Recognizing robust demand, meanwhile, hotel companies are working to build inventory in the Middle East, China and India. But until many more properties open in such cities as Dubai and Mumbai, keeping a lid on corporate lodging costs and finding availability will remain a challenge.

According to the latest hotel industry statistics from HRG UK, Moscow for the second consecutive year in 2006 had the most expensive hotel rates for business travelers, rising by 25 percent to £ 221.75 (US$434.44). It was followed by New York (£186.23/US$343.22) and Bangalore (£167.45/US$328.06). HRG built its research using a combination of industry figures and actual room nights booked and rates paid by U.K. clients during 2006 versus 2005.

Its findings are just a few in a seemingly endless line of strong indicators in the global lodging sector. In the United States, total 2006 occupancy edged up half-a-percentage point to 63.4 percent and average daily rate rose by 7 percent to $97.31, according to Smith Travel Research. On a worldwide basis, Hilton Hotels Corp. reported a nearly 8 percent higher ADR to $124.59 with occupancy up more than one percentage point to 72.5 percent. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide experienced similar growth, with global ADR up more than 8 percent to $156.51 and occupancy up roughly 1 percentage point to 70.1 percent.

Noting "limited supply growth in general," Starwood CEO Steve Heyer last week said, "There is little that indicates this lodging cycle is coming to an end. Rate increases will be some of the best ever [in 2007], notwithstanding last year's amazing performance."

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