German hotels step up boycotts against online travel agency HRS

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

A third call for boycott and second boycott hit the German online travel agency Hotel Reservation Service (HRS) this week. After a recent boycott against HRS in Münsterland, a boycott in Bremerhaven was next and is soon to be followed by the next round in Bremerhaven starting in the middle of March.

Hotels in the city of Bremerhaven already have to pay a new "bed tax" to the state of Bremen of 2.14 euro per person per night, whilst HRS is trying to increase their commission payments for its service from thirteen to fifteen percent. Further criticism of HRS focused on a preferential treatment clause that denied hotels the right to offer better prices through any other booking channel. The European umbrella organization of the catering facilities HOTREC had already criticized this type of clause and similar contract clauses in May 2011 in a position paper.

Piet Rothe, hotel owner and second chairman of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) Bremerhaven, explained that in his hotels the boycott hat not decreased bookings, merely shifted their volume to other channels such as, for instance, booking.com, who would only ask for twelve percent commission.

Rüdiger Magowsky, manager of the boarding house in Jaich, confirmed the observation that the volume of bookings had not decreased. Martin Seiffert, manager of the hotel Haverkamp, explained HRS had denied his hotel access to the system because he participated in the boycott. The access has been restored but he is considering participation in the next round of the boycott anyway.

On February 15 the higher regional court of Düsseldorf had ordered HRS in a preliminary injunction not to enforce its preferential treatment clause. Already on February 10 the German Federal Cartel Office had admonished the company for violating §§ 1 and 20 of the German Act against Restraints of Competition.

Meanwhile Markus Luthe, the CEO of the German International Hotel Association (IHA), recommended establishing a "Hotelwiki" as a yellow pages directory of the hotel industry.


Sources

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