Security and safety fears raised by Online Booking Changes
The concerns were triggered with changes to the Expedia agency’s information policies.
Information like guests’ phone numbers and email addresses are now being kept from accommodation providers, even though they may be of vital importance, for example, in times of bad weather, dangerous road conditions or flooding, the discussion of special dietary needs, contacting overdue guests, and emergencies.
Businesses owners also feel they should have the right to know details of people coming to stay in their rooms on their private premises.
The local concerns with the changed Expedia system have been raised in writing with the Queensland Tourism Industry Council and local tourism marketing organisation Visit SunshineCoast.
“We are looking into it and are consulting with other organisations,” Daniel Gschwind, the Chief Executive of the QTIC, told Come On Up newspaper.
Regarding bookings made through Expedia, email contact between accommodation providers and their pending guests is instead allowed only via a system that has the booking agent as the “middle man”.
Expedia explained that the tighter controls were made “to improve the security of your customers’ information”.
Accommodation provider and Hinterland Tourism executive Alan Dryden said it just made sense – in terms of safety and security, service provision and service quality matters – for the accommodation provider to have direct contact details.
“In a two minute phone conversation, I can learn their bread and milk preferences, I can know if they want me to book a massage for them, whether they have cultural meal requirements,” he said.
“To not have the phone contact is a waste of the hotelier’s time and it’s preventing the accommodation industry from providing optimal levelsof service.”
In the letter to the local and state tourism organisations, a collective of hinterland accommodation providers has detailed the issue:
“We do occasionally suffer from bad or potentially dangerous weather and we need to be able to reach customers quickly to check their progress or advise of a situation that will impede their arrival or even prevent their stay,” the letter to QTIC and Visit Sunshine Coast, in part, said.
And this: “This is going to annoy the customer a great deal. They have assumed that by completing the booking process and providing this information that it will be in the hands of the property to which they will be paying their tariff. We know now that guests booking via Booking.com are completely baffled when (accommodation) asks them for their ‘real’ email address on arrival.
“…90% of guests are quite surprised when they are informed that ‘no booking fees’ to them still means large commission payments by accommodation…. We need to encourage consumers to book direct and establish a relationship with their chosen provider.
Hinterland Tourism Sunshine Coast recommends that customers book directly with the accommodation providers.