Editor’s comment: the number one Google search result for ‘Serviced Apartment’ currently throws up ‘Top Serviced Apartments – Unique Alternative To Hotels – airbnb.co.uk‎’. The big budget battle for paid AdWords has never been more significant in the hospitality industry.

Google AdWords auctions ads tied to search terms, but a legal issue has arisen around some OTAs outbidding other players on keywords associated with specific hotel brand names – in this case including IHG, Choice and Hilton.

These brands accuse an Expedia affiliate of violating trademark laws, while a letter from Choice specifically states that it had entered into a ‘global agreement’ with Expedia that forbade Expedia and its affiliates from bidding on its brand’s keywords, and could therefore bid on “hotel downtown Indianapolis” or “Indianapolis downtown hotels,” but not on a keyword that includes “Hilton” or its other brands.

The publication alleges that the hotel chains and online travel agencies are “colluding” — a strong word, with potential legal ramifications.

More importantly, and while this is not only a hospitality-wide battle, it is the players with the biggest budgets and most power that are potentially harming the smaller chains and independents, and confusing the consumer.

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