Orlando HoJo's mojo: $39 suites spell family savings

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ORLANDO -- The Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites here has a bargain for families. Because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the falloff in arrivals, the 157-unit HoJo introduced a commissionable rate of $39 per night for its suites. Children ages 16 and younger stay free with an adult.

A family with children can choose a seven-night stay and pay only $209 for the Premier Suite, which boasts an upgraded kitchen and furniture, according to Judy Kearney, director of sales. These rates are valid through Jan. 31, except for the Dec. 26 to 31 holiday period when the two-story hotel expects to fill up, based on the current pace of reservations, she said.

Some existing units at the Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites in Orlando will become Crayola Suites. Above, a Crayola Suite designed by the crayon-maker. Families generally keep busy visiting the theme parks and are satisfied with the hotel's on-site playground, pool and tennis court, she said. Racket and balls can be rented if guests need them. The property opened last May as the first all-suites hotel for Howard Johnson.

The suites are 500 square feet and have a bedroom with a queen bed, a living area with a queen-size sleeper sofa, a kitchen area, a walk-in closet, an in-room safe, two televisions and a full bath. As part of the Kids Go HoJo program, younger arrivals receive a FunPack containing a coloring book, Crayola crayons and an entry form for a $50,000 college scholarship. Crayola will be decorating some suites, which are set to debut in the next few weeks.

Since mid-September, the property's reservations, excluding Christmas, have been coming in closer to the date of arrival, Kearney said. While the hotel suffered after Sept. 11, it did not suffer as much as some other hotels, she said, because the HoJo is used for extended-stays (up to two weeks) by British tourists and families in the process of relocating.

She said British business has held up, but German and Canadian business is way off vs. pre-Sept. 11 levels. Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites receives 50% of its business from travel agents and tour operators, and on any given day, families are occupying about half of the suites, according to Kearney. For information, call (800) 446-4656. The Web site address is www.hojo.com.

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