An anonymous reader shares a WSJ report: More than 100 million Americans are expected to travel during the holidays, and many will search for lodging online. But travelers may unknowingly pay more and fail to see all of their options because some major hotels have ganged up with Google to undercut competition (The link may be paywalled). Online travel agencies like Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity have replaced brick-and-mortar agents by offering consumers more choice and convenience at a lower price. These OTAs purchase inventory from wholesalers and then market rooms at a discount to consumers in addition to flights, rental cars and travel packages. Many also have agreements with companies like American Express, Costco and Delta to market their inventory. OTA websites let travelers sift through hotel offers based on price, brand, location, amenities and guest rating, among other search filters. OTAs earn a roughly 20 percent commission from hotels for each reservation they book, which covers their cost of marketing, inventory acquisition, customer support and payment processing. As hotels get squeezed by Airbnb and home rental sites, they have begun complaining that OTAs are eating into their profits. Several major hotels are now trying to use Google as a counterweight, while Google is exploiting its search dominance to steer consumers to its travel service. Some 60% of travelers begin trip-planning on Google.
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