Labor promises change to help regional hotels

PLEDGE: Labor candidate for the senate Marielle Smith, Port Lincoln Hotel manager Catherine Arthur and Labor candidate for Grey Karin Bolton on Tuesday.
PLEDGE: Labor candidate for the senate Marielle Smith, Port Lincoln Hotel manager Catherine Arthur and Labor candidate for Grey Karin Bolton on Tuesday.

THE Port Lincoln Hotel and other regional accommodation businesses hope a campaign promise from Labor senate candidate Marielle Smith and Grey candidate Karin Bolton could level the playing field for online bookings and give them some control back.

In Australia online booking companies Expedia and Booking.com control up to 85 per cent of the market and can put in place clauses that restrict businesses from offering discounted rates on their own sites.

The price parity clauses mean local businesses can not promote lower prices on their own website than is advertised on the two accommodation sites and commission up to 30 per cent can be charged.

Port Lincoln Hotel manager and representative of Australian Hotel Association (AHA) Catherine Arthur said hotels often had to pass on the commissions charged by the online platforms to customers.

She said hotels could get creative about advertising lower rates through direct bookings, but it included codes and other methods outside of consumers' patterns.

"It creates an unfair playing field and we can't compete," she said.

"It's a complex problem that has been growing in particular over the last 12 months.

"AHA have been campaigning for change and 100 per cent back this policy."

She said although it was a large hotel it was not a big chain and still felt the effect of these clauses.

Ms Arthur said it was always best to go direct when booking accommodation even if customers had seen a better rate elsewhere as a phone call could be all it takes to match the rate.

Ms Smith said if Labor were elected they would ensure price parity clauses were banned in Australia.

"There is a big power in-balance and we want to even out the power," she said.

"It may seem like a small change, but it means a better deal for Australians."

She said a ban would mean money would stay in regional areas like Port Lincoln and Whyalla.

Some parts of Europe have already banned the clauses.