Agents can earn big selling small

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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- When it comes to Italy accommodations, Small Italian Hotels here is out to prove that bigger isn't always better.

The firm is offering commissionable deals on discounted rates at two- to three-star, mostly family-owned and -operated hotels in Florence, Rome and Venice for the fall and winter, knocking 10% off sale prices for arrivals until Dec. 24.

Nightly rates, based on double occupancy, start at $47 per room in Rome, $53 in Florence and $62 in Venice.

Sample rates include the 10% discount, tax, service fees, continental breakfast, private bath and 11% commission.

The company also pays retailers 8% on villa and apartment stays and offers net rates to agents on add-on tour products and transfers.

Tours and transfers will be commissionable at a set rate in conjunction with the debut of the firm's revamped Web site at www.small-italian-hotels.com, which will relaunch by December.

Small Italian Hotels offers stays at 166 hotels and 364 villas and apartments offered directly by owners, and 2,600 villas and apartments sold through Siena-based supplier Cuendet.

For example, hotels offered in Rome range from the two-star, six-room Hotel San Pietro Rooms to the three-star, 40-room Hotel des Artistes and the four-star, six-room Caesar House.

Meanwhile, sample add-on tour products in Rome include themes such as art, nightlife, Christian heritage and papal audiences.

Similar mixes of properties and tours are offered in nearly every major city and region.

Christopher Group, president of Small Italian Hotels, said small-hotel stays are ideal for FIT clients looking for authenticity, central locales and value.

"You stay in the older, historical parts of towns," he said. "They [also] tend to be a little better with pricing, as they don't have as much overhead.

"But the most important thing is they have more character," Group added. "You walk through the door and the person behind the desk recognizes [you] and hands you your key."

What you don't get at most Small Italian Hotels properties are fancy amenities, conference facilities or tour groups.

"These are hotels for individual clients, traveling in twos or fours, who want a cozy place to stay," said Group, noting that many properties turn away large parties because they simply do not have enough space.

The hotel sale aside, Small Italian Hotels continues to offer villa and apartment stays across Italy: a popular, affordable means of settling in and experiencing local life -- which also often results in repeat business for retailers and operators.

"We find that a lot of people who stay in villas or apartments do it year after year after year," Group said. "It's a great way for a family of six -- mom, dad, two kids and the grandparents, for example -- to spend a week in Italy for $1,200 to $1,500."

For more information, call Small Italian Hotels at (888) 284-8259 or visit www.small-italian-hotels.com and www.small-italian-hotels.com/falldeals.html.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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