Don't be surprised if you get a phone call from a cheery-voiced, erudite lady or gent tipping you off that the genteel, 137-room Hotel Ritz in London, created by Cesar Ritz himself in 1906, has rooms for 30 percent off.

This is no scam, no boiler-room telemarketer reading from a script, no digital voice that sounds human. At the other end of the line is a reservationist with an organization called Leading Hotels of the World (http://www.lhw.com), which promotes and books rooms for 450 of the finer places to stay in 80 countries.

Well-heeled vacationers and top-level executives seeking more than a plush bed when they travel favor these often distinctive and distinguished hotels, many with spas. But in today's hard times, even big spenders are watching their euros, rupees, pounds sterling and greenbacks. They're scaling back travel or avoiding historical, palatial, pricey hotels to keep a low profile.

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