Saturday, June 23, 2018

Motels chain takes on might of Expedia

An Australian accommodation group is taking a stand against a global bookings giant over what it sees as a Big Brother-style diktat.

The David-and-Goliath battle follows a demand from Expedia for all listed properties to undergo a gas water heater assessment, despite Australia having some of the most stringent safety regulations on the planet.

Chris Fozard, operations manager of the Budget Motels group, says it is the latest in a series of examples of Online Travel Agencies making authoritarian demands on operators.

“For years the accommodation industry has laid down and rolled over,” he said.

“It’s not good enough. We’re going ‘no more’.

“As a membership-based organisation, when large multinationals start to encroach on areas that appear to be out of their jurisdiction, it is our responsibility to question said multinational on behalf of our members.”

Mr Fozard has written to the Accommodation Association of Australia about the latest demand, asking the peak representative body to seek answers from Expedia.

The association’s CEO Richard Munro told Accommnews he had not been approached by Expedia about the survey and recommended members simply continue to verify that their gas fixtures are certified by a licensed plumber to comply with state standards. 

“No other information regarding gas fittings or installation are required to be handed over to Expedia,” he said.

“The compliance of our members’ properties with respect to gas are a matter of approval by local council and certification of a licensed plumber, not an offshore travel agent.”

In the last year, more than 20 Budget Motels have de-listed from Expedia according to Mr Fozard.

“It’s because of things like this. 20 of 140 members in total is significant,” he said.

The offending Expedia communication seeks to find out which of its listed properties have individual gas water heaters.

“Properties that confirm the presence of individual gas water heaters/boilers are required to complete the online self-assessment which included a fully-weighted gas questionnaire and risk assessment,” it says.

“Any hotel that indicates a potential gas safely risk in the self-assessment are automatically followed up with a physical inspection. With this process Expedia confirms that the property is compliant with Health and Safety obligations.”

Those properties that fail to provide the information are threatened with termination of their Expedia contract – at a time when OTAs with their enormous buying power dominate the online accommodation search space.

The bookings giant has justified its request by citing an example of two children killed by carbon monoxide poisoning on the Greek Island of Corfu in 2005.

“The presence of individual gas water heaters presents a higher potential risk to customers due to the higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning,” said spokesperson Summer Jia.

“There have been multiple incidents worldwide of holidaymakers who have died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

She stressed the importance of customers’ well-being to Expedia, saying its health and safety program was “designed in the best interests of our mutual customers”

Mr Fozard questions who is expected to pay for a safety inspection and is doubtful many Expedia members will even bother to open the latest communique.

And he is concerned the bookings agency is just getting started.

“For an accommodation provider in Australia, every gas appliance must be fitted and signed off by a licensed plumber with gas certification. Why has Expedia decided to only focus on gas safety?

“This could also be said for electrical items that, in accordance with Victorian law at least, must be ‘tagged and tested’ by a licensed professional. Will Expedia be expanding their questioning to other safety items?

“As each state in Australia has their own occupational health and safety laws, each property must comply with them.  So how does Expedia plan to deal with all these different laws around Australia, and the world for that matter?”

Asked if the company was overstepping its authority, Ms Jia replied: “When a partner signs their contract with Expedia Group Lodging Partner Services, they agree to enter our health & safety programme and provide requested information, documentation and adhere to a request for an inspection”.

About Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews and Accom Management Guide. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: [email protected]

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7 comments

  1. Expedia needs to clean up its own backyard first .
    Plenty to do there.
    e.g. Start with improving review guidelines.
    They don’t vet a review or a motelier’s reply unless it criticizes Expedia.
    Our reputations don’t matter.
    We frequently have to respond to trash reviews they publish signed “anonymous” or “bedhead427”.
    I doubt they could be trusted to assess water heaters all over Australia.

  2. She stressed the importance of customers’ well-being to Expedia, saying its health and safety program was “designed in the best interests of our mutual customers”

    – What about the health and safety of the Motel Owners/Cleaners who are subjected to some of the filth and disrespectful guests that use Expedia and other online platforms to book accommodation.

    Your worried about an issue that is already covered by various laws and legislations – how about the health safety and reputation of the Property Owner.

  3. Expedia are the pits. I don’t begrudge paying OTA commissions, but 15% is just too much when they provide stuff all service to the guest or property. And then they take it upon themselves to give a ten percent discount to anyone that signs up.

  4. What I can’t get over is why the accommodation industry gives these parasites oxygen.

    I resisted as long as I could being listed. Some customer without my permission listed my business on TA so they could have a whinge and there was nothing I could do about that. But as far as the rest of them went, I stayed away. That is until I realised that the greed of my opposition businesses over ruled any common sense and they would rather lose half their profit and work twice as hard in order to have higher occupancy but did not have the brains to do the sums and work out they are actually worse off by losing that 15%.

    Pure and simple, if the accommodation industry did not list with these parasites they would not be the dictators they are now.
    YOU ARE PAYING THEM TO HIJACK YOUR CUSTOMERS!

    If instead of trying to steal each others customers, the accommodation industry ignored the OTAs they would be small fish, but no, avarice and greed prevails and that 15% you pay them combines to become $millions they pay to google to push your listing down to the 10 page so nobody sees it.

    You people are your own worst enemies.

  5. So very true Andrew, I was like you and didn’t want to sign up but reluctantly have to Expedia but not Booking.com. When Expedia first took over Wotif I rang all the other motels in town and suggested ‘Why not make this an Expedia free town?’ If nobody in the town was on Expedia then it would be a level playing field for all. Five of the six agreed so the plan failed. I dream of the day I could make that happen.

    One reason the parasitic OTA’s flourish is that there is no organized resistance, we are divided and they are conquering. The big boys cut special deals and get rebates from the OTA’s and the rest of us are alone against massive marketing power and a partially gullible travelling public.

    I would be happy to pay a levy into a national marketing campaign to counter the crap claims of Trivago, highlight their transfer pricing business model, explain the duopoly and highlight the benefits of booking direct. Dream on.

    One small effective way to push back is to point out the above to guests that have booked with OTA’s, most guests are surprised at the level of commission, have no idea about the duopoly and disapprove of the lack of tax paid in Australia.

  6. Guys, check out the article here today by Accomm News on the initiatives of Port Douglas Direct or visit the website of to understand how this community is trying to deal with the issue. Without any doubt the ATDW is at the root of the problem.

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