DEALS, DEALS, DEALS
We'll have plenty more to say about this in our Dec. 27 edition of the Star, but a conversation with a couple travel experts today reveals even more about how this is a good time to travel for those folks lucky enough to have the cash.
Jennifer Gaines of travelocity.ca tells me that hotel rates are down in many parts of the U.S., which more than makes up for the recent weakness of the Canadian dollar versus the greenback.
"Vegas, which is the number one U.S. destination for Canadians, is down 20 per cent in terms of daily (hotel) rates," Gaines said. "Orlando is down 14 per cent, and south Florida (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Key West) is down six per cent."
Gaines said Chicago is down eight per cent and San Diego, surprisingly, has dropped hotel rates about seven per cent. Combine that fact with cheaper air fares to Toronto for both destinations - Porter now flies into Chicago - and you've got some pretty good deals.
Expect to hear more in the future, but Air Transat is picking up lots of the slack left by the demise of Zoom airways. Lyne Chayer, vice president of marketing for Air Transat, Transat Holidays and Nolitours, says they're doing well with flights to Italy and Spain and that a weekly flight to Malaga, Spain from Toronto will start January 13.
The U.S. hotel industry figures for the week ending Dec. 6 bear out what Gaines is saying about hotel rates. Industry figures supplied by Smith Travel Research show that U.S. hotel occupancy rates fell 9.8 per cent, to 50.2 per cent. The average daily rate was $103.46 U.S., down 3.2 per cent from $106.92 the year before.
Smith Travel Research said luxury chain-scale hotels suffered a 13 per cent drop in occupancy, down to 61.1 per cent.
The company said the only silver lining was convention business in Chicago, New Orleans and San Francisco.
AND ONE MORE VOICE
In a story posted on the Business Travel News website (btnonline.com), industry analyst Bjorn Hanson is quoted as saying the hotel/lodging "is experiencing the strongest buyer's market in 33 years with no recovery on the horizon."
Hanson, associate professor at New York University's Tisch Center, said hotels are throwing in things like free breakfast and fitness center usage more so than in the past.