Hotels Giving 'Extras' During Tough Times

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Posted: Dec 22, 2008 12:01 AM
Hotels Giving 'Extras' During Tough Times

Some hotels are rolling out fluffier, brighter red carpets to business travelers in an effort hang on to loyal guests as the economy, housing and investment markets dive and fears loom. But there is little rate-cutting in these tough times.

Why? Hoteliers know if they whittle away at room rates now and guests get used to them, it will be much harder to raise rates when good times return. (And who knows when that will be?)

For instance, newly flagged hotels usually have grand re-opening rates and hoopla to celebrate their new names. But now that the once-stately Pick Hotel in economically battered downtown Detroit is a Doubletree Guest Suites, part of the Hilton empire, it is no real bargain.

The quoted rate is $199 a night with free WiFi Internet access, which seemed a bit high for Motor City. But then again, the two rooms are a combined 650 square feet and the Pick has a century of restored history. It's no bland, slapdash tilt-up. Meanwhile, hotel discounter Quickbooks.com quotes the Westin Book Cadillac and the MGM Grand hotels in downtown Detroit as starting at $259 for a single room. Money tight? Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center has rooms for $139 a night. By default, the 203-suite former Pick Hotel is the best deal for the money, and haggling only netted me a $10 savings -- $189 a night. Hold a small conference there, however, and rooms are $99 apiece.

Blueblood bastions of quiet hospitality are offering extra little luxuries, no price reductions. The elegant Lowell Hotel, which bills itself as the only hotel in New York with true wood-burning fireplaces in its 33 suites, isn't cutting its business traveler rate of $620 nightly. But director of sales and marketing Stephanie Conchuratt, notices guests are scaling back, even during New York's busiest season, and is "anxious" about January bookings.

So the Lowell (www.lowellhotel.com), a member of Leading Hotels of the World, is adding new touches -- hot mulled wine and apple cider and more "festive" tea sandwiches in the afternoon. The hotel will also upgrade regular customers to unoccupied suites. "We want to keep them coming and it's fine if they spend a little less money with us and have a nice surprise experience," says Conchuratt.

Another landmark hotel, the 591-room Fairmont on San Francisco's Nob Hill (www.fairmont,com), "is not dropping room rates" but instead is giving bonus money savers now through April 30, says Regional Director of Sales and Marketing Michelle Gilman

One deal, if you're renting a car or driving your own, includes an upgrade from a guest room to a suite, a $50 Shell gas card, free hotel parking (worth $50) and a gratis bottle of sparkling wine for $399. I figure that's between $150 and $250 in extras.

At $199 plus tax for a guest room, Fairmont will give you either a $25 drink credit, free overnight parking or breakfast for two.

If your customers are young and stylish, the sleek 187-room Hotel Gansevoort (www.hotelgansevoort.com) in Manhattan's re-energized meatpacking district, is renting a superior room for $365, itself a bargain in New York City. Included is a full American breakfast for two, two hot toddies on the hotel rooftop, an in-room movie and a complimentary hotel music CD -- volume 1 or 2. Check out the featherbeds.

Hyatt's new Hyatt Place, for the youngish, tech-, fashion- and speed-conscious traveler -- think Starwood's "W" -- is giving free breakfasts for an unlimited time. It also claims to give you free WiFi, which should be included year-round. These hipper folks hate to pay for it. Hyatt Place rates vary by market; in Fremont, Calif., a business and agricultural area, rates in early January are quoted at $145 plus tax.

Still, if you're taking time off during the holidays -- and I hope you are -- the Hotel Pacific in Monterey, Calif. (www.hotelpacific.com) has a package that includes deluxe room, continental breakfast, afternoon tea service and a three-hour whale watching expedition with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Rate is $220 Sundays through Thursday, a $60 savings, until Jan. 31, 2009.