News In Brief

Former policeman won’t cop OTA bullying

Brad Atkins is a straight-talking former policeman and publican who won’t cop bullying from Online Travel Agents. 

He says that no-one pushes him around, and certainly not someone ringing his property from overseas to make threats on behalf of an OTA.

Mr Atkins is calling for Australian property owners to unite with him in a fightback against overseas invaders.

He has a heavenly aspect from his property The Dunes, at Cotton Tree on the Sunshine Coast, and he says he’s not about to let any OTA put him through hell.

Mr Atkins is calling for support to back a campaign in which accommodation owners from around Australia kick-in to a fighting fund for a massive advertising campaign urging guests to book directly with hotels and resorts rather than send money to overseas OTAs.

A story last month in AccomNews highlighting threats made by Booking.com to Tim Stocks, who runs the Coorrabin Motor Inn at Stawell, Victoria, had Mr Atkins seeing red.

He told AccomNews of his own battle with what he calls “the morons” at an OTA, which forced him to end dealings with the website.

“I talk frank as I see it,” Mr Atkins told AccomNews. 

We had a booking coming in recently even though we were already fully booked.

“Out of courtesy I rang the ‘alleged’ guest and told him we were full and that we had been for weeks.

 “He explained his booking process through [the OTA]. I said I couldn’t help because we were fully booked and we did not have a room for him. I told him (the OTA) had taken his booking without checking with us.

“He then rang (the OTA) and I then got a call from them on a private number.

“I said ‘call back with a number showing and I’ll discuss it with you’.

“They then called back from a number in Arizona – of all places – and threatened me that if  I didn’t find alternate accommodation for the guest they would bill me.

“They became quite aggressive and I told them to shove it. I have now removed them from offering my venue.

The OTAs try to bully the little guys and a lot of people in management rights get bluffed by them.

“But I believe if we all take a stand against the OTAs and remove the bullies this will not happen.”

Mr Atkins says Australian accommodation providers must meet the OTA’s threats with force of their own.

“The effort must be one in all in,” he said. “We can all dump them if we stay strong.

“I am prepared to take up the fight, but I will need the support of other managers as well.

“It is about time we give it back instead of receiving threats.

“I hope everyone in the business remembers that we own the venues and not the OTAs.

“We are the people who should make the rules and we should decide who stays at our properties and at what rate.

“We do not work for the OTAs – they are supposed to be working for us. Instead, they are trying to stand over us and we shouldn’t cop it.”

Grantlee Kieza

Grantlee Kieza OAM has won three Queensland Media Awards, two Australian Sports Commission Awards and has been a finalist for the Walkley and News Awards and for the Harry Gordon Award for Australian sports journalist of the year. In 2019 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his writing. You can find more of his writing in our upcoming Accom News print magazine!

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11 Comments

  1. Not sure if it is just because there is only domestic travel but am sensing a sway away from OTA’s from our bookers. The OTA’s have been bullies for years and were even worse during the pandemic, more than happy to support any campaign.

  2. We have always encouraged our guests to book with us directly, but since the pandemic, we have found that people are so brainwashed into booking everything over the internet, that our OTA bookings, as a percentage, have increased dramatically. We are over being told what we can & can’t do by these OTA’s. Yes it is our property and we should have the right to decide who stays and at what rate. One OTA is offering to advertise the property higher on the viewing list, if we pay a higher commission. I would strongly support any campaign.

  3. We were discussing this very matter at an ARAMA meeting just recently and one operator suggested a marketing levy of $1 per apartment contribution to mount a campaign as you have suggested. It’s an excellent idea, and as mentioned there’s strength in numbers. Count us in – Lanai Riverside Apartments, Mackay.

  4. On behalf of the Bendigo Motel Association (27 members) we would welcome a campaign. Most of our guests are shocked and then disappointed they have sent Australian dollars overseas. Australian business also need to stop using these platforms. Would they discount 15% – 20% to every customer, every day? Lets shout this message from the roof tops

  5. Yep, Count us in as well. Sick of Expedia, Booking.com, bloody Airbnb. They put their combined hands out, we the Moteliers cant even contact them. We have decided NOT TO RUN SPECIALS, our price is exactly the same as these sites. We also advise our guests to use the sites, find a place, then ring direct , usually get a little extra something thrown in. Keep us in the loop.

  6. I am reading this from New Zealand.
    We have to mount a combined campaign that represents both Australia & New Zealand.
    The Bulling tactic from the OTA’s I think is running its natural course to the end.
    We pay the OTA to work with us to promote the sales of our properties not under cut us using our commissions to do so then bully us and indiscriminately charge us for there website inability to keep pace with the accommodation providers availability.
    I would support a fund to lobby governments in both country’s to remove the OTA ability to trade in such a destructive manner.
    I am getting general feeling from the booking public they are sick of dealing with the OTA.
    We must as accommodation providers make sure we have websites that have the ability for the public to book with ease.
    We also need to develop an availably website for guests to find and book local accommodation providers.
    Keen to hear from New Zealand and Australian providers.
    We need to work together collectively to have a united front.

  7. Many people contact us to see if we will match a price they have found on a 3rd party website – and then we realise that 3rd party have discounted (sometimes by almost their full comission rate) our product. We will always match it but it is almost enforced discounting by the OTA, and time consuming as we have to try and find the price the client has found on a 3rd party website.
    And then there’s the issue of not being able to communicate with some clients who have booked through an OTA – some clients believe they have booked through booking.com but we receive the booking through Agoda with no contact details so we can’t even send them directions as they don’t receive messages sent back to them via Agoda’s platform.
    Now is probably the time to seize the enthusiasm of consumers to keep Australian dollars in Australia and we would support a campaign to book direct.

  8. Have to fully agree with Brad. re the OTA’s. They don’t care about you or your property only their bottom line.
    Sadly they are all as bad as one another and insist or deduct replacement costs from our future payments whether our error or theirs.
    Expedia under no circumstances will ever admit an error or fault on their part. Clearly they are carefully groomed in this.
    Air BnB only this weekend gave us the “pay for relocation costs” when one of THEIR guests rang from one of our city stand alone properties to advise that they had a reservation and wanted access.
    My receptionist advised that as we had not received any notification from Air BnB at this stage we could not provide property access at this time.
    In due course we were threatened by Air BnB for not providing the non booked accommodation and they would be re located at our cost. Seriously the person on the other end of the phone could have been a bogus person trying to gain property access. However its all our fault although Air BnB used the excuse that as the guest booked late there was not enough time to advise us of the reservation. Needless to say AirBnB and I are far from being on good terms after I advised them in no uncertain terms of their position and that they were NOT the accommodation provider/owner and how dare they literally try and “fine” us.
    These bully tactics are well known by the ACCC who are constantly looking into these bully boy underhand tactics and would welcome your complaint. I urge every accommodation provider having a problem with an OTA to contact the ACCC as they will follow up on “collective” and repetitive” complaints.
    Yes, we all need to take a collective stand against these unscrupulous OTA’s and work on all customers to book direct.
    I also like many are over the unauthorised discounted rates they provide and expect us to honour.
    Time to do a Dick Smith (Facebook comment on OTA’s from Dick) and make all customers aware of OTA’s and that they are best to always book direct.
    Hopefully we can then all work on reducing our dependence on the OTA’s and maybe eliminate them all together for our properties.

  9. I cannot understand why our Tourism bodies are not promoting Book Local! With all the money they are spending on promoting our States, surely they should be including book local in their campaigns.
    The OTA”s don’t dictate their terms with overseas operators as the governments won’t allow this.
    We must stand together and stop them!
    You don’t see airlines being discounted by travel agents, why are we any different.

    1. Brad you are so right and Rick definitely agree with you on this particular point – book direct not get into bed with Expedia and others then they expect us to discount our rates for “their special promotion” May it would have been better to say we are linking with Expedia and they have discounted their commission with this promotion – wishful thinking as it will never happen! Definitely Book direct and Save will work for us!

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