Newspaper article International New York Times

Holiday Weekend Bargain-Hunting for Fares and Rooms

Newspaper article International New York Times

Holiday Weekend Bargain-Hunting for Fares and Rooms

Article excerpt

After years of intense competition among retailers over Thanksgiving weekend, hotel, airline and other travel websites have entered the fray.

Last year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Diana Stilson snagged a stay at a Hawaiian hotel, paying 10 percent of the list price through a deal on Expedia. This Thanksgiving weekend, she hopes to find a similar vacation bargain online.

After years of intense competition among retailers over Thanksgiving weekend, hotel, airline and other travel websites have entered the fray, holding sales of their own in the hope of steering holiday spending to travel and experiences.

The cut-rate travel deals are already now "standard in the industry," said Cole Hernandez, a spokesman for Denihan, a hotel operator. Her company has Thanksgiving weekend deals planned for its upscale hotels in Manhattan.

"We saw a real jump in Black Friday-Cyber Monday hotel deals last year and expect even more this year," said Chris Anderson, professor of hotel administration at Cornell University. The hotels use the promotions for a variety of reasons, he said, including to attract new customers, to sell rooms that might otherwise be empty and to associate their brand with the excitement of the season.

Hotels are not the only ones offering the bargains: Airlines, aggregators, tour companies and others with travel-focused websites are joining in.

Customers are responding to the offers, companies say. A 2014 deal that cut the price of stays at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii by 50 percent generated more than 11,000 booked nights in 24 hours, a significant increase compared with the daily average, according to Hilton.

Grand Lucayan, a resort on Grand Bahama Island, topped $103,000 in revenue on the day of its 2014 Monday-after-Thanksgiving sale, five times the revenue generated on that day the previous year.

Like many of the best-priced deals on Thanksgiving weekend, supplies are often limited. There are only so many rooms or flights that travel companies are willing to part with at the lowest prices, Mr. Anderson said. Additionally, those sales aim to be incremental and not replacing higher-revenue business.

"The last thing a hotel wants is customers who would have purchased at higher prices getting access to these low prices," he said, so programs are devised with parameters like specific stay dates or limited room availability.

Val Kalliecharan, a vacation planner on Turks and Caicos, said that sales there helped hotels fill rooms that might be vacant in their least popular times. "Any holes that can be filled go directly to the bottom line," he said. The sales also allow hotels to sell the rooms straight to guests rather than through third-party booking sites like Expedia, Ms. Hernandez said.

Expedia itself is offering deep discounts. The company tried its first large-scale Monday-after-Thanksgiving promotion last year, said Sarah Waffle Gavin, a spokeswoman for Expedia, and ended up with the third-busiest day of the year in terms of transactions. …

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