Bogus hotel-booking sites lure 15 million travelers a year, group says

About 6 percent of U.S. travelers — 15 million people — are tricked each year into thinking they are booking a room directly through a hotel website but instead are making reservations through a “rogue” third-party site.

That is one of the findings of a survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which has been warning travelers to be on the lookout for online hotel-booking scams.

“These findings clearly show that online hotel-booking scams have eroded consumer confidence among third-party vendors,” said Katherine Lugar, president and chief executive of the lodging association.

The survey of more than 1,000 adults found that 6 percent of respondents said they have made hotel reservations thinking they were booking directly with a hotel, but later discovered they had logged into a third-party site.

When travelers don’t book directly with a hotel, they may not get the room they reserved, may be charged hidden fees, may not accumulate loyalty reward points and may have their identity stolen, according to the lodging association.

Hotels benefit from direct bookings because they avoid paying commissions for reservations made through third-party websites.

The American Society of Travel Agents, which includes online agents and those who work out of brick-and-mortar offices, downplayed the danger, saying travelers who book through members of the trade group can expect professional service.

“The expertise, knowledge and wisdom of our members helps ensure consumers avoid the worries and undesirable experiences they might otherwise face,” the group said in a statement.