Marriott to offer room-rate guarantee

Hotel operator acts to counter discounts by Internet companies

November 12, 2003|By Jerry W. Jackson | Jerry W. Jackson,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Trying to beat Internet companies at their own game of discount pricing, a major hotel operator said yesterday that it is offering a room-rate guarantee.

Marriott International Inc. said the new program will ensure that consumers who book at one of its hotels, including Marriott, Fairfield Inn and other chains, can get the best rate whether the consumer found it online, at the hotel, through a travel agent or at other source.

Marriott executives said it's the most comprehensive best-rate guarantee on the market, going beyond the typical lowest Web-rate guarantees.

The Look No Further Best Rate Guarantee is to begin Jan. 1. Marriott representatives said that if a consumer books a Marriott room and within 24 hours finds a lower publicly available rate for the same room at the same hotel, the company will match the lower rate for the same dates and will knock off 25 percent. The deal applies to all chains owned by the Bethesda-based company except the Ritz-Carlton.

Travel industry specialists said Marriott's move might not slow the shift to Internet booking but could at least give Marriott customers more confidence that they are not overpaying just because they don't buy through the Internet.

"The fact that it will apply to all market channels, that's more far-reaching" than other hotel-rate guarantees, said Lori Raleigh, executive director of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, in Naples, Fla.

Other industry experts said anything that simplifies the process for consumers is helpful because of the explosion of travel sales channels. "There is a lot of confusion out there right now" in hotel pricing, said Doris Green, Florida representative for the American Society of Travel Agents.

"It's good to put us travel agents on a level field with Web sites," Green said of the Marriott pricing plan.

It's unclear whether other chains might follow Marriott's lead, but industry specialists said Marriott's business model might make it easier for the company to make such an offer. For example, Marriott has a heavily used Web site and has not had to rely as extensively on third-party Internet sites as other hotel operators have.

Marriott representatives said they think the concept will appeal to many consumers who, surveys show, search half a day to find the best room rates. "With this guarantee, you don't have to spend your time shopping around," said Marriott spokesman Matthew Carroll.

The pricing plan has limitations, and it will theoretically be possible for consumers to get a discount in a Marriott through one of the "opaque sites" such as Priceline.com or Hotwire.com, on which the identity of the hotel is not known up front, Carroll said. The guarantee applies to other Internet sites, such as Hotels.com, Travelocity and Expedia, where the hotel is known before the deal is booked. The guarantee is not applicable for corporate travel.

Marriott does not own the majority of the hotels operating under its name, and those hotels set their own rates, but the company will require them to set uniform rates across all channels, Carroll said. "We're confident we can do this," he said.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.