South Florida luxury hotels tested in hard times

Is a global recession the time to be spending $1,000 a night for a hotel room?

Jorge Collazo has his doubts. The sales director for the Setai predicts a sizable number of guests this winter will balk at the South Beach resort's $1,100 standard daily rate, forcing him to extend a $620 weekday special into the weekend.

''In previous years, I could tell you from the get-go we would not have that promotional rate on the weekends at all,'' Collazo said. ``With the economy being strong, we were confident of everybody coming in.''

Collazo's sales plan reflects the reckoning under way throughout the top tiers of South Florida's lodging industry.

After five years of profiting from the splurges brought by a booming financial sector and housing market, luxury hotels now must consider a world of declining fortunes.

A steep recession could prove the biggest test yet for South Florida's priciest hotels, most of which were either in the planning stages or only recently opened during the downturn brought on by the 2001 terrorist attacks.

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