ASTA criticizes flattering 'Today' report on Costco Travel

|
NBC news correspondent Gadi Schwartz called Costco Travel "a big travel secret that could save you and your family hundreds of dollars on your next vacation."
NBC news correspondent Gadi Schwartz called Costco Travel "a big travel secret that could save you and your family hundreds of dollars on your next vacation."

ASTA is irked about a segment on NBC's "Today" show that highlighted Costco's reputation for saving vacationers money.

The trade group called Thursday's report a "likely pay-for-play segment" and complained that a travel advisor's value was not a part of the story. 

In the segment, NBC news correspondent Gadi Schwartz called Costco Travel "a big travel secret that could save you and your family hundreds of dollars on your next vacation."

Schwartz booked two hotel stays in the segment, one at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and the other at the Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas. 

On CostcoTravel.com, he booked a two-night stay at the Fairmont, showing that he would have paid an additional $157.80 on Fairmont's website. 

Then, Schwartz booked a three-night stay at the Omni Cancun. This time, he compared Costco with three OTAs. Schwartz found Costco's price of $610.98 cheaper than Expedia ($1,033), Orbitz ($1,033) and Booking.com ($1,377).

"We reached out to those popular websites to find out why their prices were higher," Schwartz said on the segment. "They told us it's the hotels that determine pricing and that several factors contributed to those prices, including time of year you'll be traveling and availability, and some of those sites also offered to match a lower price. So, bottom line, shop around."

ASTA said it reached out to "Today" to talk about the value travel advisors bring and encourage them to work with ASTA members on future travel segments.

ASTA argued that travel advisors deliver "high value" to clients, and that finding the best price is not the same as finding the best value. ASTA also said advisors are available to help clients if anything goes wrong during their travels.

"You cannot buy that sort of peace of mind in bulk at Costco," ASTA said.

Presumably because of the praising tone toward Costco in the segment, ASTA suggested it was undisclosed paid advertising, which would be a violation of Federal Trade Commission regulations.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI