News Source: hotelnewsresource.com
One Year on from COVID, Italian Hoteliers Recognize Booking.com is Not the Enemy
News Source/Courtesy: hotelnewsresource.com

Last year at this time, COVID-19 was crushing Italy. Lockdown measures began in the northern municipalities in late February and extended nationwide by March 9.

Around that period PhocusWire spoke to Florence-based hotel manager Giancarlo Carniani, who is also the president of Confindustria Alberghi Firenze, the region’s hotel association, and Phocuswright’s analyst for Italy.

At the time, Carniani said he and other hoteliers in Italy were outraged with Booking.com for offering refunds for hotel reservations, even to guests that had already agreed to accept future stay credits in lieu of cash. He said this anger made them all feel that when the pandemic subsided, they would not go back to relying on online travel agencies and instead “there will be a new renaissance and distribution will be all changed.”

But, as is now known, very little of what was expected in March 2020 turned into reality. Back then it seemed that after a few months of lockdowns around the globe, the virus would subside and life would return to normal. Instead, Carniani says his life as a hotelier in Florence is still similar - eerily similar - to what it was 12 months ago. 

Tuscany, like most of Italy, is currently in the “orange zone,” with museums shuttered, restaurants and bars open only for carryout and travel between towns allowed only for essential reasons. 

Carniani talks to PhocusWire from Florence’s Plaza Hotel Lucchesi, the largest of the three hotels he manages for ToFlorence Hotels. The hotel is currently closed but, because they cannot afford to pay any staff right now, Carniani and the hotel’s owner are taking care of the building and answering the phone – although he says it rarely rings. The conversation has been edited for brevity.

When we spoke last year, you were clearly very angry and said “everything will change” about distribution once travel resumes. Do you still feel that way?

It’s a strange situation, because when we talked it was like, in that situation we were in last year, we were looking for an enemy. I had started thinking the enemy could be Booking.com. 

Yes I was very angry at that moment because Booking was doing refunds without thinking. They could not admit that, but I’ve spoken with [Booking Holdings CEO] Glenn Fogel once and have interviewed him for one of my conferences and he said he would have done a different communication. It was a problem of communication in that period, which was getting us angry because we were doing so much to get clients to confirm bookings on a later date.

But once Booking sent that communication [about refunds] to all its guests, obviously everyone was asking for a refund, even those who had accepted the voucher. That was really annoying for hotels in that period.

Click here to read complete article at PhocusWire.

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News Source: hotelnewsresource.com

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