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Washington, D.C. – May 3, 2018As Americans begin gearing up for the busy summer travel season, new research from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) suggests that online booking scams and fraudulent and misleading travel websites and companies continue to mislead and confuse consumers. That’s why AHLA is encouraging consumers to Avoid Shady Deals and Have a Sunny Stay by searching smarter for their hotel stays through the launch of their summer “Search Smarter” education and awareness campaign.

In a new survey commissioned by AHLA, in partnership with Morning Consult, 23 percent of consumers report being misled by third-party traveler resellers on the phone or online – translating to 28.5 million hotel stays and $5.2 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions in 2017.

These third-party travel resellers use a variety of marketing tactics to mimic hotel websites and call centers but are not, in fact, affiliated with the hotel. These fraudulent and misleading transactions can cost consumers time and money, resulting in lost reservations and additional fees.

With 39 percent of travelers reporting that they most often book their hotel rooms through a third-party website, AHLA urges consumers to be cautious when booking travel.

“It’s easy and convenient to make travel arrangements online. Unfortunately, as online bookings have surged, so too have scams and deceptive behaviors,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AHLA. “That’s why we encourage consumers to look before you book, slow down, and search smarter. Taking a few extra seconds to book directly with a hotel or a trusted travel agent can save time and money in the long run, and lead to a better travel experience overall.”

Among the 23 percent of consumers who say they have been misled by third-party traveler resellers, 46 percent say they were charged extra fees on their credit card; 34 percent had their reservation lost and had to book another room, losing the cost of their original reservation; and 44 percent made a special room request that was not relayed to the hotel.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission settled a federal lawsuit with Reservation Counter, LLC, a third-party hotel booking reseller accused of using call centers and websites to mislead consumers into believing they were booking, and speaking, directly with a hotel. Reservation Counter also did not disclose that a traveler’s credit card would be charged immediately instead of upon check-in. The settlement resulted in Reservation Counter no longer being able to mislead consumers through these types of practices. Seven in ten (70%) survey respondents support the FTC’s enforcement action against Reservation Counter. Seventy-two percent (72%) believe the government should make it a higher priority to enforce consumer protection laws against third-party hotel resellers.

“We applaud the Federal Trade Commission for issuing an enforcement action against Reservation Counter,” said Lugar. “Unfortunately, the fact that nearly one in four consumers report being misled by third-party resellers—and the constant flow of new companies entering the online travel market—suggests we need to do more to protect consumers. That’s why we are asking Congress to pass the Stop Online Booking Scams Act, a bill that would protect consumers by increasing the transparency and security of the online booking process.”

To reach consumers booking their travel online, AHLA will be launching an online campaign featuring educational materials and video, which can all be viewed here. AHLA will also be hosting an educational day on Capitol Hill where staff will learn about misleading marketing tactics and fraudulent third-party travel resellers and the benefits of booking direct.

When booking travel online, AHLA encourages consumers to book directly through the hotel website or mobile app. In addition to helping consumers avoid scams, direct booking often results in the best deal and more travel perks and benefits. AHLA is a national partner of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which offers a tips page to educate consumers on how to avoid costly and painful scams when booking hotels online. The tips page on the BBB website is https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/tips/14155-bbb-tip-booking-a-hotel-room.

For more on AHLA’s Search Smarter program, visit https://www.ahla.com/searchsmarter.

 
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Bethesda MD –The dynamic design strategy guiding Renaissance Hotels has hit its stride. The brand revealed today significant momentum in its growing global portfolio and investment by its property owners in marquee renovations around the world. This year nearly half of the brands hotels in North America are scheduled to complete dramatic transformations, from Nashville to Newport Beach, with the brand also slated to debut in 16 new neighborhoods globally in the next 12 months, including Chelsea, Philadelphia, Warsaw, Taipei and Hangzhou.

“We have been on a journey to evolve our hotels’ design to reflect what the Renaissance brand offers today: a sense of clever theatricality and an open invitation to experience something a little unexpected during our guests’ travels,” said George Fleck, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing & Management, Renaissance Hotels. 

“The brand’s design momentum coupled with our engaging Navigators and entertaining Evening Bar Rituals are sure to inspire stories worth sharing among travelers and locals alike.”

 
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Vancouver, BC - April 30, 2018 Fairmont Pacific Rim has been awarded with the coveted CAA/AAA Five Diamond Rating 2018, the highest level of recognition by CAA/AAA. This marks the first year that the hotel has received its fifth diamond, and is the only city-centre Fairmont hotel in North America to hold this esteemed honour.

CAA/AAA ranks more than 27,000 hotels worldwide and fewer than half of one percent are awarded this level of achievement. Among the elite group of hotels and resorts, only five are located in Canada. The Five Diamond is awarded to hotels and resorts that exude a level of ultimate luxury, demonstrating sophisticated comfort with extraordinary attributes, personalized service and an impeccable standard of excellence.

"We are honoured to be recognized among the top hotels globally," comments Jens Moesker, General Manager, Fairmont Pacific Rim and Regional Vice President, Pacific Northwest. "This award reflects the superior services and amenities the hotel offers guests, and is a true testament to our colleagues continued commitment to service excellence."

Fairmont Pacific Rim was recognized for its innovative architecture, design, and artistic elements, as well as notable service offerings including the exclusive Fairmont Gold experience, luxurious accommodations, award-winning restaurants including The Lobby Lounge and RawBar, the newest addition of Botanist, and Willow Stream Spa.

"It's exciting to have one of Canada's top hotels located in B.C. and BCAA congratulates Fairmont Pacific Rim for achieving the prestigious CAA/AAA Five Diamond Rating," says Shom Sen, BCAA President and CEO. "Five Diamond properties feature extraordinary physical attributes, but what impresses our organization the most is the focus on providing an outstanding guest experience each and every time which is what makes Fairmont Pacific Rim exceptional."

For more than 80 years, CAA/AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct anonymous, in-person property evaluations. To be recognized with the highly-coveted CAA/AAA Four or Five Diamond designation, recipients must undergo a rigorous evaluation process during an unannounced, on-site inspection. CAA/AAA's rating system covers the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

 
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(April 30th, 2018) Ottawa- Today on tax deadline day, the Hotel Association of Canada is calling on the federal government to take real action to address tax avoidance in the digital space. Despite the rapid growth of out of country digital platforms like Airbnb, the government has not taken steps to collect the taxes they should.

“As Canadians across the country file their returns on tax day, it is important that we look at who isn’t paying taxes,” said Susie Grynol, President of the Hotel Association of Canada. “Online rental platforms operating in Canada, like Airbnb, do not currently collect or remit GST/HST, pay no corporate income taxes on their Canadian activity, and make it far too easy for those renting rooms on their platforms to do the same.”

Online rental platforms have an unfair advantage over other accommodation businesses, like hotels, who pay their taxes and play by the rules. And the real loss is felt by Canadians who end up paying more in taxes to cover the cost of Canada’s social programs.

“It is not acceptable that the federal government has not taken any meaningful action to modernize Canada’s tax laws to deal with the digital economy,” continued Grynol. “Further, it is equally unacceptable that Airbnb has not taken a more responsible approach to ensure tax compliance for their commercial hosts.”

Over the last two years, the commercial side of Airbnb’s business – those renting multi-unit entire homes – grew by 108%. These entire home rentals generated 83% of Airbnb’s revenues. Clearly these hosts are running a business through Airbnb, yet the federal government doesn’t require, nor does Airbnb provide, any tax information slips so that revenues can be tracked and tax calculated.

In the United States, there is a federal requirement to complete a 1099-K form in order to support tax compliance. In the European Union, Value-added taxes are applied and collected at the platform level on the total fee for the booking. These measures should be adopted in Canada in order to close current loopholes.

In 2016, guests of Canada’s legitimate hotel properties contributed an estimated $2.2 billion in consumer taxes and fees based on room revenues alone. If the same rates were to be applied to Airbnb’s revenues, the sector has the potential to contribute almost $100 million to the Canadian economy.

Governments have a responsibility to keep up with the emergence of the digital economy. “Other jurisdictions around the world have modernized their tax laws and Canada should follow suit,” concluded Grynol. “It’s unacceptable that the federal government allows online platforms to avoid tax, while good corporate citizens continue to support jobs, drive economic growth and fund governments.”

 

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