Technology has transformed the way guests book their hotel rooms. The hotel industry has been a leader in the evolving digital landscape. Today, hotel bookings make up 15 percent of all U.S. ecommerce, with 500 online bookings happening every minute. Throughout this transformation, the hotel industry continues to put our guests first to ensure they get what they want and need out of their reservation. Unfortunately, new research from AHLA suggests that online booking scams and fraudulent and misleading travel websites 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.

Search Smarter

Avoid Shady Deals. Look Before You Book!

Consumer Tips

  • Look before you book. Some of these booking sites will go so far as to use the hotel’s brand name in the URL. Take an extra minute to make sure you’re on the real hotel’s booking site. Always check the URL address. Although the hotel name may be part of the URL, double check the website address to ensure it’s not a third-party vendor using a hotel’s identity without permission. Make sure you know who you’re giving your information to.
  • Take advantage of loyalty programs. Sign up for loyalty programs at your favorite hotels. They’re free and offer amazing benefits – and they’re only getting better, as hotels continue to introduce new perks to their programs. Always book directly with the hotel to make sure you’re getting your points.
  • Ask the right questions. Before providing your credit card information, check the following:
    • What is the cancellation/trip change policy?
    • Is it a secure payment site? The URL should have a small lock and should start with https:// as opposed to just http://.
    • Is the site, in any way, affiliated with the hotel?
  • Book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent. This can help ensure you get what you want and need from your reservation and often provides the better value.
search smarter


AHLA Position

Transparency, consumer choice, and guest satisfaction are at the core of the hotel industry’s business model. AHLA is raising awareness among consumers, Congress, and federal agencies to make sure guests have all the necessary information prior to booking their hotel reservations. With so many ways to book a reservation, it’s important to make sure consumers understand how to slow down, search smarter and make the best decisions throughout the booking process for themselves and their families. Consumers should know what to look for before they book a hotel reservation.

Have you been scammed or deceived when you booked a hotel reservation? File a complaint here.

Key Stats

New research suggests that online hotel booking scams and fraudulent and misleading marketing practices are an ongoing and widespread problem. Consumers are being misled into making hotel reservations through fraudulent and misleading websites and call centers operated by third-party affiliates of online booking agencies – giving the false appearance of being affiliated with the hotel.

  • 23% of consumers report being misled by third-party traveler resellers on the phone or online
  • That translates into 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. Of travelers who reported being misled:

  • 46% were charged extra fees on their credit card
  • 44% requested a special room but that request was not relayed to the hotel
  • 34% had their reservation lost and had to book a new room, losing the cost of the original reservation

With 500 hotel bookings happening online every minute, it’s more important than ever that consumers pay close attention when booking reservations online.

Consumers want more transparency in the online booking process, as well as greater protection from the government.

  • 74% of Americans agree consumers should know who they are doing business with when booking hotels online
  • 72% want the government to make it a higher priority to enforce consumer protection laws against third party hotel resellers

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.

AHLA applauds the FTC’s action, which has brought renewed attention to this issue. The fact that nearly one in four consumers reports being misled by third-party travel 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 AHLA is 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.

In the meantime, AHLA encourages consumers to book directly through the hotel website or mobile app, or through a trusted travel agent. 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.


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