Bargain Rooms: 5 Tips for Exploiting the Hotel Debt Crisis

Courtesy ferret111/Flickr
Tampa's Hotel Floridan has struggled to re-open because of financing issues.

One out of three U.S. hotels and motels is "in foreclosure, has changed hands under financial duress, or will hit the skids next year, reports Joe Sharkey, a reporter for Portfolio.

The reason: Many hotel owners are running short of cash to pay their creditors after real estate prices have collapsed and banks have become less generous in their lending policies.

Here's what this financial news means for travelers:

The best values tend be found at hotels that cater to business travelers.

Travelers can also find deals in cities whose real estate markets were overdeveloped in the mid-2000s, such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles, because the owners there are under high pressure to fill their rooms. Foreclosures are most likely outside of cities, so discounts can be found across the country.

Tip: There are exceptions, of course. You'll have to look harder for deals in New York City and Florida, where many international tourists have been booking up rooms and pushing up rates.

Many hotels and motels are becoming run down.

Travelers may increasingly see out-of-service elevators, broken furniture, and flickering lights as many owners struggle to keep their properties in ship-shape.

Tip: It's as important as ever to consult a hotel's online ratings before booking. Try TripAdvisor, the giant of such sites for a quick gauge of mass opinion. Or else look at the reviews from past customers on the major travel sites like Expedia,, and Priceline, which only allow guests who have actually paid to stay at a hotel to rate it.

Hotel owners are desperate for guests, and that means there are discounts to be had. About 38 percent of U.S. hotel rooms go empty every night on average. The best deals are to be found at the last-minute, when hotels are afraid their rooms will otherwise go vacant.

Tip: Look for last-minute discounts of up to 70 percent off standard room rates on three- and four-star hotels in major US cities on the same day by using apps like Hotel Tonight for Android and iPhone and Priceline's with Tonight-Only Deals on its Hotel & Car Negotiator for Android and iPhone.

Brand names don't mean much.

Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, Sheraton, and so forth don't directly own most of the hotels that have their names on them. So, your experience of staying at a Hilton in one town may differ significantly from you stay at a Hilton elsewhere.

Tip: The main benefit of a hotel chains is its loyalty program. Because hotel occupancy is low, you'll earn free stays quickly, and you shouldn't have a problem booking a free reward night.

You can start often start a "bidding war" for your business.

If you need to book your room ahead, find two hotels you like in the same neighborhood and then see which one will offer you the better deal.

Here's how: Book a hotel reservation that's refundable at one hotel, but then call the other one you like to see if it might provide you a better deal. Say, "I've got a reservation to stay at [insert property name] with a King size bed for [insert the price], but I was looking at your TripAdvisor reviews and am wondering if I should cancel it and stay at your hotel instead. I really like your hotel because of [insert reason]. Could you give me a discounted rate, or a better room?" With luck, the clerk will try to tempt you with a better rate.

Tip: Be sure to call the hotel's front desk directly, not a chain's toll free reservations hotline, which won't have the same flexibility or incentive to cut you a deal.


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