The wait-and-see attitude some buyers adopted during hotel negotiations this past season has not severely delayed the 2009 rate-loading process, with many buyers and consultants reporting that hotel rates were loaded into the global distribution systems with improved accuracy and speed this year. The economic downturn, however, is providing a new set of buyer challenges, including a need for heavier monitoring to ensure negotiated rates remain the best deal and the potential for aggressive rate squatting.

Neysa Silver, director of hotel consulting in the Americas for Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Solutions Group, said the majority of the agency's programs are complete, with the first round of audits done as well as a good portion of the second round. As of late January, about 71 percent were showing accurately loaded rates, an improvement from the 67 percent success rate of last year, albeit for a different client set, she said. The agency now is aiming to decrease the amount of time it takes to reach full accuracy, she said.

"Historically, it's taken four or five rounds, so we're waiting to see if the cycle is decreasing," said Silver.

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