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ITM has expressed its “disappointment” with Marriott over an offer that allows its Rewards members to gain access to free wifi, but only if they book direct through the hotel group’s channels.
Professional travel buyer association ITM has described the decision as an “anti-corporate initiative” and said it encourages travellers to book out of policy.
In a letter seen by BBT that has been sent to Marriott, ITM said it “fully supports” hoteliers who recognise and reward their most valuable guests but object to hoteliers who “influence our buyer members’ corporate travellers to book outside of the approved channels”.
It added: “We do not believe that a corporate traveller, a Marriott Rewards member, should be excluded from benefitting from free Internet access simply because of the distribution channel that their organisation has mandated them to use”.
ITM has urged Marriott to reconsider its position and recognise traveller loyalty instead of “seeking to use them as an opportunity by stealth, to reduce overall distribution costs while undermining negotiated corporate hotel deals”.
The wifi offer that starts in January 2015 is open to all 47 million members of its loyalty programme in more than 3,800 hotels worldwide.
A Marriott spokesperson told BBT that booking through the channels is the only way to get access to the free wifi.
“We understand the [buyers’] concerns, but direct booking is Marriott’s best opportunity to build a strong relationship with guests, prepare for their arrival and best understand their needs.
“Free wifi is one of many benefits that come to Marriott Rewards members who book direct,” the spokesperson added.
ITM’s industry affairs chairman Mark Cuschieri said this decision could end up hurting the relationships Marriott has built up with corporate buyers.
“I think this decision to only offer free wifi to those members that book direct runs deeper than an oversight by Marriott,” said Cuschieri. “What the buyer community wants is parity when it comes to these types of offers.
“We would be naive not to think that this trend could grow and more suppliers will target business travellers direct and encourage them to book outside of the approved channels.”
He added: “I think it could damage the relationship between corporate buyers and the brand. We would have hoped that Marriott would have engaged with the buyer community collectively.”