Heather great article and without placing a target on my back, let me say that I find that there are a lot of “opaque markets” where consumers are often mislead. With “native ad content” becoming more and more popular with businesses and consumers, I don’t see this trend declining.
Something you might want to check out. HotelsNearMe.com is a site that has ZERO travel industry monetization, and is just a pure directory of local hotels. It includes licensed data, images and so on.
It’s owned by a health insurance company that doesn’t have any interest in monetizing it. They’re simply interested in being a useful resource for consumers who are traveling and trying to connect and book direct with local hotels. Every call, click or email that occours within that site is direct from consumer to hotel.
Before you say it’s a bait and switch play, or that they’ll be free for “X” number of years and then start charging, (TripAdvisor) I can direct you to some of their sister companies that are loss leaders that have been in operation for a number of years. HotelsNearMe.com is committed to being 100% free of any travel industry monetization. In time I think that independent hotels in particular will begin to promote it, leverage the massive amount of monthly searches around “Hotels Near Me” and as a result, rely less on OTA and intermediaries for bookings.