with discounted rates, loyalty program points, instant benefits and exclusive experiences.
But in the details lies a possible concession to travel professionals: in addition to bookings made through the HHonors Mobile App and Hilton's reservation call center, Hilton will extend these perks to bookings made through "preferred corporate travel partners" and even "approved travel agents."
Requests for clarification on what constitutes an "approved travel agent" were unfulfilled at press time.
Hilton's campaign comes just months after Marriott International launched a similar but controversial campaign. Launched in August 2015, the "#ItPaysToBookDirect" campaign received plenty of blowback from agents, with the American Society of Travel Agents even questioning whether Marriott's marketing efforts were "legal and truthful."
By including approved corporate travel partners and agents in its call for more direct bookings, Hilton appears poised to avoid similar criticism.
In a statement, Hilton Worldwide's global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships Mark Weinstein pointed out that "last year, 57 billion Hilton HHonors Points - or more than 1.6 million free nights - went unearned because guests booked their stay through a third party."
"There is a huge misconception that third parties always offer lower prices for our hotel rooms, which is simply not true," added Weinstein.
In her own statement, Hilton Worldwide's chief marketing officer Geraldine Calpin noted that booking directly or through a Hilton-approved channel remains the best way for customers to save time and money.
"(Guests) can be assured that booking a room directly with us at any of our hotels doesn't require extensive searching and price checking to find the best prices online," Calpin stated.
Hilton didn't immediately provide details regarding the extent of the room discounts, only revealing that the discounts can't be had anywhere else.
Meanwhile, the new campaign will likely benefit approved travel agents two-fold by including them as an approved booking channel for the exclusive discounted rates and also allowing them to earn their own points toward future stays.
Hilton said the discounted rates and other benefits are available at more than 4,500 Hilton hotels across the globe.
The motivation behind the campaign is to challenge the illusion that third party websites offer the best hotel deals. And in order to do so, Hilton appears more than willing to embrace travel agents, providing them with a useful tool to attract clients in this case rather than cutting them off.
A Maryland native and wanderer who has lived across the U.S. from North Carolina to SoCal, Patrick Clarke graduated from Towson...
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