Was it just last November that you crossed New York City off your site selection list for a meeting in 2001? You knew the dates you wanted would be impossible to get, or that you would pay through the nose to get them.

Well, you might want to rewrite that list. The softening economy means bad news for hotels but good news for meeting planners, particularly those looking for space in cities such as New York and San Francisco, which have been particularly hard-hit by the downturn. Hot deals are out there, and through Web sites and e-mail promotions, they're easier to find than ever before.

Web sites marketing short-term bookings haven't been wildly popular in the past, but that may change with a buyers' market. In fact, a new hot dates/hot rates Web site launched in June — HotMeetingDates.com.

The plan is to have 300 properties on board by the end of the year. The site has several built-in quality control measures: It automatically pulls a listing as soon as the hot date passes; it puts a “freshness date” on each listing so users can tell when the information was last updated; and it deletes any listing that gets 10 hits. Hotels are sent an e-mail message asking them to re-post listings if they don't fill their dates with their 10 responses.

Where to Search for Deals