After news broke last month that Booking.com would start charging hotels a commission "on mandatory extra fees that customers are asked to pay at the property," analysts pondered how the move might impact the hospitality world's predilection for resort fees and other fine-print charges.

Booking.com said the switch is an effort to provide "complete transparency."

"The best customer experience is when people know the entire cost up front," said Leslie Cafferty, senior vice president and head of global communications at Booking Holdings. "Hopefully this will help continue to push the entire industry toward more transparency."

Lorraine Sileo, senior vice president of research and business operations for Phocuswright, echoed Cafferty's sentiments, calling resort fees a "big bait and switch."

"There is a gap between the price that's shown on an OTA or metasearch ... and the actual price when you check out, and it can be significant," Sileo said. "It makes sense that Booking.com would look at this disparity and decide to dissuade this practice. And being that they're the largest hotel OTA globally, they can do something a little more aggressive."

Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, called resort fees "a money grab and a way to hike the rate while insulting the guest's intelligence."

Still, Harteveldt said Booking.com's motivation for the move was not altruistic.

"It's not like Booking.com is the knight in shining armor riding to the aid of their customers," he said. "What they're actually doing is profiting off their customers' dissatisfaction with these resort and facilities fees. Booking.com is going to hotels saying, 'This fee is bad, but we'd like a cut of it, please.'"

He said hotels could try to push back by threatening to reduce inventory on Booking.com. But with many properties highly dependent on the OTA channel, he said that approach "would be tough" and could end up hurting a hotel's bottom line.

Booking's Cafferty doubled down on the position that even when factoring in the extra commission, Booking.com remains economical for most hotels.

"Properties use Booking because it's a far more cost-effective platform than, say, creating TV advertising campaigns in different languages all over the world," she said. "Booking invests significantly in marketing to drive eyeballs to properties, and only if a booking is made and a property generates revenue from Booking is a small commission paid."

Meanwhile, whether or not more OTAs will follow in Booking.com's footsteps remains to be seen. According to Harteveldt, it would make sense for Expedia to take stock of the move and eventually emulate Booking.com's strategy. 

Phocuswright's Sileo, however, predicts that Expedia may take a more cautious "wait-and-see approach."

"The OTAs in general have margin pressure, especially when it comes to the larger chains that have the ability to put that pressure on them," Sileo said. "Expedia has a lot more chains versus Booking, so it's a little different for them. I wouldn't close the door on [Expedia following suit], but I don't think there's going to be an immediate copycat reaction to this." 

One player who has made similar moves to cut fees for hotel guests, however, is Airbnb. The homesharing platform, which has significantly grown its boutique hotel inventory over the past year, announced in late May that it would require all hotel and traditional hospitality hosts that join Airbnb after June 4 to adopt a new host-only fee structure. (Hotels in Japan and China are exempt from the requirement, however, and the vast majority of Airbnb hosts will continue to have access to a shared host and guest fee structure.)

Harteveldt said, "Airbnb does stand to win business with this change, and in doing so, could increase the number of reservations they drive to their hosts. More importantly, this could give Airbnb another marketing advantage to communicate to guests."

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