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Hotel websites might just have the best rates and perks

Hotel websites might just have the best rates and perks
Aloha Surf Waikiki is part of Aqua-Aston Hospitality. (David L. Moore / Aqua-Aston Hospitality)

When it comes to hotel stays, the best deals just might be found on a hotel website.

Hotels are battling online travel agencies like Expedia and Hotel.com by offering perks to travelers who book directly with them, potentially saving hotels the cost of a booking commission to the third-party vendor.

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"Online travel agencies drive 20 to 25% of hotel bookings industry-wide, but at a heavy cost of 15 to 25% commission fees," says Zach Zahran, general manager of the Kitano Hotel New York.

"If we can save the commission, we can give guests more value with reduced room rates and other perks."

The Kitano has beefed up its packages, offering such perks as a complimentary hot American/Japanese breakfast buffet or discounts for longer stays. About 85% of its reservations are now direct bookings, Zahran said.

A recent check of a three-night stay, with breakfast, for a superior king room at the Kitano on Booking.com came to $419 a night, without taxes. A room on the Kitano website for the same dates under its Bed and Breakfast offer was $389 a night, without taxes.

Zahran said guests might get an even better deals by calling the hotel's reservation department directly. Depending on availability, guests may get 10% off at the hotel's Hakubai restaurant, early check-in and, for repeat customers, complimentary room upgrades.

Hawaii-bound travelers can get extras from Aqua-Aston Hospitality properties by booking directly as well.

Through a partnership with Enterprise Rent-a-Car, guests may get free car rentals with a minimum stay that varies by hotel. Aqua-Aston operates 50 hotels in Hawaii, California, Florida and Nevada. The chain's Lite hotels, geared for the budget-minded, offer guests a free $20 Starbucks card daily.

Those who book directly with the Hilo Naniloa Hotel can get a free round of golf, and guests booking at Aston Kaanapali Shores Resort In Lahaina, Maui, can get free scuba diving lessons.

"We've tweaked our websites to show price comparisons with third-party sites to show that our daily rate is comparable," said Matt Bailey, president and chief operating officers of Aqua-Aston Hospitality.

"For the free car rental, guests must join our A-list loyalty program, become an email subscriber, or be AAA members. Joining our loyalty program is free."

Generating repeat business means offering perks that customers see as value-added benefits, saID Gnell Abracosa, managing director of Maison 140 and its sister property, the Mosaic Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Offerings at Maison 140 include a Wine Down special of 10% off the best available rate and two glasses of wine at the Bar Noir. At the Mosaic Hotel, guests booking directly can get 20% off the best available rate.

Large hotel chains have also joined the fight to wrestle bookings back from online travel agencies. Hilton Worldwide launched a "Stop Clicking Around" campaign this spring, offering direct booking rates that are 2% to 10% less than online travel site rates, depending on the date requested and how far in advance the reservation is made.

Direct bookers also can choose their floor, room and get free Wi-Fi and digital check-in. To get the discount and perks, guests must join the free HHonors loyalty program. A summer sale for hotel rooms abroad is offering rates that are up to 30% lower than Hilton's best available rates for stays through Sept. 6.

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"Since launching this campaign, we've doubled the rate of growth in our direct channel," said Geraldine Calpin, chief marketing officer of Hilton Worldwide.

"There's a misconception that the best price is found through online travel agencies. We want customers to know that that's not true."

travel@latimes.com 

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