AITO claims hotel booking sites are misleading holidaymakers by quoting prices in sterling at better exchange rates than customers will be able to access.
These sites quote "indicative exchange rates" to give customers a ball-park figure for what they will pay for their room on arrival in the destination; these indicative exchange rates are quoted in the sterling equivalent of the local currency and seem, on the face of it, to be a useful guide, said AITO.
"However, such rates tend to err on the positive site - and the rate your credit card company is likely to charge you could be very different, and certainly not in your favour," said AITO chairman Derek Moore.
"You'll then also be faced with the credit card company's charge for converting currency - a double hit which will, typically, add 3% to 4% to your bill. This can be further aggravated by a change in the exchange rate between the time of booking and when checking out of your accommodation."
AITO said the majority of sites including giants like booking.com, expedia.com and even minnows like mrandmrssmith.com use the xe.com exchange rate when converting prices into sterling, even though they are aware customers cannot access such a favourable rate.
However, Expedia does give customers the option of paying in the UK, in sterling, at the price quoted on its site. For those who want to pay at the hotel, in local currency, it does make it clear that the price is approximate.
But AITO director Alisdair Luxmoore said consumers often didn't realise that the sterling prices quoted on such websites were only an indication of the price, and, as they must pay the hotel direct in the local currency, that they will actually end up paying more.
"Even when they realise they've been charged more than they were expecting, they often will blame their credit card, not realising they were given a misleading quote in the first place," he said.
This week, Booking.com was using an exchange rate of €1.15 to the pound; the best rate we were offered for £500 was €1.12.
Luxmoore admitted the price difference was not particularly significant, but he said that it made the hotel booking sites look more competitive than they actually were. "It's annoying because it would be so easy for them all to agree a realistic exchange rate and stick to it, but while ever one uses xe.com they all will so they don't look more expensive," he said.
Thursday, February 28, 2013