Marriott offers 80% discounts on top resorts; after 4-6 weeks rooms still available

Tonight I got a call from the Marriott that completely amazed me. Because I was a member of the rewards club (a fact I was completely unaware of) I was eligible for an 80% discount at top resorts in such Florida or Caribbean destinations as Orlando, West Palm Beach, and St. Kitts. The cost for 4 nights, 5 days: $199 for a room with a balcony. Taxes and resort fees for such amenities as golf are included.

Once I put down my $199  (or $299 for a Caribbean island off-season, $599 high season), I could travel anytime in the next 12 months — which gives you an idea of either how long the Marriott Corp. expects the economic slowdown to last or how desperate it is for cash now.

Cash flow seems to be a big issue for the much-battered hotel industry.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that hotel vacancies nationally are approaching a 20-year low with 15 consecutive monthly declines — longer than the post-9/11 slump. Market-research company PKF Consulting told the Journal that it expects that 20% of the 1,500 hotels it recently surveyed won’t have enough cash to cover interest payments on their mortgages. In fact, it turns out the Marriott Courtyard Cayman was reportedly late on its mortgage.

The Marriott sales rep who called me emphasized that the hotel chain was featuring not just its best rooms in this special deal for Marriott Club members such as myself, but also only those built in the last three years. No surprise.  The Journal reveals:

Exacerbating the industry’s troubles is a flood of new rooms hitting the market because of development projects started during the real-estate boom of recent years. The estimated 125,000 net new rooms projected to debut in each of this year and 2010 amounts to a 2.5% annual increase in supply, according to Smith Travel Research. That’s well above the 20-year average rate of 1.5% — and it comes as demand for rooms is tanking.

I listened to the voice at the other end of the phone line. How much time did I have to respond to this generous offer? Actually, he said, this call was a follow-up to a mailing sent four to six weeks ago. I hadn’t responded. Knowing me, I probably tossed the offer without opening it.

He could give me another 24 hours. I suspect, I have a lot more than 24 hours if I am willing to hand over my credit card number anytime soon.

Next question: Can I get reduced airfare for the entire family?

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