1 in 4 consumers misled by online travel agencies = 

$5.7 BILLION in online booking scams!



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 Morning Consult and Kalibri Labs suggests that online booking scams and fraudulent and misleading travel websites continue to mislead and confuse consumers. In fact, in 2019, 23 percent of consumers report being misled in some way by third-party booking sites, translating to more than $5.7 billion in online booking scams. That’s why we're encouraging consumers to Book Smart and Book Direct for their hotel stays.

Have you ever been scammed or deceived when you booked a hotel reservation?






  • Look before you book. Some 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. These misleading sites frequently pop up at or near the top of search rankings. Make sure you know who you’re giving your information to.

  • Be aware of false advertising. Online travel agencies use false advertising tactics to pressure people into purchasing a room. These include offering false discounts (“Special Rate!”) and creating a false sense of urgency (“Only 3 Rooms Left!” “211 Other People Are Looking At This Room!”). These are misleading claims. It’s important to note that most hotels will offer a best price guarantee when you book directly.

  • 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.

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.


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.

  • 94% of Americans agree consumers should know who they are doing business with when booking hotels online

  • 77% want the government to make it a higher priority to enforce consumer protection laws against third-party hotel resellers


That’s why we are 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, we encourage 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.

Check out 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.

Produced by the American Hotel & Lodging Association