Travelers are clicking on the “reserve online” button more than ever. Last year, one out of four people who booked accommodation reservations did so online, up 9 percent from 2004. According to a study released in April by the Travel Industry Association of America, hotel chain Web sites were used most often to make Internet reservations, followed by online travel sites such as hotels.com and expedia.com.

The shift in how Americans are booking their hotel rooms reflects an overall trend toward travel bookings being made online. In fact, 2005 marked the first year in which online reservations were the predominant means of booking a trip, according to the TIAA.

“It’s an interesting phenomenon,” said Terry McLane, general manager of the West Des Moines Marriott and president of the Iowa Lodging Association. The number of reservations made online for his property has probably doubled since 1998, he said. A key factor behind the trend is the increasing comfort level people have using Web-based systems and their credit cards online.

Whether the property is a major hotel chain with several hundred rooms or a small bed-and-breakfast, maintaining control over pricing and room inventory is important, say local managers and owners.

“It’s a daily waltz that you do,” McLane said. “If you book 15 rooms at $49 through Priceline, if we’re not paying attention to that, our average daily rates would drop.” Hotels also have to pay attention to local events that the large reservation Web sites will not be aware of, such as the Iowa State Fair, and ensure they’re not offering discounted rooms at those peak-demand times, he said.

Get the full story at the Des Moines Business Record