So, how is the economic downturn affecting hotels?

David Scypinski, senior vice president, industry relations, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, is cautiously optimistic. “We are seeing slowdowns in selective locales,” he says. Individual travel, particularly in first-tier cities like San Francisco and New York that had been reaping the benefits of the tech boom, is being affected. “We've actually seen less of an effect on meetings than on business travel.

“Companies see travel and entertainment as discretionary,” he says. “Perhaps they'll reduce the size of the meeting, but not outright cancel. We're also seeing a curtailment of smaller, internal meetings.” While people probably will take a wait-and-see approach through the summer, Scypinski says, “We do have more rooms to fill, more hot dates/hot rates.” And Starwood is letting planners know about its hot dates/hot rates inventory by using the full gamut of distribution channels: its Web site, other Web sites, third parties with hot dates distribution, national sales offices, and direct mail.

At Marriott International, whose first-quarter earnings left stockholders smiling despite the economic downturn, executive vice president and CFO Arne M. Sorenson agrees. “Domestically, full-service hotels were hardest hit and saw a smaller-than-anticipated increase in revPAR.” He says that Residence Inns saw a fall-off in short-term training meetings, which were being replaced by long-term “problem-solver” travelers.