With the possible exception of the airlines, the recent downturn in corporate travel has affected no business more than the lodging industry. That may be why hotels are making you offers that are hard to refuse. For example:
- Hotels that cater to business travelers, including Hilton, Marriott and Starwood, tried to entice travelers with everything from extra frequent-flier miles to free rooms this past summer. Lodging industry experts believe many of these deals will be extended through the fall.
- Free offers abound. For example, Wyndham International hotels have eliminated phone charges for their best business customers. Members of the hotel chain's frequent-guest program can now make unlimited, local and domestic long-distance calls; make copies; and surf the Internet at no charge.
- Even small properties and bed-and-breakfast inns that appeal to C-level corporate travelers are feeling the pinch. For example: At press time, you could book three nights at the Angel Arbor Bed & Breakfast Inn in Houston (www.angelarbor.com) and get the third night at half price. Regular room rates run from $95 to $125 per night for two people in this historic Georgian-style home.
There's a good reason for these bargains. Hotel industry profits dropped 27 percent in 2001 to $16.8 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Earnings are expected to increase by just 1.8 percent this year-meaning properties will remain eager to snare your business.
But will the deals last? Analysts expect the hotel business to turn a corner next year, and chances are that these incentives will disappear faster than a hotel towel during spring break. So enjoy the bargains while they're here.
Christopher Elliott is a writer and commentator and the editor of www.elliott.org.