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Dueling Hotel Upgrades

Name-your-own-price service Priceline.com launched an enhanced hotel reservation service, including its first-ever Best-Price Guarantee.

And not to be outdone, rival Expedia.com announced beefed up features for its Expedia Special Rate properties, such as area-specific maps and virtual property tours, to go along with its existing low price guarantee. >{? Norwalk, Conn.-based Priceline said its hotel service relaunch is being supported by a national radio ad campaign featuring William Shatner, which starts today.

Priceline.com's hotel service covers the U.S., Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean and it has been a bright spot for the company, which said it sold over 1 million hotel room nights in the second quarter, up 60 percent from the year-ago period.

The price guarantee works like this: if within 48 hours after buying a priceline.com hotel room, you find a lower available published price for the same hotel and dates, priceline.com will refund you 100 percent of the difference.

Other enhancements include listings of amenities in every hotel category, from 1-star to 5-star and at resorts; a "real deals" feature that lets visitors see examples of the prices (and savings) actual priceline.com customers are getting at hotels in major cities and resort destinations; a Summer Specials category and driving directions with maps and text.

Bellevue, Wash.-based Expedia , for its part, introduced what it called "groundbreaking features" that include 360-degree virtual property tours, photo albums and maps offering neighborhood descriptions with information on vacation attractions, cultural activities and types of shopping nearby. Expedia also said it now lets families and groups book up to three rooms on a single itinerary.

The virtual tours are through a partnership with VRX Studios. Virtual tours are available on Expedia.com for properties in Las Vegas, Hawaii and Mexico; Expedia said it plans to continually add new virtual tours for a variety of worldwide hotels. The site also is offering free hotel nights with selected hotel purchases.

The Sabre Group's Travelocity.com also has a mapping service, as well as guaranteed lowest rates at some hotels, hotel reviews, weather info and even a currency converter.