Marriott International has pulled one of the YouTube videos
associated with its campaign urging direct bookings by offering perks,
something an ASTA representative said came after talks with the society.
“We had a nice conversation with them,” Jennifer Michels,
vice president of communications with ASTA, said at the ASTA Global Convention
on Monday. “They listened to our concerns. They have already pulled one of the
offensive ads that our members were really hot under the collar about.”
In early August, Marriott International announced a digital
campaign styled #itpaystobookdirect. It touted free WiFi and other perks for
Marriott Rewards members who booked on the company’s website. The ads starred Internet
personality and comedian Grace Helbig.
The campaign included three videos appearing online as
digital display ads: “The Proposal,” “The Interview” and “Scenic Route.” “Scenic
Route” is the video that has been pulled. According to an earlier release from
Marriott, it featured Helbig helping a lost couple find their destination
despite a gas station attendant insisting they take a scenic route. As of
Monday afternoon, the other two videos were still available online.
confirmed the video was removed after meeting with ASTA.
King, Marriott's global officer of sales and brand management, said Marriott
was made aware there were some in the travel community that interpreted the gas
station attendant in the video as a travel agent.
"It was never intended to offend anyone,"
King said, adding that Marriott removed the video once those concerns had been
In a written statement, ASTA CEO Zane Kerby previously
called the campaign “disparaging to travel agents” and “misleading to the
Conversely, Marriott said in a previous statement that the
campaign “is simply another common practice effort to create awareness of our
existing site to inform customers who choose to make their own reservations.”
“This is a broader issue that, every time we see ‘book
direct’ — meaning ‘don’t use a travel agent’ — we remind these companies that,
you know, we’re good partners of theirs,” ASTA’s Michels said.
Marriott did not immediately respond to a request for
According to Michels, Kerby was expected to further discuss
the issue during a speech on Tuesday, Sept. 1, the final day of the convention.