< PrevNext > Christopher Nassetta, Hilton Worldwide president & CEO The Direct Booking Booster By Julie Sickel / December 20, 2016 / Contact Reporter Share While hoteliers have long been trying to wrangle power back from online travel agencies, Hilton Worldwide in February introduced loyalty member discounts and perks for booking direct. The move sparked an onslaught of similar initiatives from other industry players. "We want [our customers] to get the best value that they can get, get the best experience," Nassetta said then. "And we obviously want to lower our distribution costs for both ourselves and our owners."Hilton's campaign harkened back to 2014, when industry players introduced free Wi-Fi to loyalty members who booked direct. Yet, Nassetta apparently took note of the backlash that followed from travel agents who felt the decision was anti-business travel. This time, when it launched the Stop Clicking Around direct booking campaign, Hilton made it clear that third-party bookings from corporate partners would be allowed. In turn, Hilton received praise from the American Society of Travel Agents. However, not all who followed in Hilton's footsteps were as clear with their messaging, and with every announcement from players like Hyatt Hotels and Choice Hotels International, came the same question: Would the rates be available to third-party bookers through the global distribution system and online booking tools? This is a long-term strategy; this isn't a flash in the pan." The direct booking campaigns' impact on online travel agencies remains to be seen, and kinks still need to be worked out in terms of the rates showing up in the GDS and online booking tools. Hilton's loyalty membership grew 60 percent year over year for the first three quarters, and its bookings through Web-direct channels increased 28 percent year over year during the third quarter.In another experiment, in 2015, the company piloted a $50 penalty for canceling any time after booking, but Hilton abandoned the initiative because "guests hated it," Nassetta said. Then, in September 2016, Hilton began piloting restrictive rates that have guests trading freedom to cancel for deeper discounts. Hilton's willingness to experiment with rate structures could make it an industry game changer yet again.