With lower rates and significant value adds, hotels are stretching beyond their usual means to differentiate themselves from the competition. Agents are following specific crieteria when choosing accommodations, and the ability to sign up for travel agent reward programs or guest reward programs is a big incentive.

According to Ann Albano, vice president of hotel relations for Hickory Travel Systems, agents are likely to work with chains such as Marriott, Intercontinental and Radisson because booking these earns them points for future stays or room upgrades.

"That's really where it influences an agent to go from one hotel to another - what's in it for them," she said.

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