Hotels move to undercut discounters

Two US hotel operators announced Thursday they are overhauling their pricing systems, giving customers who use their websites room rates up to 10 percent lower than rates offered by online discounters such as hotels.com.

The move by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., operator of Sheraton and Westin hotels, and Six Continents Plc., whose brands include Holiday Inn and Inter-Continental, is being called by the companies a bid to "simplify" pricing and drive traffic to their own websites.

Currently, hotel rooms are sold at varying rates through a number of Web outlets, including companies' own websites, individual hotel sites, and independent travel sites.

Starwood's system will take effect June 1, while Six Continents "soft-launched" its site earlier this month, according to the companies.

"We're fixing our system so the rates on our Web sites are the best rates available," said Starwood spokeswoman K.C. Kavanagh. "If travelers find lower published rates through any online distributor, Starwood will match the lower rate and add 10 percent off."

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