Upper upscale properties are starting to see increased interest from corporate planners, and expectations are high for 2004.

Bruce Himelstein, vice president, sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., LLC, says that demand for corporate meetings, particularly small ones, has increased in the past few months. The market upturn has led to unprecedented short-term demand, he says.

Brian Ferguson, vice president at Smith Travel Research, isn't surprised. Rates have been lowered so aggressively at luxury properties in the past few years that they are more competitive. In September, RevPAR for upper upscale hotels increased 0.5% over the previous September. By comparison, upscale, midscale, and economy chains saw declines.

As a result, luxury hotels are holding rates steady while midscale and economy properties are reducing theirs.