December 14, 2000 -- Riddle me this, frequent travelers. What's more confusing and frustrating than wading through Tuesday night's Supreme Court decision on the Florida recount?
The answer: Trying to make sense of the winter deals from the world's leading hotel chains.
Winter rate deals, like presidential elections, used to be so simple. Historically speaking, business travel slumps precipitously from tomorrow through the end of March. Knowing that means many fewer high-priced heads on their beds, hoteliers around the world traditionally slash room rates accordingly. The goal: Induce business travelers and vacationers to visit by convincing them there is no cheaper time to travel.
But just as Election Night stretched into Election Five Weeks while the candidates wiggled and squirmed their ways through all sorts of convoluted rules, restrictions and maneuvers, this winter's hotel deals are more complicated and conflicted than Florida's election code. The days of "40 percent off any time" seem gone forever.
If you're trolling for lodging deals this winter, you're going to have to work hard and pick your way through a maze of offerings and codicils more perplexing than a butterfly ballot. You're going to have to hit the Internet for last-minute promotions, call the 800 numbers and check availability of published deals. You'll have to balance the rate cuts and the "value-added" offers. And just as the Electoral College has yet to vote, several major chains have yet to announce their winter deals. Keep your eyes, ears and Web browsers peeled for breaking news.
Here's what we know so far. And remember, never book a hotel room, especially in the winter, without asking one blunt question: "Is this the lowest rate you have?" Winter hotel deals, like punch-card chads, seem to come out at the most unexpected moments.
BEST INNS & SUITESThrough February 28, Best Blitz rates are $39 for single accommodations or $49 for a double or a suite. Breakfast and local calls are included. Travelers must book reservations through the Best Inns Web site (http://www.bestinn.com).
BOUTIQUE HOTEL GROUPWinter rates are available at the chain's five New York City properties between January 5 and March 31. Prices range from $179 at The Franklin to $205 at the Mansfield and include breakfast. For more information, call 877-847-4444.
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTTThe Breakfast Lovers Package is available on weekends and includes accommodations and a full breakfast for as many as two adults and two children. Prices, validity dates and regulations vary by property. For more information, call 800-321-2211.
HYATTAAA promotional rates through February 28 cut weekday prices to as low as $95 a night and weekend prices as low as $59 a night. Guests must be AAA members. For reservations, call 800-532-1496 and mention offer code AAA01.
LE MERIDIENPassport rates are available through March 31 and cut as much as 50 percent off the published retail rate. Sample prices: $96-$121 a night at the Parkhotel in Frankfurt; $139 at the King Edward in Toronto; and $129-$139 at Le Meridien Dallas. For reservations, call 800-543-4300.
MANDARIN ORIENTALWinter Choices rates are available through March 31 and include 6 p.m. check-out time and daily breakfast for one or two people. Sample prices: $99 a night in Jakarta; $139 in Manila; $257 at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong; and $339 at The Mark in New York. For reservations, call 800-526-6566.
NIKKOWinter rates are valid through March 31 and include $215 a night in San Francisco; $135 in Paris; $265 at the Montcalm in London; and $133 in Hong Kong. For reservations, book through Le Meridien at 800-543-4300.
PRESIDENTE INTER-CONTINENTALBusiness rates through January 15 are as low as $115 a night at the Presidente properties in Mexico City and Guadalajara. The price is $110 at the Presidente Inter-Continental Monterrey through January 7. For reservations, call 800-327-0200.
REGENTPrices, offers and deadlines vary, but include: $160 a night through April 30 at the Regent Sydney; $161 a night through February 28 at the Regent Taipei; and $94 weekends and $145 weekdays including breakfast through December 31 at the Regent Singapore. For reservations, call 800-545-4000.
SOFITELWinter Sale rates are available through March 11 at more than 60 Sofitel locations in Europe and nine hotels in the United States. Prices are grouped in six nightly categories--$129, $149, $169, $219, $269 and $369--and include breakfast and service charges. For reservations, call 800-SOFITEL.
STARWOODPreferred Weekend rates through February 25 reduce prices as low as $55 at Sheraton, Westin and Four Points hotels in the United States and Canada. Rates include a 4 p.m. check-out time. For more information, call 877-822-2222.
WELLESLEYThe Holiday Guest House package is $99 for two rooms through December 30 at the 66 Wellesley Inn and Suites locations nationwide. Guests may choose between two rooms on the same night or one room for two consecutive nights. For more information, call 800-444-8888. This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.