AN expat hotel owner has called for a boycott of online booking websites over fears their practices could push countless businesses in Spain into bankruptcy.
Belgians Daniel Beauvoir and Catherine Hunter have pledged to abandon hotel sites like Booking.com and Airbnb, after they claim the companies failed to support them as the coronavirus lockdown began.
The couple, both 64 – who have run six-bedroom La Fructuosa in Gaucin since 2017 – hope other businesses will join them in banning the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), as they are known.
“I will do everything I can for a boycott of these parasitic platforms and I hope to be followed by many other hoteliers and owners of guesthouses,” Beauvoir told the Olive Press this week.
“They blackmail you and squeeze you for money, sometimes up to 25%, then left us high and dry during the crisis.”
The final straw came when Booking.com unilaterally decided to return all ‘non-refundable’ deposits to forthcoming guests from around the world.
“Our so-called ‘partners’ made this decision without any discussion or warning, yet, we still had staff to pay and bills to meet,” he added.
“In most cases the amount in question covered the first night of the stay, which was the normal non-refundable part. Yet Booking.com sent it straight back to the guests.”
He continued: “No one looked at this from all sides of the equation – we were left to pick up the bill, which for a small business is very difficult.”
Luckily with some sites and those that booked directly he was able to offer a voucher to be used at a future date instead of cash. This has been done by many airlines as well.
“I would say 99.9% of our customers were very supportive and accepted this. They understood the pressures we were under – but not Booking.com.”
The online company has since changed its policy on enforced refunds but it has left a sour taste in Daniel’s mouth.
Daniel does not know how many hoteliers will join his boycott, but knows many are angry like him and very supportive.
“We got about 30% of our business from Booking.com and this figure may be higher for other hoteliers so they may not feel able to join a boycott, but we will wait and see.”
Karl Smallman, founder of Secret Serrania, an online portal featuring hotels and restaurants in the Serrania de Ronda area, said: “There is a lot of support for Daniel’s call for a boycott of the OTAs.
“Everyone has already lost a big chunk of their regular trade which normally takes off from Easter.
“Margins are already tight for everyone and costs must be kept to a minimum and are better spent positioning their business to a local, regional and national audience first before the international travellers return.”
Booking.com has been approached for comment.