New York hotels are suddenly more affordable

With tourism off, pricey Manhattan addresses are offering deep discounts and rebates

When Ann and her three children came here recently from Dallas to see the Broadway shows "The Lion King" and "The Women," she didn't want to spend the $400 a night per room she was quoted by one of her favorite hotels. But she never imagined that she could actually get two rooms for the price of that one at the posh Helmsley Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South near Fifth Avenue.

"The rooms didn't overlook the park, but one was on the back with a view of a beautiful garden, and the other was on the side and very quiet. I was thrilled with the accommodations and the price," says Ann, an interior decorator.

She and her family aren't alone these days, and won't be for many months to come, in their successful hunt for getaway bargains in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, which sent tourism on a dizzying downward spiral.

Special bargain rates at hotels, ranging from small individually owned and operated properties to luxury accommodations, are proliferating around Manhattan.

Sometimes special hotel rates include discounts on Broadway shows and at restaurants. And many new getaway specials are being extended well into 2002.

"With some exceptions, hotel rates are generally down 20, 40, or more percent, and many people who probably would have never traveled to New York for economic reasons now have the incentive to do so," says Paul Celnik, general manager of the Hotel Iroquois.

"A lot of major hotel chains like Hilton and Hyatt have cut rates, and, to a certain extent, other hotels have followed suit," Mr. Celnick adds. "And although business is not as good as it normally is, a growing number of people are responding to the reduced rates. Hotels like ourselves are down almost $90 [per room], on average, from a year ago."

Of course, New York being New York, it has its share of costly accommodations. Yet even some of these are jumping on the bargain bandwagon - albeit on the high end. For example, the Pierre Hotel, which overlooks Central Park, is offering something called a "Le Petit Pierre" weekend and holiday package from Dec. 31, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2002.

One night in two adjoining Pierre rooms, with full breakfast for two adults and two children, plus one pay-per-view movie, popcorn, and soda, with complimentary tickets to the Central Park Zoo, is $625 a night. While by no means inexpensive, this is still some $175 below the $800 a night Ann would have paid for two rooms at the hotel she had first called.

The Plaza Hotel, home to Kay Thompson's fictional storybook character Eloise and scenes in the blockbuster movie "Home Alone 2," is featuring "standard" (non-park-view) rooms for $269 a night, and these lower rates, if rooms are reserved now, will be extended through the first several months of 2002. Bigger rooms, some of which include views of Central Park, are priced at $289 for one person and $325 for two.

Earlier this month, the Plaza offered a rebate when a guest presented a receipt for a Broadway show or restaurant, and the rebate may be extended into the new year.

"This was the Plaza's way of saying thank you to guests for visiting New York City. It's also a way of encouraging them to spend more money in the city," says Gary Schweikert, general manager of the Plaza.

Some of the many hotel getaway packages include:

• Hotel Wales. 1295 Madison Avenue at 92nd Street. Amid a plethora of famous-designer dress shops and cozy neighborhood restaurants, the vintage Victorian hotel features single rooms at $199 (down from nearly $300) through Dec. 31, plus a $50 rebate on a return stay in 2002. 877-847-4444.

• The Mansfield. 16 West 44th Street. Located across from the Iroquois, the cozy Mansfield has a wood-burning fireplace in the lobby and is only two blocks from a number of Broadway theaters. Rates start at $189, and include a $50 rebate toward a stay in 2002. 877-847-4444.

• The Doral Park Avenue Hotel. Park Avenue at 38th Street. In Manhattan's historic Murray Hill district, with its clusters of fashionable brownstone houses, the Doral's "all-American package" (for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday stays) is $199 a night (double occupancy), and includes full breakfast for two and, later, American apple pie. 877-993-6725.

• Le Marquis. 12 East 31st Street. Also in the Murray Hill neighborhood and near some of the city's most beautiful churches, the 123-room Le Marquis has reduced rates to as little as $150 a night. Each room is appointed with Frette linens and bathrobes. (212) 889-6363.

• Swissotel, New York, also known as the Drake. 440 Park Avenue at 56th Street. The newly renovated 700-room Drake, which dates back to the 1920s, is several blocks from Rockefeller Center and Central Park. Rates now start at $199 (down from nearly $400) a night, including breakfast. (212) 421-0900.

• Millennium Hotel New York Broadway. 145 West 44th Street. A literal stone's throw from Broadway, the sleek ultramodern hotel has a Macy's shoppers' package good through Dec. 30, 2001. The rate of $179 per night (double occupancy) includes discount coupons redeemable at Macy's on Herald Square, and continental breakfast for two. (646) 866-8086.

• Habitat Hotel. Lexington Avenue and 57th Street. The 300-room Habitat, on fashionable 57th Street and just down the street from the ultraluxurious Four Seasons Hotel, is offering rooms from $135 a night and even has some cheaper rates for those willing to share a bathroom. 800-497-6028.

Hotels are increasing efforts to make visitors feel more welcome.

"Some of our top management people are sometimes in the lobby greeting guests and asking them if there's anything more that can be done for them," says Guenter Richter, general manager of the Drake.

"Value is obviously important to many people, and there's no better time than now to find it in New York. But just as there seems to be a new spirit in New York, with people taking time to be nicer to each other, we [at the Drake] are trying to literally say 'thank you' to guests. It's not an easy time for many hotels, with profits often nonexistent, but now there's a bit more heart in many [hotels]."

• New York City's convention and visitors bureau has introduced special "Paint the Town Red, White and Blue" travel packages, which are available from now until March 31, with savings and discounts at a broad selection of hotels, Broadway shows, and restaurants. Every package includes a small donation to the Twin Towers Fund. Call 800-NYC-GUIDE, log on to nycvisit.com, or stop by the Official Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Avenue.

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