Hotel metasearch sites such as TripAdvisor, Kayak, and Trivago are dominated by online travel agency participants, but now TripAdvisor is enabling hotel properties to undercut the booking sites — and even TripAdvisor itself.

For example, in TripAdvisor’s iOS app September 12, users looking for a stay in New York City can view “special offers” from the Library Hotel, Hotel Elysee, the Refinery Hotel, the Surrey, the Distrikt Hotel, the citizenM New York Times Square, the Iroquois, Andaz 5th Avenue, the Quin, the Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park, and many others.

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Consider the special offer from the Refinery Hotel for a stay on September 24. While TripAdvisor shows an average base rate of $498 from 10 websites, including $499 ($577 with taxes and fees) if booked directly with TripAdvisor in the app, the TripAdvisor Fans Special from the Refinery Hotel offers a deluxe queen double for a base rate of $492.15, or $568.24, including taxes and fees.

That’s a $9 savings off the stay, which doesn’t sound like much, but is meaningful in the metasearch context.

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The savings looks even bigger, though, when you compare the discounted TripAdvisor Fans Special with the going total rate, $667.91, when searching the Refinery Hotel’s website. The TripAdvisor special offer then turns into a nearly $100 savings off the rate on the hotel’s website.

These special offers from hotels in the TripAdvisor app come with click-to-call options, as well as online booking, and in some cases the choice of emailing the hotel, too.

After awhile, there was even a pop-up in the app promoting a phone call to the hotel when it wasn’t booked right away.

Like its former parent, Expedia Inc., TripAdvisor is getting aggressive about push notifications.

A text message from TripAdvisor, followed perhaps half an hour later: “It only takes 1 minute to book your Refinery Hotel stay, Book on TripAdvisor now.”

Two days later, the following two text messages came through from Trip:

“Planning a New York City trip? Download it to use it later without an without an Internet connection.”

“You found a great rate for Refinery Hotel. Book now before prices go up.”

And this wasn’t a scattershot little experiment by TripAdvisor. A quick search of the TripAdvisor Hotels Flights and Restaurants app shows dozens of hotels taking advantage of these special offers in New York City, Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Diego, for example.

What does it all mean?

TripAdvisor is bringing healthy competition to hotel metasearch, doing things other players aren’t normally doing, and TripAdvisor is enabling hotels to get involved in what until now has been mostly the territory of Expedia,, Orbitz, and countless other online travel agencies.

Photo Credit: Guests enjoying the rooftop of the Refinery Hotel in New York City. Refinery Hotel