Although the ideal situation for buyers is to have rates loaded by year-end, many hotels still were loading rates in January and others have not even begun. This delay has become customary during the past few years, as hotels have strengthened market leverage and aggressively pushed for higher rates.

"We still have a significant number that are coming in January," said Jill Cady, director of global sales strategies and systems for InterContinental Hotels Group. "The entire negotiation process was a bit delayed. There were a couple of extra rounds this year, because rates were continuing to be pushed a bit higher, and we were seeing that travel managers were holding back on their final approvals."

Kevin Maguire, director of global travel for Austin, Texas-based Applied Materials, was among buyers who said the process was not yet finished in late January, although it was close to completion. "We're progressing. They're being loaded as we speak," Maguire said on Wednesday. "We're going through American Express, so we're probably a week to 10 days away from being fully loaded."

Global distribution system suppliers, meanwhile, reported that from their perspective, most of the rate-loading process was complete. This perspective, of course, would include rates outside of corporate negotiated rates as well.

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