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Lifestyle

March 10, 2013

Discount sites slashing hotel prices

When Amy Eisen originally booked a weeklong vacation to celebrate her 30th anniversary, she was looking at a $3,749 hotel bill.

But Eisen reserved her room at the all-inclusive Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic through a new travel site, Tingo.com. Each day, the booking site automatically checked to see if the hotel lowered its price for the nights Eisen was staying there. Eventually, the price fell. Tingo canceled Eisen’s original reservation and rebooked her at the new, lower rate. Her savings: $1,874.

“I would not have considered that you could continue to ask: Are there any discounts? Are there any discounts? Are there any discounts?” said the Wynnewood, Pa., psychologist. “I don’t think most people would. You book it and think this is the best price I can get.”

Tingo is one of a growing number of services that aim to save travelers money on their hotel stays.

The site, which is owned by TripAdvisor, says that travelers have a 20 percent chance of getting at least some money back. The typical rebate is $50, according to the company, but occasionally travelers like Eisen get much more back.

The site requires prepayment of the room and focuses on fully refundable rates. Sometimes, cheaper rooms might be available through other booking channels but they typically can’t be canceled.

Tingo isn’t the only site changing the way travelers book. A host of new apps are offering steep discounts on hotel stays, particularly last-minute bookings.

HotelTonight offers discounted rooms at more than 2,000 hotels via its iPhone and Androids apps. Each day at noon local time, a slate of rooms is released for each of the 80 cities it currently serves. There are luxury hotels, hip hotels and those categorized as “solid” or “basic.”

The savings can be substantial.

A recent search turned up the Bryant Park Hotel in New York. HotelTonight said a room there should cost $345 but was offering it for $239. (A check of the hotel’s own website showed $285 as the lowest rate.) Two hours later, the room was being offered for $199. Two hours after that, HotelTonight was out of rooms at the Bryant Park Hotel.

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