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ON A BUDGET

Discounters Keep Room Costs in Check

May 09, 1999|ARTHUR FROMMER

Imagine--you might never have to pay hotel rack rates again. You've heard about air fare consolidators and cruise consolidators--companies that buy unused seats or berths from airlines and cruise lines and sell them at a considerable discount. Another growing sector of the consolidator market is hotel rooms. More than a dozen hotel consolidators have emerged to offer reduced room costs. A sampling:

* Accommodations Express, telephone (800) 444-7666, Internet http://www.accommodationsexpress.com. An 11-year veteran of the room consolidation business, it initially specialized in gambling meccas such as Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas but has since expanded to more than 1,000 hotels. Average savings are 25% to 30% and can rise to 60%. Accommodations Express can, for example, get you a room in Orlando, Fla., with a rack rate of $125 a night for just $79. Customers pay the company and are issued vouchers for the room; your credit card is not charged until you check out.

* Express Reservations, tel. (800) 356-1123, http://www.express-res.com. For the past dozen years, this discounter has been responsible for some of the best rates for New York lodgings.

Express Reservations deals with about 35 Manhattan hotels. Rooms that would normally cost $270 start at about $145 nightly. And you can book as much as a year or as little as an hour ahead. You pay the hotel directly, with no prepayment to Express Reservations.

* Hot Rooms, tel. (800) 468- 3500, http://www.hotrooms.com. When Chicagoan Polly Pancoe began her hotel discount business in 1990, she based it on those increasingly popular cut-price theater ticket booths. A pioneer in hotel discounting, her company now handles 20,000 to 30,000 rooms annually, working with about 20 prime Windy City properties. Booking as much as three months in advance, Hot Rooms can ferret out discounts as high as 50%, such as a double room at Chicago's Executive Plaza for $99 a night (half the usual rate). As with Express Reservations, your payment goes directly to the hotel.

* Quikbook, tel. (800) 789-9887, http://www.quickbook.com. With savings ranging from 30% to 40%, this 12-year-old enterprise works with nearly 200 hotels in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. A recent offering from Quikbook at an Atlanta lodging for $99 per night would have cost $135 if booked directly through that hotel. There's no prepayment, no vouchers and also no fee for canceling or changing your reservation (apart from any such fees that may be charged by the hotel).

* Travel Interlink, tel. (800) 888-5898. Here's a consolidator that specializes in overseas accommodations, about 8,000 of them throughout Europe and Asia. They promise savings of 25% to 50% off European and 30% to 60% off Asian rack rates. Properties range from budget-priced, tourist-class hotels to some of the world's most luxurious lodgings.

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