The Lake District Hotel Association (LDHA) has criticised online travel agents for declining to cut their commission rates for hotels hit by the flooding late last year.
The LDHA, which represents 42 hotels in the area, approached OTA's including Booking.com, LateRooms and Expedia to ask if they would temporarily reduce their commission rates for Lake District hotels struggling to recover from the impact of the floods. However the online travel agencies declined to do so.
The floods have had a major effect on the tourism trade in the area, which makes up 25% of Cumbria's economy. Recent research by Cumbria Tourism revealed over 90% of businesses offering accommodation had reported that the floods had had a detrimental effect on their trade, with over 60% reporting cancellations as a result of the floods.
Tim Rumney, LDHA board member and MD of Best Western Castle Green Hotel in Kendal (pictured), said the association was disappointed with the OTA's response. "We were hoping for more. It's not as if they are unaware of the impact on the area. Booking.com figures show that digital traffic for the area has gone down by 25% since the flooding."
Rumney added: "A lot of hotels have been hit hard and do need help with their cashflow as the floods have had a big impact on their sales. In order to maintain occupancy a lot of hotels have significantly reduced their rates but commission rates are still high. They range between 18% and 25% so it's a big chunk. LDHA members were only asking for a reduction while they get their businesses back on their feet but unfortunately the online travel agencies are not willing to do that."
Pointing to Castle Green Hotel as an example of the flood's impact, Rumney said: "We were lucky as our position meant the floods didn't reach us but the knock on effect is clear. Until the floods, we were trading 4% up on total sales compared to the previous year. Now looking four months ahead we are 6% down on forward bookings compared with last year. Our business is robust enough to take that as we have a mix of sectors but right now there are many hotels facing serious cashflow problems that really do need help."
In a statement Expedia said: "Compensation discussions are between the Expedia group and its hotel partners and not for public disclosure. We are working closely with our hotel partners in the area on special merchandising campaigns and promotions to increase demand to flood-hit areas."
LateRooms.com, said: "We have no record of any contact being made by the Lake District Hotels Association in relation to this matter whatsoever. With regards to our hotel partners, we pride ourselves on our relationships and aim to provide them with the best possible service and support. Commercial terms and rates are something which we review with our partners directly, on a case by case basis, and any conversations relating to this are of course private and not something which we would discuss publicly."
Booking.com has yet to respond to The Caterer's request for comment.
• The LDHA has called on the Government and local authorities to help improve the public's perception of the Lake District following the floods. Rumney said: "They need to refine their messaging. We know it's necessary to have signs on the motorway saying various roads and bridges are closed but we also need a clear message that the area is no longer under water and very much open for business."
The association also wants to see a more joined up provision of services between agencies for flood hit businesses, pointing out that some local authorities had reduced business rates for those businesses affected while others had not.