For corporate travel managers, the last weeks of the year are crunch time as they finalize negotiated discounts with hotel companies and update internal Web sites with 2007 travel policies.

Although hotel negotiations are still ongoing, one theme has become clear: Costs are going up.

Overall, prices for midrange hotels are expected to rise between 3 percent and 6 percent next year, according to the annual American Express Business Travel Forecast. For higher-end properties, increases are expected to be between 4 percent and 8 percent.

In key business markets such as New York, American Express predicts rates will climb as much as 18 percent.

Most of the activity this time of year surrounds hotel contracts. Negotiated discounts for airline tickets and rental cars are brokered throughout the year.

Growing demand, coupled with little added hotel supply, has put operators in the driver's seat when it comes to negotiations.

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