BUSINESS

Hotels are using guest perks to battle online travel agencies

Hotels are giving out extra perks to guests who book directly from their websites as part of an increasingly heated war with online travel businesses.

Hotels are pushing guests to book directly on their websites to avoid paying a 15% to 25% commission charged for bookings through websites including Expedia.com and Booking.com. Online travel agents say customers can compare prices and find lower rates by using online sites.

“Consumers want the ability to see and compare all of their options, and they can’t do that when they book directly with a hotel,” said Stephen Shur, president of the Travel Technology Assn., a coalition of online travel sites.

The battle comes as the nation’s hotels report record occupancy levels and near-record revenue per room.

The American Hotel and Lodging Assn. recently called for legislation to combat fraudulent online booking sites. But Shur and his group say the hotel association is exaggerating the problem to scare people away from online travel sites.

As for the perks, the Hotel Amarano in Burbank offers guests who book directly either a $25 food and beverage credit to use at the hotel’s eateries or a room upgrade. Guests who book directly at the Beverly Hilton Hotel can get free Wi-Fi.

In Hawaii, a hotel management group is giving daily $20 Starbucks gift cards to guests who book directly at the group’s Lite hotels, plus 12 other properties across the islands.

“It’s becoming necessary for today’s hotel brands to stay ahead by enticing travelers in new ways,” said Matt Bailey, president and chief operating officer at Aqua-Aston Hospitality.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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