Marriott is in a Catch22. For Q4 2008 Marriott reported a $10M loss (WSJ 2/12/09). Marriott forecasted decreased RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) by 3-5% in North America, but the decrease soared to 8.4%
During Q1 2009 you could still find rooms in Cat 1-4 under $100 as well as Pointsavers. In the coming week in New England, for example, there are 10 properties in Massachusetts with rooms listed at AAA rates of $80 to 99 including a Courtyard, South Boston. Connecticut and Rhode Island have 4 properties each with rooms at Standard rates of $69 to 99, AAA rates are actually higher. State by state, room availability under $100 is running about 25 to 30% of the number of properties in the state.
As Q1 2009 comes to a close, let's be optimistic and hope that the ratio stays the same or better yet improves. Lower room rates will stimulate more travelling*, more meetings and more leisure road trips which is better than less.
* Postscript (3/29): See AAA Three Day Getaways
The problem is that the hotels need to make a profit or they themselves close. When there were plenty of people willing to pay the going rate, the availability of discounts was low. With declining nights, most chains fear an avalanche of cost-cutting and room rate reductions will hurt them in the short-, and mid-term.
Discounts are self-defeating unless they garner new business. I fear that cuts will occur in service first, and rooms last. But cut-rate rooms might not be what you want to stay in.