Hotels: Orbitz "tellin' it straight" with prices; drops booking fee, too

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Courtesy Orbitz

Kudos to Orbitz for making it much easier—and cheaper—to book hotels. Travelers know all too well that with every online agency, the listed price is not the bottom line—it's just the start. You must click through page after page and go 95-percent-of-the-way toward booking a room before you see the hidden charges for booking and taxes.

Not true now with Orbitz, which today announced that it is going to let people know what they're paying for up front. No games. Now, Orbitz includes "the base rate, taxes, fees, and total price per night upfront on the initial search results page."

To lure customers to try (or re-try) Orbitz, the site has trimmed its booking fee for hotels here and abroad for reservations made by July 15. That will save customers about $7 per reservation versus booking on Expedia or Travelocity, says the company.

Meanwhile, Orbitz is holding what it calls its "Biggest Hotel Sale Ever," featuring discounts of 30 percent or more at thousands of properties worldwide through May 31.

You still need to shop around however. Expedia, for instance, sells a larger number of hotels, and may work to undercut Orbitz on prices to avoid giving up its share of the market. In other words, there's a price war on, and it pays to look at more than one site to book hotels.

Not everyone is convinced that Orbitz's move will stand the test of time, though. Summing up the blogosphere sentiment, Dennis Schaal of Travel Weekly says, "I doubt Orbitz can compete effectively with the power of Expedia on hotels. Expedia has way more clout with the hotels, gets better net rates and higher margins."

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