Breaking news! Expedia quietly removes its hotels booking fee

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Expedia has apparently stopped adding its booking fee into its "taxes and fees" in response to Orbitz's identical move yesterday. The change was first noticed by Tom Botts , partner at strategic travel and hospitality advisory firm Hudson Crossing.

We compared the booking price of several hotels at Expedia and Orbitz and found that Expedia's is now roughly matching Orbitz's rates, after taxes and fees are included. Of course, Orbitz remains the first travel agency to post its total price in the search results, unlike Expedia which makes travelers click through several screens of information for the final tally.

UPDATE 1:54 p.m. ET: An Expedia spokesperson declines to comment on the pricing change we've noticed through our unscientific sampling of deals. Here's the official statement:

Expedia's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi really said it best in his comments the other day. Expedia's fees are and will continue to be competitive with Orbitz. Expedia is focused on offering customers the lowest total price. Because of Expedia’s size, often times we’re able to negotiate better rates with lodging supply partners, which likely makes any change in Orbitz’s booking fee irrelevant. But, beyond that….it’s really not our policy to discuss the ins-and-outs of the hotel pricing strategy.

The importance of shopping around online remains key. As Tom Botts points out, the price for the Paramount in New York for this Sunday night recently varied from $150 to $299, depending on which website you looked at. No one website has a lock on the lowest rates.

The linchpin of every online travel agency's profitability is on hotel room bookings, not airplane ticket sales, so this promises to be a summer of price wars.

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