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.

Marriott confirmed the video was removed after meeting with ASTA. 

Brian 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 realized.

In a written statement, ASTA CEO Zane Kerby previously called the campaign “disparaging to travel agents” and “misleading to the traveling public.”

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 comment.

According to Michels, Kerby was expected to further discuss the issue during a speech on Tuesday, Sept. 1, the final day of the convention.


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