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 The Brancatelli File

joe IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
WHEN HOTELS CUT THEIR RATES


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

December 24, 1998 -- There's that wonderful scene in Frank Capra's holiday masterpiece, It's a Wonderful Life, when Lionel Barrymore's Potter tries to buy out Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey.

The despicable Potter offers the credulous George a big salary, the finest house in Bedford Falls and the opportunity to do what Bailey has longed to do all his life: travel. Knowing George is desperate for a Bedford Falls exit strategy, Potter dangles business trips to New York and Europe as part of the employment package.

Every time I see Barrymore spar with Stewart, I can't help but yell at the screen, "Don't do it George! Don't become a business traveler! It would be better if you were never born!"

Now I know that's not what Capra was going for, but I just can't help myself. To use the vernacular of the movie, I'm just a warped, frustrated middle-aged frequent flyer. Why hit the road for Pottersville when you could stay in Bedford Falls, where everybody knows your name and the cab driver always seems to be waiting for your hail?

Still, this is the holiday season and I really do have some good cheer to offer. Now is about when hotels all over the world announce rate cuts for the sluggish first quarter, when business travelers are less wont to leave their own private Bedford Fallses.

So consider these your Christmas gifts. I've listed the chainwide offerings of several hotel groups and then given you a few outstanding offers in major business-travel cities. And, if you don't see what you like, call your favorite place and ask what specials they are offering during the first quarter.

And, remember, every time a bell rings, a frequent flyer wins another free ticket!

CHAINWIDE SALES Fifty-eight U.S and European Sofitel hotels (800-SOFITEL) offer Winter Sale rates until February 28. Prices are guaranteed in U.S. dollars and include breakfast. Sample rates: $130 in Frankfurt, Houston, Minneapolis and Washington; $150 in Moscow, Lisbon, Brussels and Madrid; $170 in Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Vienna; and $250 at the chain's two best Paris properties. Meanwhile, 60 Hyatt (800-223-1234) properties around the world promote Great Deals rates until February 28. Among the offers: $235 a night at the Park Hyatt hotels in Buenos Aires and Sydney; $150 at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul; $155 at the Hyatt Regency in Istanbul; and $140 at the Park Hyatt in Johannesburg. And 100 Le Méridien hotels (800-543-4300) around the world offer Le Passport rates until March 31. A two-night minimum stay is required. Sample rates: $136 a night in Frankfurt, $184 in New Orleans and $80 in Cairo.

BEIJING At the China World Hotel, rates start at $126 a night and are available until February 28. At the Traders Hotel, rates start at $99 and include breakfast. Book both through Shangri-La (800-942-5050).

DALLAS At the Mansion on Turtle Creek, the Winter Relief rate is $255 a night. The same promotion is $235 at the Hotel Crescent Court. The prices are valid until March 31. Book both through Preferred (800-323-7500).

LONDON Three Thistle hotels are available at reduced rates through March 31: the Kensington Palace is $107 a night; the Kensington Park is $137; and the Royal Horseguards is $217. Rates include breakfast. Prepayment is required. Book through Destination Europe (800-835-1555).

MILAN At the Carlton Hotel Baglioni, rates are about $195 a night including breakfast. The price is valid through January 31. Book through Summit (800-457-4000).

NEW DELLI At the Oberoi Maidens hotel (800-5-OBEROI), the Winter Specials package includes accommodations, one-way airport transfer, breakfast and 6 p.m. checkout. The price, $160 a night, is valid until March 31.

NEW YORK At the Avalon (888-HI-AVALON), a sweet little boutique hotel in Midtown, rates start at $169 a night (including breakfast) until January 31. At the nine suite hotels managed by Manhattan East (800-ME-SUITE), rates start at $175 until January 31; a $25 dining credit at selected restaurants is also offered.

ROME At the Regina Hotel Baglioni, rates are about $195 a night through February 28 and include breakfast. Book through Summit at 800-457-4000.

TOKYO At the ANA Hotel Tokyo (800-ANA-HOTELS), the Winter Special rate of about $206 a night is valid through March 31.

TORONTO Winter Relief rates at the Metropolitan are $100 a night. The price is valid until March 31; book through Preferred (800-323-7500).

WASHINGTON At the Hay-Adams across the street from the White House, Winter Relief rates are $225 a night weekdays and $189 weekends. The prices are valid until March 31; book through Preferred (800-323-7500).

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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