How did we manage to allow the promotion of hotel deals to become so confusing, asks Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock
The ability to communicate clearly matters in almost every line of business. Business contracts obviously need to be water tight so the involved parties are properly committed to them and the terms imposed by banks on their customers can't be vague or the whole system would fall apart.
So how did we manage to allow the promotion of hotel deals to become so confusing? Discount-driven web sites compete for their position by claiming to offer impossibly low rates, headlining with statements such as "save up to 80%" and "cheapest rates" which may in truth apply to very few of the hotels they represent. Unscrupulous companies inflate their standard rates artificially in order to slash them dramatically, a high percentage discount being more compelling to naïve customers than the actual price.
Having served time in the publishing world, I admit to having become a pedant. It is impossible for me to look at a piece of advertising copy or a letter to a client without noticing errors in spelling and grammar (should any creep into this article please blame the editor). These feature on a grand scale in hotel marketing with misplaced apostrophes, wrongly calculated savings and the overuse of exclamation marks which turn a friendly invitation into an order shouted by the sergeant-major ("Book today!"). A Scottish property states on its home page that "this country house hotel excludes the kind of warmth only normally found in private residences". One must assume the heating needs fixing.
Matters are compounded by the often misleading "3 for 2" which is typically a three-night dinner, bed and breakfast package for the price of two nights but which only includes dinner on two. Prices are quoted in some places per person and elsewhere per room. Some quote rates including cooked breakfast, some continental and others room only. Rates in the world's capital cities tend to exclude tax while those in the country are inclusive of tax.
Of course, a decent online booking system should make all things transparent but it is the promotional messages that entice customers in the first instance we should be concerned about. If a customer sees "lowest rates guaranteed" by a third party he or she might wonder why the hotel can't match those rates for people who book direct.
Apart from which, it's sad that so many hotels, owned and run by hard-working professionals who try to give their customers a good experience, are being hawked in the marketplace as "cheap".