Hotel companies have gained control of online sales despite fears years ago that independent Web sites would take the majority of business.

Hilton Hotels and Marriott International executives, speaking this week at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos Summit held in Los Angeles, said they are not dependent on travel agencies for sales but find such outlets helpful to unload last-minute bookings that otherwise would have gone unsold.

Hilton in particular takes pride in its Web site, claiming that 90 percent of its total online sales are made there.

"I think we‘re the industry leader in terms of how we sell on our own Web site," said Tom Keltner, executive vice president at Hilton on Tuesday. "Clearly our preference is to sell them ourselves if we can."

Third-party travel sites led by Expedia Inc‘s Hotels.com were powerful forces in the travel industry a few years ago as hoteliers in the midst of a downturn struggled to attract guests, and Web sites delivered.

But as the industry‘s fortunes have improved, hotel companies have wrested back control of inventory and room pricing and focused on building their own Web sites.

Consumer perceptions of supplier direct sites operated by hotels, airlines and car rental companies have improved, especially among customers who prefer to avoid the booking fees charged by third-party travel agencies.

Travel agencies like Priceline.com and Expedia Inc. have become entrenched in the online travel market, but executives at the top hotel chains see them chiefly as a way to move extra rooms, keeping the bulk of their inventory for themselves.

"The major hotel operators will continue to refine their online reservation systems," said Bear Stearns analyst Joseph Greff.

Get the full story at Reuters