Travel websites, particularly Travelocity, frequently offer the lowest hotel room rate. But hotel chains are using their own sites to gain ground in offering the consistently lowest rates.

Those are key conclusions of “Why Customers Shop Around: A Comparison of Hotel Room Rates and Availability Across Booking Channels,” a report published by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University.

Written by Cornell Prof. Gary Thompson and master's degree candidate Alexandra Failmezger, the study sampled rates and availability for 237 possible booking dates in four different hotel segments. The samples were provided on hotel company websites and three travel websites. Also contributing: phone calls to the property.

Among the key findings:

  • The rate and room-availability picture is complex

  • Hotel chains have made notable progress in offering lowest-cost, last-room availability on their own websites, compared with third parties like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity

  • Telephoning the hotel is the best way to determine room availability but has the most expensive room rates

  • Chain websites were reasonably good at ensuring availability while travel websites, particularly Expedia, often showed rooms as unavailable at a given rate where in fact they were available through a different channel.

The report is available free from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Rearch. To access it, click on

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