Discounts on luxury travel have been lush in recent years, but travel pros say that window may soon be closing.
As consumers find more space in their budgets for travel, hotels are filling up and room rates are rising. Overall, hotel prices in the United States increased nearly 4% last year, to an average nightly rate of $102, according to Smith Travel Research. This year, prices are expected to jump another 4.7%. “People are poised to splurge,” says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, which studies spending habits of the affluent. In a recent survey, the firm found that 40% of Americans plan to spend more on travel this year; 12% plan to spend significantly more.
Consumers who are finally ready to book an expensive trip may need to act fast. Experts say the days of snagging a peak-season trip for 50% off or better — a real possibility in recent years — are disappearing. Luxury hotel rates rose 6.3% last year, to an average $259, and are expected to increase another 6.4% this year to $276, Smith Travel Research says. “We’re clearly well into the recovery stage,” says Robert Mandelbaum, director of research information services for PKF Hospitality Research.
Travel experts say luxury hotel prices could hit or exceed pre-recession highs as early as 2013, but add that consumers looking to upgrade their travel now can still find bargains and use other tactics to get a swankier experience for less.
Consider a cruise
As the cruise lines have expanded globally, they’re able to offer more options at a reduced cost, says Stewart Chiron, a cruise broker known as The Cruise Guy. In particular, Asia and South America are becoming more affordable cruise markets, he says.
Chiron suggests looking to less-known deluxe and luxury lines such as Azamara, which recently offered an eight-night South American river cruise for $2,049, including round-trip airfare and a cabin upgrade. Some Asian cruises cost as little as $100 a night. It’s also important to evaluate the value of the deal, he says: Lots of offers are “whoop-de-do” sales that sound good — for instance, free shore excursions or a credit toward certain shipboard purchases — but don’t offer significant savings for most travelers.
Late last year, some of the first sales on Antarctic cruise lines popped up, but such exotic options can still be prohibitively expensive. The Compagnie du Ponant’s Antarctic cruise, which includes a $1,400 flight credit and up to 20% off cabin rates, still costs anywhere between $5,000 and $18,000. And don’t expect significant sales on luxury liners for common routes like the Caribbean, says Chiron. “They’re not doing the 65% off sales anymore.”
Use a travel rewards card
“The reward card market has heated up a lot,” says Curtis Arnold, founder of credit-card comparison site CardRatings. Just for signing up for a new card, travelers can easily earn points or miles worth as much as $500, he says. That gives cardholders a head start on earning enough miles for a free room night or an airline seat. Airline cards often now also include a roster of valuable perks, including a free checked bag and priority boarding access. Hotel cards may come with a complimentary room upgrade or a fee waiver on the WiFi. The Hyatt card from Chase, for example, comes with automatic platinum status which includes late check out, expedited check-in and room upgrades.
Less-frequent travelers, however, may still find such cards expensive, says Curtis. Many charge a substantial annual fee after the first year and interest rates are often high, making these cards a bad deal for people who carry a balance, he adds.
Pay with miles
Industry experts say travelers who have been stashing away miles on an airline frequent-flier program may have an easier time redeeming them as carriers make more reward seats available and tweak programs to increase booking options. Six of the nine U.S. carriers had awards seats available for 60% or more of requests received, according to a recent survey from consulting firm IdeaWorks. In 2010, only five did.
What’s driving the trend, say experts: Airlines are being more generous with partner offers that tally miles. Southwest recently joined the ranks of airlines that do rewards swaps with Chase. As a result, you’ll be able to transfer points you earn with Chase on a 1:1 ratio to Southwest, Arnold says.
Easier doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper, experts point out. Most programs have moved to a tiered mileage system in recent years that charges more miles for booking flexibility. And airlines have cut capacity roughly 5% in recent months, which also limits seating.
Shop flash sales
Sites such as Jetsetter, SniqueAway, Vacationist and Groupon offer quick sales of as much as 50% off for lodging and other travel deals. The offers last just a few days or until they sell out, whichever happens first. Jetsetter, for example, recently offered rooms at the Rasananda Resort Spa in Koh Phanagan, Thailand, for as little as $127 a night, 32% less than the regular room rate.
While experts say many of these deals can be great, consumers should look beyond the splashy come-ons. As demand increases, “the leverage has swung toward the hotel,” Mandelbaum says. Deal-hunters may find that the best bargains are for the off-season and other less-desirable times. “They’re not going to offer a big discount when they can sell that room three or four times over at full price,” he says.
In honor of Ben Franklin’s birthday Jan. 17, the American Assn. for Nude Recreation is telling the public that the Founding Father was fond of spending time in the nude as part of his daily routine. “You, too, can enjoy an ‘air bath’ just as Benjamin Franklin did 260 years ago, not just in your own backyard and pool, but also at over 260 AANR facilities,” the organization says . . . . Sixty vehicles passed through a sobriety checkpoint at Grand Canyon National Park just after Christmas. Eight citations were issued for violations ranging from failure to wear a seatbelt to open container violations. No arrests were made . . . . The Tahoe Symphony Orchestra Chorus presents “Mendelssohn in the Mountains” Jan 21, 4 p.m., at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. Adult admission is $25; $5 for students; 12 years and younger are free . . . . Portland’s glamorous Old Hollywood-inspired Hotel deLuxe is offering a “My Chocolate Valentine” package that includes gourmet cookies, a bottle of Argyle Brut and restaurant discounts, from $179 per night, plus tax. For info, call (866) 986-8085 or click here . . . . Las Vegas hosts the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, April 1, MGM Grand Garden Arena. Tickets are available to the public. For info, visit www.ACMcountry.com . . . . In one of the bolder Valentine’s promotions, Canyon Ranch Hotel Spa in Miami Beach is hosting a week of Sensuality Sexuality from Feb. 13-18. Topics and classes are designed to appeal to men, women, couples and singles alike. Rooms start at $605 a night. For details, click here . . . . Berlin’s version of “Night at the Museum” incorporates admission to 100 museums large and small, with shuttle buses running between. For details, click here . . . . Bombardier Aerospace unveiled plans Tuesday to expand its Learjet site in Wichita, Kan., creating 450 new jobs . . . . Travel quote of the day: “Being naked approaches being revolutionary; going barefoot is mere populism.” (John Updike)
If you have free time during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, here’s a perfect match: things to see and do that are free.
Freebie 1: The holiday weekend means free admission to national parks and national forests from Friday-Monday. Not all parks and forests charge fees, but those that do (for example, $20 a car at Yosemite and $15 a car at Joshua Tree national parks as well as $5 Adventure Pass day fee in the Angeles National Forest) will waive costs on those days.
Freebie 2: Before you go anywhere, grab a guide. Starbucks replaces its Pick of the Week song with a free download of Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel 2012″ e-book. Just snag one of the cards (no purchase required) that gives you a redemption code, which is good until April. The book usually costs $14.99 for a hard copy and $9.99 for the e-book, which lists the Top 10 places — by country, region and cities, and even by soup slurping — to visit this year. Cards will be distributed through Monday.
Freebie 3: Just do something, preferably something that underscores King’s life and legacy. In Washington, D.C., visit the new Martin Luther King Memorial or go to the free “Let Freedom Ring” concert featuring Bobby McFerrin at 6 p.m. Monday at Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In Southern California, the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra gives a free classical concert at 3:30 p.m. Sunday (SGI Auditorium), and the Kingdom Day Parade begins at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Western Avenue starting 11 a.m. Monday. LACMA too offers a free day Monday with bilingual tours and programs throughout the day.
BEIJING – A popular tourist city in northern China says it will ban residents from keeping large dogs such as German shepherds in its downtown core.
The city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province said in a statement posted on its website late Tuesday that the ban will start Feb. 1. The city has three ring roads, and large dogs will be banned in all areas inside the third ring road. They’ll also be banned from some places outside the third ring road.
The official Xinhua News Agency said 34 types of dogs would be banned, including violent dogs such as pit bulls.
Xi’an is known for the terra-cotta warriors — thousands of life-sized clay figures that are one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century.
Although the statement did not give a reason for the ban, other cities in China have tightened rules on dog ownership and sizes because of worries about rabies, concerns about health issues and problems with wild dogs.
The statement said that beginning Feb. 1, residents will be banned from “keeping fierce or large dogs inside the third ring road, and from residential areas, government and company grounds, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, scenic and historical spots outside the third ring road.”
Pet ownership in China was once rare because the Communist Party condemned it as bourgeois and most people couldn’t afford to own cats or dogs. Now it is booming, especially in the bigger cities.
Xinhua said large dogs were defined as those dog species with a shoulder height of more than 20 inches (half a meter).
In May last year, Shanghai imposed restrictions on dog ownership, setting a limit of one dog per family in an effort to gain control over a soaring pet population and curb rabies.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A sheriff’s deputy shocked an airline passenger with a stun gun three times after the man refused to complete a Sacramento airport’s screening process and ran into a secure area, authorities said Tuesday.
Edwin Barton, 26, arrived at Sacramento International Airport on an inbound flight earlier in the day, but told security officials he needed to go back inside the airport’s secure area to get some belongings.
When Transportation Security Administration officials told Barton he would have to be screened again, he became argumentative and picked up his bag and ran, said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Ramos.
A sheriff’s deputy chased after him with a Taser gun and stunned him once, but Barton tried to pull out the barbs so the deputy stunned him two more times, Ramos said.
After he was subdued, Barton was handcuffed by another deputy and taken to a hospital to be evaluated.
Barton was booked into Sacramento County Jail, where he was being held on misdemeanor charges of suspicion of obstructing a peace officer and unlawfully accessing the secure area of an airport.
DENVER – The National Ski Areas Association has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service challenging a new water-rights clause in some resorts’ permits.
The trade group had said in December that it would sue. It filed its lawsuit Monday in federal court in Denver.
The lawsuit argues the Forest Service has directed employees to insert language in ski area permits to seize resorts’ privately owned water rights at ski areas on national forests. The trade association is seeking a nationwide injunction to set aside the directive, which it says exceeds the authority of the Forest Service.
The Forest Service has told The Denver Post previously that the new water-rights clause protects the long-term viability of ski areas by tying water resources tied to the land, not the resort operator.
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(PRWEB) January 12, 2012
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Browse business news now. After browsing Business.alltopics.com, the reader will be bowled over by the abundance of business news. Where are all the biggest companies situated? What tips are the best for a business beginner? Why do corporate giants go bankrupt? And how to successfully start running your business from scratch? All the answers are at Alltopics, the number one news source that’s constantly updated, constantly changing and is always free.
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(CNN) — Getting a killer price on a cruise in the first quarter of the year used to be as common as seeing chocolates dominate store shelves before Valentine’s Day, but these days, the rules may be changing.
Many travelers wait for wave season — the period from January to March, when cruise lines have traditionally offered their best deals — to book their vacation at sea.
Is that still a good strategy today? The views are mixed.
The magnitude of wave season deals has lessened each year for the last three years, to the point where there really is no wave season in 2012, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of CruiseCritic.com, calling it a major shift in the industry.
“Cruise lines used to have a Nordstrom mentality, where they were selective about how they put things on sale. So during wave season … they put all their marketing dollars in a basket, and this was the best time of year to get incredible value for the money,” Brown said.
“I really think that it’s not Nordstrom anymore. It’s Macy’s, because Macy’s has a sale all the time.”
Brown said she hasn’t seen any offers that would compel her to book now, so she advises cruise aficionados to simply look for deals year-round, taking care not to wait too long to lock in trips for popular vacation times like spring break or Christmas.
But Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales at Royal Caribbean, said she respectfully disagrees with Brown, calling the first quarter of the year still the best time to book a cruise.
“This is where we have our deepest discounts right now,” Freed said.
“For us as an industry, not just as a company, wave season continues to be a very important part of our calendar year.”
Still, wave season has “changed considerably” over the past few years, said Mark Schiffner, vice president and chief operating officer of Cruise Holidays, a network of cruise agencies.
He estimated that up to 60% of the company’s Caribbean business for the year is still booked in January, February and March — in part because those are big travel months in the region as people seek to escape the winter cold. But the overall focus now is more year-round.
“If you talk to most people in the industry, they’ve seen the whole business, same as us, stretch out more throughout the year versus that big-wave first quarter,” Schiffner said.
The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 26 major cruise lines, attributed the trend of a “flattened out” wave season to the growth of cruising.
“Because now it’s a global [industry] and we have our cruise ships going all over the world, there really isn’t a season per se,” said Lanie Morgenstern, a spokeswoman for the association.
“We do see spikes still following the holiday season … [but] the whole year is important to the cruise industry.”
So cruise lines distribute their advertising and marketing throughout the 12-month period, Morgenstern said, and aren’t just focused on the first quarter anymore.
You might just get a great deal in October — which the Cruise Lines International Association has designated National Cruise Vacation Month — or any other time.
Still looking for offers now? Cruise Holidays noted that Oceania is offering two-for-one fares, free airfare and savings up to several thousand dollars per stateroom if you book by March 31.
Norwegian is touting its “Take It To The Next Level” sale, in which all new cruise reservations on all ships booked through March 31 will receive a free upgrade within the same stateroom category.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean is offering up to $100 onboard credit per stateroom when you book a six-night or longer Caribbean cruise by March 31 or any European cruise by February 29.
Here’s what else to look for in 2012:
River cruising is huge
Schiffner called the growth of the river cruise phenomenon “just unbelievable,” as passengers discover the appeal of going from city to city within a country rather than staying at sea.
Cruising down the Rhine, the Danube and other rivers in Europe has become so popular that Viking will launch six new ships this year alone in the region, Brown said.
As the voyages attract younger, more active and savvier travelers, river boats are transforming from “fusty” and boring to dynamic, she said.
“It’s really a hot thing right now,” Brown said.
Many cruise lines have discovered they put too many ships in Europe, so they have brought a lot of them back to the Caribbean, making that popular region newly hot again, Brown said.
“Really, the most glamorous, sexy, fun, innovative ships that are out there are all in the Caribbean, so it’s really got a new, fresh energy about it,” Brown said.
Australia will be a popular destination in 2012 as Royal Caribbean places its ship, Voyager of the Seas, in the region, Schiffner said.
Much closer to home, the Mississippi River is promising to become a draw as American Cruise Lines and the Great American Steamboat Company are set to start offering voyages on the iconic waterway.
“The heartland of America is going to be a cruise destination this year, and I think that’s kind of cool,” Brown said.
Brace for new fees
Cruise fares are low — so low that Schiffner said he doesn’t know what more the industry could do to entice travelers.
With fares so low, cruise lines are trying to think of anything they can do to help you part with your money once you’re on board, Brown said. In particular, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian are the perpetrators of this trend, she added.
Brown said that Celebrity upped its alternative restaurant cover charges by 20% late last year, while several of the restaurants on board Epic, Norwegian’s new ship, are extra-fee eateries.
“It’s starting to feel excessive,” Brown said.
‘Cabin stuffing’ means less space
Brown said that while there aren’t a lot of “new, sexy ships” coming out in 2012, cruise lines are spending a lot of money to refurbish older vessels. That gives them the opportunity to do a little “cabin stuffing” — adding more cabins to boost capacity.
“They’re actually taking space away from public areas to [do it],” Brown said, noting that a chunk of the casino disappeared on one ship and part of a bar vanished on another to make more space for cabins.
“Not only are they adding more people on board, they’re giving you less space to move around. … That’s a concern.”
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For those looking to break out of the winter doldrums, there are plenty of airfare travel deals to be had in January and February.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Need to recover from the holidays? With airfare at its lowest point in a year, now is the best time to get away.
Even though airfares hit the roof over the holidays, lackluster demand in January and early February has caused prices to drop to their lowest levels in 12 months.
Typically, flights departing during the six-week period that starts on the Tuesday after New Year’s and runs up to President’s Day weekend cost less than any other time of year. Over the last three years, average ticket prices for domestic, round-trip flights departing during this time have hovered around $340, according to data compiled by Expedia.
“The savings can be pretty dramatic — anywhere from 20% to 50% less than the same flight over the holidays,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.
Those savings are particularly pronounced on domestic flights that depart on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, which are the cheapest days to fly, he added.
4 cheap winter getaways
A quick search on Expedia yields a slew of transcontinental fares on popular routes like New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco to Washington, D.C. for less than $300. That’s up to 20% less than it will cost in the spring and 30% less than it will cost during the peak summer travel season, according to George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com.
However, airfare for flights from cold weather climates to warm weather destinations generally cost more than other routes and prices also tend to jump if you try to book within a week or two of departure, Seaney added.
Plus rising fees — for printing boarding passes, checking bags or even carrying your luggage onboard with you — and hefty fuel surcharges can make even a cheap trip a lot less affordable.
Fares to destinations in Europe are also 50% to 60% less, on average, during this time than they’ll be in the summer, Hobica said, but there’s a catch: With the price of oil surging, travelers to Europe now pay an extra $470 for their tickets as a fuel surcharge, according to BestFares.com. Taxes and other fees can add another $100 or more.
For example, while the cost of a flight from St Louis to Barcelona on Continental (Fortune 500) or United Airlines departing on Feb. 2 and returning returning Feb. 8 is only $25 each way right now — once the fuel surcharge, taxes and fees are piled on, the tickets total more than $600 round trip.,
HONOLULU – A 65-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a flight attendant aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Tokyo to Honolulu.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Sohei Yamanouchi hit the flight attendant once with an open hand and once with a closed fist after drinking multiple glasses of wine.
Officials say the flight attendant was not seriously injured.
FBI agents arrested Yamanouchi after the flight landed Monday morning at Honolulu International Airport. The Japanese citizen was charged with assault aboard an aircraft, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
He was ordered to give up his passport and stay in Oahu, and was released on $10,000 bond. A hearing is set for Jan. 20.