Make room for this advice on hotel advertising.
Whether it’s a quick overnight trip for work, a weekend break with a loved one or a family holiday, hotels provide a much needed – and usually much enjoyed – service for consumers. Here’s the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) advice on some of the rules in the CAP Code that have particular relevance to the marketing of hotels and other types of holiday accommodation.
When stating prices for rooms/accommodation, they must include all non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. If ‘extras’ like Wi-Fi and breakfast are subject to additional charges, it should be clear that they are not included in the stated room price. Similarly, marketers should state clearly whether any other taxes (or charges) levied abroad but not paid at the point of purchase, will be payable. This means that the full amount consumers will pay for their stay should be clear to them upfront – there shouldn’t be any surprises later in the booking process.
It should also be clear when a consumer will be expected to pay. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled against TUI Travel Plc because a “Pay at hotel” claim did not make sufficiently clear that this option did not apply to non-refundable bookings.
When it comes to savings claims or discounts, marketers must hold evidence to demonstrate that they are genuine. If using a reference price, such as a ‘was’, or “worth” price, they must be able to demonstrate that the saving advertised is meaningful, by having evidence to show that it is the price that the consumer would have genuinely had to pay before the saving was made. Recency, pricing history, sales data, sales and distribution channels will all affect whether a higher price is sufficiently established as a usual selling price. The ASA upheld against Purpleholidays.com because they did not provide evidence to demonstrate that the full price or the promotional prices were achievable and could not demonstrate that the saving claim was accurate.
In addition to the relevant rules on pricing and comparisons in Section 3, the ASA will take the CTSI Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices into account when considering complaints about hotel prices and savings claims.
Where marketers use dynamic pricing it is still their responsibility to ensure that price statements are accurate and to hold evidence to demonstrate that a pre-discount price was genuine.
It’s important to be clear about the availability of particular rooms/dates etc. but you should not misleadingly claim or imply that rooms are about to be booked or are very limited in availability if that’s not strictly the case.
On the flip side, always ensure that you avoid exaggerating the likely availability of prices or discounts. When it comes to “from” prices or “up to” savings claims, you should be able to demonstrate that a significant proportion of rooms are made available at the starting price or with the maximum saving. This availability should be spread evenly across the advertised travel period, and you should make clear the specific travel period to which an offer relates.
For more see Travel: Availability.
If you’re making a comparison with competitors that can be identified in an ad, either because you’ve stated who they are or they are identifiable by implication, ensure you compare the most similar products or services or clearly state the differences between them, so that the basis of the comparison is made clear. The details of the comparison must also be verifiable by consumers, at least by means of a signpost in the ad itself to the full information (for more, see advice on verifiability).
When making a comparison with an unidentifiable competitor, ensure that the elements of the comparison aren’t selected to give an unrepresentative advantage and hold robust comparative data internally to prove your claims.
For more, see Travel marketing: Comparisons.
Lowest price claims & “Best rates guaranteed”
For a “lowest price” or “cheapest” claim to be acceptable you should have an appropriate price monitoring and adjustment policy in place to ensure that you will always provide the lowest price, compared to your competitors. A promise to reimburse consumers the difference in price, if they find a room cheaper elsewhere, does not justify an absolute “lowest price” claim, rather it is a “price promise” or “price guarantee”, the conditions of which should be made clear in the ad. See guidance on lowest price claims and promises.
If it’s clear that you’re offering a price guarantee, ensure you prominently include all significant restrictions. In a BDL Select Hotels ruling the claim “BEST RATES GUARANTEED” was misleading because the advertiser excluded third-party website prices. Moreover, in the InterContinental Hotels Group ruling, the complainant was told their claim for the best price guarantee didn’t qualify because the competitor’s website was registered in the USA. The ASA concluded that this was a significant condition which should have been stated prominently. See our guidance on guarantees and warranties.
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