Sydney Declaration

Following a meeting of a group of leading youth travel accommodation providers and associations at WYSTC 2013, a position statement was agreed upon regarding online distribution practices.

Resetting the Relationship: establishing fair practices in online distribution

Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and youth travel accommodation operators are mutually dependent. OTAs have benefited by broadening the variety of product they offer, while youth travel accommodation providers have gained distribution to customers in markets where they are less well known. Youth travellers have gained most – by from being able to access a broad range of accommodation options, coupled with customer reviews and location content.

Nevertheless the accommodation operators are the ultimate providers of the product; they alone should determine where it is sold and at what price. There is thus a need for a sensible reset to be found in a relationship which, over time, has become less and less commercially balanced. A number of fair practices need to be established to ensure product sovereignty rests with the operators. Equally OTAs that provide genuine value to operators can be assured of continued support in terms of competitive product and good availability.

Agreements between OTAs and youth travel accommodation operators should not contain clauses that:

  1. Allow the use of property or brand names in online advertising, unless specifically authorised;
  2. Require rate parity;
  3. Enforce mandatory availability parity (either via last room availability or minimum allocations);
  4. Allow for agreements to be terminated at short notice (without a compelling cause), with no consultation and without being signed by both parties;
  5. Are not written in plain English (and are not translated into the main official language of the operator);
  6. Conflict with national or international trade, competition or consumer laws;
  7. Require operators to indemnify OTAs for tax obligations on commissions;
  8. Allow the OTAs to be opaque in how they display default search results (including the use of spurious ” recommended” terms that are designed to mislead consumers, when the basis of recommendation is the % commission paid or the availability given to the OTA);
  9. Result in commissions being paid on no shows or any other unrealised turnover.
  10. Discriminate against an operator based on size or location.

The above code of practice represents a constructive and balanced approach to resetting the relationship between OTAs and youth accommodation operators. It’s adoption will result in a better deal for consumers and will promote genuine competition.


  1. Comment from the Backpacker Network Germany:

    The Backpacker Network Germany fully supports the Sydney Declaration “Resetting the Relationship: establishing fair practices in online distribution” by STAYWYSE. All accommodation providers should be aware of the dangers of unfair business practices. It is therefore vital that accommodation providers around the world communicate with each other in order to better ensure that our cooperation with OTAs is beneficial for everyone involved. The Backpacker Network Germany will support decisions made by the majority for addressing the afore mentioned issues with the OTAs.

    Although we are pleased about the recent changes in the Hostelworld contract, there are still many opportunities for further improvements. That is why the first step for national and international hostel organizations is to strengthen their collaboration with each other. Working together, we have the possibility of creating a common voice for our hostels and raising awareness of our mutual concerns.

    We propose that the networks collect ideas about how to better work together on a sound basis in order to address our business concerns and interests. Once these topics have been outlined, together we can more efficiently discuss how to approach our goals. The Backpacker Network Germany will be an active supporter of this process.

  2., operated by Instant World Booking, has reviewed the Sydney Declaration. represents a significant share of hosteling OTA volume worldwide, and is the only top 5 hostel OTA based in the United States. From that vantage point, has a fairly unique view on the issues set forth.

    Based on our review, supports the intent of the Sydney Declaration. In fact, we are pleased to disclose that at least 80% of the Declaration is already in force within’s terms and conditions, and have been so since the inception of the company. The management of our company decries the practice of requiring rate or availability parity, and have never done so ourselves. Our principles are founded on the basis that flexible service to our hostel partners is the best way to serve the needs of the industry.

    We congratulate STAY WYSE on their work so far, and will continue to follow it’s progress.

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