Rising travel stars: Oslo, Kiev, Havana, Mexico City and London Ontario????
Okay, those are cities you don't over see sharing the same headline. But a couple reports that floated across my desk recently showed that those are among the cities (there are more surprises below, so stay tuned) that have seen the highest increase in searches at cheapflights.ca, cheapflights.com and cheapflights.co.uk.
It sounds kinda weird, but here are the numbers.
In North America, Havana in the first part of this year saw its number of searches at cheapflights.ca go up by 92 per cent. Mexico City searches jumped 83 per cent, which was TIED WITH OUR OWN LONDON, home to the University of Western Ontario Mustangs. Next in the North America category was Deer Lake, Newfoundland with 74 per cent more searches this year than last, followed by Kelowna and Abbotsford B.C. at 70 percent, and a three-way tie between Toronto, Hamilton and Fredericton, New Brunswick, at 67 per cent.
A word of warning here is that these were searches for flights, not necessarily expressions of interest in flying to and staying in those destinations. London is a growing hub for southern Ontario, so perhaps some folks simply wanted to fly in or out of London. But it's also getting bigger by the day, and folks down there tell me there are fine hotels and restaurants, so perhaps some people were looking for an alternative to Toronto.
Cheapflights.ca site editor Oonagh Shiel said in a press release that sites such as London, Deer Lake (a lovely part of Newfoundland, by the way) and Kelowna (a stunning part of B.C.) are making a recovery from the 2009 economic downtown and also have had successful promotional efforts and additional flights, which is what I suspected was part of the increased search numbers.
As for the bottom feeders, cheapflights.ca found that searches for some major American destinations were way down in the first part of 2010, suggesting folks were taking vacations within Canada. Clearwater, Florida searches were down a rather dramatic 24 per cent, while those for Detroit (gee, imagine that) were down 18 per cent and searches for Raleigh-Durham were down 17 per cent.
Traffic on the sister sites of cheapflights.com and cheapflights.co.uk also showed some interesting results. Searches in 2010 were up 149 per cent for Oslo, Norway (see photo at right) over the 2009 numbers, while searches for Kiev, Ukraine went up 142 per cent and searches for Budapest jumped 129 per cent. Tirana, Albania, for goodness sakes, went up 124 per cent. (In all seriousness, I've heard Albania can be pretty cool. Still a bit dodgy in terms of service, but a lovely coastline with a quarter of the crowds of nearby Croatia).HOTWIRE CANADIAN HOTEL STUDY
Hotwire.com has issued its August hotel price survey for Canada. The company found that rates in Halifax dropped 15 per cent compared to August, 2009, with a 3.5 star property being available for just $84. Prices in Barrie dropped 12 per cent with a 3-star property going for $83, while prices in Oshawa-Whitby fell nine per cent. A three-star property in Oshawa-Whitby could be found for $72 this month, they said.
London, which I mentioned above as a hot search spot on cheapflights.ca, saw a 5 per cent drop in hotel rates in August, according to hotwire. The company said a 3.5 star property in London could be had for just $74, and that's pretty good.MY KINGDOM FOR A FRIDGE
A study by J.D. Power and Associates and Homewood Suites by Hilton found that complimentary Internet (HOORAY) is the most important in-room amenity these days. Which makes sense in our plugged-in world, and in a world where more and more of us are working late into the evening.
In addition to talking about free Internet (DID I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR ON HOW I THINK HOTELS AROUND THE WORLD NEED TO MAKE THE INTERNET FREE?), a whopping 83 per cent of those surveyed said they often work in the evenings or on weekends, an increase of 11 per cent over figures in 2000. Which suggests Europeans are right; us folk in North America take work far too seriously.
Anyway, in addition to FREE INTERNET, the survey found folks really want an in-room kitchen, stocked with requested food. Of course, they're all working til midnight and have mortgages to pay to greedy banks and can't afford to eat out, so it makes sense they want a kitchen.
Respondents also said they could use a microwave, as chances are that even if they DO make a meal in their in-room kitchen the boss will call and demand an hour of their time while their spaghetti with Ragu sauce goes cold on the counter and congeals into a massive, cold mountain of glue.
I've never stayed in one of their properties, but Homewood folks say they've begun something called "Distinctly Homewood" enhancements, with a "30-day rotational menu which includes a daily, full hot breakfast and evening meal with drinks every Monday-Thursday." They say they also have added better TV's in the rooms, as well as granite countertops, wood laminate flooring, better bedding and improved fitness equipment.