Based on PricewaterhouseCoopers, Smith Travel Research, TravelClick, and PhoCusWright research and data, PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that average hotel room rates booked online increased 8.7 percent compared with a 6.8 percent estimated overall hotel room rate increase for US hotels in 2006.

The largest increase among online bookings, 8.9 percent, was for the “opaque” distribution channel, those third-party sources represented by online reservations that do not reveal the identity of a hotel until a reservation has been placed.

The largest percentage increase in the number of reservations among all distribution channels was for branded Web sites, those operated by hotel brands.

“This is a dramatic change from just a few years ago when third- party Web sites and distribution channels led the growth in hotel reservations and negotiated with hotel owners and operators from a strong position,” says Bjorn Hanson, principal in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Hospitality & Leisure practice. “Increased hotel occupancy, generally excellent hotel-branded Web sites, price guarantees, the launch of new hotel brands and enhanced loyalty programs have been extremely effective in enabling brands to regain control of distribution,” he adds.