Imagine you’ve been planning for a show for months on end, and the week has finally come when you get to witness everything in action. You arrive at your hotel to check-in before the opening session, and they can’t find your reservation in their system. It turns out, that unbeknownst to you, your reservation was made through a fraudulent third-party booking site, and there’s nothing the hotel can do to help. You’re out money, all rooms at nearby hotels are booked and the show starts in three hours.
Upwards of 15 million fraudulent bookings are caused by these scams each year, resulting in more than $1.3 billion in lost revenue for hotels and money from consumers. The trade show industry relies heavily on local travel and hospitality providers during shows, which helps fund full- and part-time employment positions in host cities, including room monitors, registration attendants, security and housekeeping. The lost reservations, unexpected charges and fees, incorrect accommodations, and lost loyalty benefits resulting from these scams are threatening the vitality of the industry and the jobs that support it.
These costly schemes are orchestrated by third-party booking sites that illegally use copyrighted images, trademarked logos and similar URLs to mirror the look and feel of actual hotel websites to trick people into disclosing their personal information. Currently, no legislation exists to protect customers and hotels from this criminal activity. However, Exhibitions Mean Business and its fellow industry associations, are trying to educate Congressional leaders of this issue and encourage the passing of two bills that could turn the tables: H.R. 2495 and S. 1164.
Both the House and Senate have introduced the Stop Online Booking Scams Act, which would prohibit websites from pretending to be the hotel and allow state attorneys general to pursue restitution and refunds on behalf of the victims. Both bills were referred to subcommittees last year and are pending further action.
A recent notable win in this battle came out of a Georgia courtroom. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ordered a travel agency to pay nearly $750,000 to the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association after the agency was found guilty of attempting to pirate both room block and non-room block hotels via unsolicited emails to association members.
EMB celebrates this step but also recognizes there is much work left to do to protect itself and consumers. Online Booking Scams were a hot conversation topic of 2017 Exhibitions Day and will also be front and center during the 2018 event. Our voice on The Hill can only grow with your support, so please consider joining us and representing your organization at this year’s event. For more information on Booking Scams or to learn about other issues we take to The Hill, visit the Exhibitions Day webpage.
Register now for Exhibitions Day 2018 taking place June 5-6 in D.C. to advocate for the events and exhibitions industry!