08 November, 2007：How do you get the best hotel rate? Believe it or not, by calling the hotel directly.
A check of 11 online travel service Web sites found that a traveler who booked the same hotel online would spend $4.50 to $17.33 more a night, compared to calling the hotel directly, according to the Wichita Eagle.
"Any time you book online, you should expect to pay some cost for the convenience," said Bill Carroll, a senior lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in New York.
But he told the newspaper that things have gotten increasingly dicey since the big travel sites, in an effort to compete with each other, have signed on thousands of "affiliates" -- essentially miniature travel agencies that largely make their own rules and add extra charges.
"What you´re seeing there is the tip of the iceberg and there´s a lot of ugliness under the ice," Carroll said. "It´s caveat emptor (buyer beware) in the wild hospitality west."
Online travel industry officials say they provide a valuable service for travelers and that the fees on users are how they get paid.
Online reservation systems "require and have required millions and millions of dollars of investment," said Art Sackler, executive director of the Interactive Travel Service Association, a Washington-based group that represents and lobbies for online travel services.
The online services´ fees "represent a return on the investment in the service and some sort of reasonable return," he said.