First, let's define "Rate Parity." Rate parity usually shows up in the Revenue Management lexicon in two contexts, a strategic pricing principle and an OTA contract provision.
Rate parity is important for most properties most of the time. It helps avoid confusion over your price point in the market and it is a requirement to do business with a few large distribution channel players. In down markets, many properties can't break even without the steady flow of traffic from Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity and their subsidiaries. If your property is one of them, that is another strong reason to practice rate parity. But, if neither of these conditions exists, remember your Mother's advice and don't offer rate parity just because "Everyone else is doing it!"
In general, consider lots of other alternatives and see how the market really reacts before just making the knee jerk reaction to match the lower rate.
Travel agents are important channel partners because they can reach disparate market segments and can translate your hotel offerings for their local markets around the country and world. But travel agents are not legally due 10% commissions, or any commissions for that matter. While some chains may have established a standard commission rate and a commission paying policy, there is no law saying the policy or the rate can' be changed. For example, as Marriott tried several years ago, it may make more sense to pay a higher commission rate to agents who really promote your property and provide you a higher market share. And, perhaps you should pay less than 10% to agents who only book your hotel when nothing else is available. (Admittedly, implementing this is not cheap or risk free).
The 10% figure started back in the seventies and eighties before automation. At that time, travel agents had to rely on the Hotel Travel Index, a tome larger than the NYC Telephone Book that contained the features of most hotels and all the contact numbers to make a reservation. Travel agents had to scan through multiple small print pages to find hotels and then make countless long distance phone calls to make a booking. Those processes alone probably justified a 10% commission. Today however, that same reservation is made via GDS or internet with little manpower or telecom costs, so why is the commission still 10%? More importantly, from a cost standpoint, why are some online travel agents being paid much more than 10%. (Hint, the commission rate is determined by market power, not costs.)
Travel agents are not agents of the guest because hotels are paying them and therefore they are subject to hotels' rules to earn their commission. When the airlines were deregulated and had to stop appointing agents jointly through IATA and ARC, the hotel industry simply "appointed" all current IATA and ARC agents. Nonetheless, if you find a travel agent that is not representing you properly, just repeal their appointment and stop paying commissions to them, Also, your sales office should know who all your large producers actually are. You probably have some large travel agent producers whom you do not call on or recognize. Hint: in the best case, they are simply online travel agents who purchased an IATA number; in the worst case, they are an employee embezzling by putting their own IATA number on bookings in your system.
So what should you do?