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 The Brancatelli File

joe HAPPY NEW YEAR!
IT'S DEAL TIME!


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

January 6, 2000 -- Know why I love the New Year? It's about the only time of year when business travelers can get theirs back on the travel industry.

With travel at its lowest ebb of the year, the industry is desperate to get our business. This is when they cut prices, offer upgrades and unleash all sorts of promotions to get us traveling. From now until about the middle of March, we've got the financial hammer.

Right on cue, the airlines launched a modest little fare sale earlier this week--about 30 percent off 14-day advance purchase fares--but the big winter bonanza is at hotels. All the big chains offer nationwide or even worldwide sales, some of which slash 40 or 50 percent off the posted retail rates. Even some cities get into the act, mounting around-the-town promotions that cut room rates under one clever rubric or another.

Here's a look at some of the best deals I've found so far this winter.

MARRIOTT More than 1,500 properties across seven brands operated by Marriott are offering Great Holiday Rates through February 20. Some samples: $59 to $79 a night at SpringHill Suites and $49 to $64 a night at Courtyard by Marriott properties. Reservations: 800-228-9290.

SHERATON Meanwhile, the Endless Weekend promotion at Sheraton is offered at about 200 hotels in the United States and Canada through April 2. Rates are valid Thursdays through Sundays and include breakfast and late checkout. Sample prices: $99 at the Boston Sheraton, $65 at the Sheraton Milwaukee and $135 at the Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh. Reservations: 800-325-3535.

HILTON/PROMUS Through February 6, the Hilton for the Holiday promotion offers a fourth night free when three consecutive nights are booked. This special deal is available at more than 150 Hilton hotels in North America, the United Kingdom and Ireland. You must charge the room to a MasterCard. Another promotion, World of Savings, is valid until March 31 at 50 Hilton or Conrad properties in 37 European cities. That knocks up to 40 percent off the published retail rates. Reservations: 800-HILTONS. And 84 Homewood Suites properties have Holiday Migration Rates on weekends until January 30. For $69 to $89 a night, you receive a one-bedroom suite, breakfast and a 10-minute AT&T prepaid phone card. Reservations: 800-CALL-HOME.

SOFITEL The Winter Sale from Sofitel groups more than four dozen properties in a dozen European countries and the chain's 7 U.S. hotels into five price tiers: $130, $150, $170, $220 and $270 a night. Rates include breakfast. Reservations: 800-SOFITEL.

LE MÉRIDIEN More than 110 Le Méridien properties around the world are offering Le Passport rates until March 31. Sample prices: about $132 a night in Brussels, $129 in Frankfurt, $179 in Dallas and $102 in Taipei. Reservations: 800-543-4300.

HOLIDAY INN Until February 27, hundreds of Holiday Inn hotels in the United States and Canada have a Second Night Free promotion. Pay a non-discounted rate for the first night and present a coupon and you'll receive the second night free. The coupon is available on the Web. Reservations: 800-HOLIDAY.

WESTIN Sixty-five Westin properties in the United States and Canada are offering Days of Heaven Rates through March 31. Sample prices: $89 a night at the Westin Galleria in Houston and $129 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Reservations: 877-782-0023.

IN THE CITIES Three dozen hotels in Seattle offer Seattle SuperSaver rates until March 31. Sample prices: $130 at the Hotel Monaco; $155 at the Four Seasons Olympic and $59 at the Days Inn Town Center. Reservations are handled by a dedicated number (800-535-7071). ... Nineteen San Francisco hotels from the Kimpton and Joie de Vivre groups are promoting San Francisco on Sale rates until February 29. Prices are either $89 or $129 a night and include free breakfast or free parking. Participating properties include the Hotel Rex, the Hotel Palomar, the Harbor Court and the Nob Hill Lambourne. Reservations are handled by a dedicated number (800-677-1509). ... Sixty hotels in the District of Columbia and 10 more in suburban Maryland and Virginia are offering Winterfest rates through February 28. Sample prices: $109 at the Grand Hyatt Washington and $79 at the Wyndham Bristol, Wyndham City Centre and Wyndham Washington. Getting these rates may be tricky: There's no central reservation number or even a place to view participating hotels. Your best bet is to call your preferred Washington hotel and ask for Winterfest prices.

Two final words on these deals: Restrictions in the form of blackout dates and capacity control apply and most of these prices require advance reservations. If you don't see your favorite hotel on this list, don't hesitate to call and ask about special winter rates. Unless the property is located at a ski resort or a warm-weather destination, they are sure to have at least one decent winter promotion that will cut your costs.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.