One of the nation's largest hotel chains is throwing four sheets to the wind for the price of one. If past performance charts of the travel industry hold true, it could spell the beginning of a hotel room price war and financial relief to this year's vacationers who have been watching their holiday dollars dwindle because of rising gasoline costs and inflation.

Ramada Inns, the world's second largest hotel system in terms of properties and third largest in terms of rooms, has a special deal at the majority of its hotels in this country whereby as many as four adults can share a room and only pay the single rate.

The promotion, which will run through this year, is being featured at more than 300 Ramada Inns and can save guests up to 40 percent, according to Joseph C. Paige, president of the Ramada Inn system.

Called the "Family Infaltion Fighter," Paige said the promotion came about because "this year especially, travelers are looking for better-priced values and we thought this would generate new and continued business."

The Ramada executive said he didn't know" if cutting room rates as much as 40 percent would cause a price war in the accommodations industry. However, traditionally in all segments of the travel business, if one competitor cuts prices or offers something more, the rest follow suit.

Even in the accommodations industry, when one hotel chain allowed children under a certain age to stay free in their parents' room, the other hotel groups joined in, one going so far as to allow children of any age to bed down at no cost in a room they shared with their parents.

A check with some other hotel groups in Ramada's mid-price range reveals that they are "keeping an eye" on the new promotion.

According to Paige, Ramada's program works this way:

By presenting a special coupon at check-in, as many as four persons can stay in a guest room and pay only the single room rate for the entire period of their stay. Roll-away beds are available at a slight extra charge; cribs are provided at no cost. When they check out, guests get another coupon for future stays.

And where do you get the special coupons? They are included in ads that are running in several publications throughout the country. You can also get them by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Ramada Inns, P.O. Box 590 KJN, Phoenix, Ariz. 85001.

Paige said the hotels participating in the program aren't located only along the roadside but include airport properties and those in major metropolitan areas as well as others near top family vacation destinations such as Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Depending on location and existing rates, guests should save at least 35 percent on the cost of the room, based on four adults per room, he said. The savings for a couple, he estimated, would be about 20 percent. (Though rates vary from hotel to hotel, the nationwide average for a single room at Ramada Inn is about $30).

The hotel executive said there was another reason for the promotion at this time. The 110 U.S. Ramada-owned hotels and many of the company's 500 domestic licensed properties are undergoing, or already have completed, a massive $80-million renovation and redecoration program.

"We want as many people as possible to see what we've been doing to upgrade our facilities," said Paige. He said the extensive refurbishing includes new wall coverings, furniture, carpets and drapes. Swing-away wall reading lamps have replaced the lamps on the night tables and "high quality art work has replaced the $8.98 five-and-dime-store pictures on the walls," he said. The renovation program even includes the bathrooms, he said, where pulsating shower heads have been installed.