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
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
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
"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.