ASTA said that a Marriott International advertising campaign
that encourages customers to book on Marriott.com is misleading and should be
“Marriott's new marketing campaign, which tells consumers
that they can only find the best rates on Marriott.com, is not only disparaging
to travel agents, but also misleading to the traveling public,” ASTA CEO Zane
Kerby said in a statement. “It is incomprehensible that Marriott would position
itself as just another price-driven brand while intentionally disparaging the
same professional travel agents that Marriott selects to help market its
Marriott this month launched a campaign featuring comedian
and YouTube personality Grace Helbig. The marketing effort promotes Marriott’s
website as having the best rates and includes the tagline, “It pays to book
Marriott has posted three one-minute spots on its YouTube channel.
In a statement, Marriott responded, “We highly value our
relationship with travel agents and recognize the service they offer to
customers. 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.”
ASTA also took issue with Marriott last November, after the company
announced a policy offering free WiFi only to customers who booked full-service
hotels through Marriott-owned channels. Kerby at the time said the policy discriminates
against travel agency customers.
This report was updated on Thursday afternoon to add Marriott's response to ASTA's complaint.