Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 21, 2017
Bookmark and Share

The silver lining

Five US destinations where the recession spells great deals for travellers

When the tanking economy forced Americans to distinguish between essentials and extras, vacationing was among the first things they scratched off the to-do list. Once a veritable juggernaut, the country’s travel industry sank as fast as the Titanic, and the drop in traffic has been tough on big name locales.

Yet their loss is your gain, since lower demand invariably translates into lower costs. If you want to know when to take advantage of the resulting deals, the answer is ASAP. The downturn won’t last forever.

Throw a dart at a US map and you’ll likely hit a marked-down destination. Five states, however, offer the optimal combination of price and tourist appeal. Leading the pack are Nevada, Florida, California and Arizona: perennial favourites that were hit early and hard by the collapse of the housing market and ensuing financial meltdown.

Rounding out the top five is Hawaii: an out-of-the-way haven that was first rocked in early 2008 — well before the recession took hold — by the bankruptcy of two domestic airlines.

In each of these sun spots you can benefit from price cuts statewide, the lowest of the lot being found in the very places that pulled in the biggest crowds before the downturn.

Las Vegas

The classic buyers’ market is nowhere more apparent than Las Vegas (www.visitlasvegas.com), where casino owners themselves gambled heavily over the past decade by building ever larger and grander venues.

Now that business travel (which brought six million people here in 2008) has nose-dived and Regular Joes no longer have money to throw away at the gaming tables, supply far exceeds demand. That explains why a recent Travelocity.ca search revealed rooms at the Las Vegas Hilton for US$41, while over at the Stratosphere they were US$30.

Dining deals also abound — and we’re not just talking all-you-can-eat shrimp. Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, for one, has added a US$44-prix fixe to the menu of his eponymous restaurant in the Wynn Las Vegas. Breaks are being given on show tickets, too, and free seat upgrades are widely available.

Orlando

Much the same scenario is playing out in Orlando (www.orlandoinfo.com), another tourism-driven locale that’s essentially purpose-built. Second only to Vegas in terms of capacity, it has roughly 115,000 hotels and occupancy rates hovering around 64 percent.

At a time when business types dare not be seen having fun, there isn’t much that can be done to bring back conventioneers. But Walt Disney World (www.disneyparks.ca) is doing its best to lure Mouseketeers with creative new promos like “Give a Day — Get a Day,” which will hand out a million park passes in return for certified volunteer work.

Los Angeles

Sister parks at Disneyland outside Los Angeles (www.discoverlosangeles.com) are following suit. That’s understandable considering the City of Angels is feeling the pinch as well: indeed, a study by the LA Economic Development Corporation acknowledged “tourist activity literally fell off the table at the end of 2008, and the outlook through 2010 is guarded.”

Discounted accommodations, consequently, are the new normal; and the trickle-down effect is being felt in shops, attractions and eateries. Witness the launch of www.Blackboardeats.com, a free service that promises subscribers “unreal deals at the best restaurants.”

Arizona

Bound for Arizona? Scottsdale (www.scottsdalecvb.com) one of the Southwest’s leading resort destinations is another smart choice. Although it has a mere 230,000 residents, reliably sunny Scottsdale boasts more than 25 spas and 50 golf courses; plus it’s awash in upscale lodgings.

The Fairmont and Four Seasons brands are represented here, as are Starwood’s Luxury Collection and Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Collection. In short, it was designed largely for affluent vacationers, many of whom decamped when their portfolios evaporated. So it is a logical place to play “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Hawaii

If you’d rather say “A-low-ha,” try Honolulu-Waikiki (www.visit-oahu.com). Despite all the positive press President Obama generated on his hometown trip, there is still trouble in Paradise. Markdowns have been reported on everything from leis and luaus to surf board rentals and helicopter tours.

Moreover, studio condos routinely go for under US$100 a night; and www.Gtahotels.com (an online booking service worth bookmarking) recently listed rooms at the Royal Hawaiian for US$281. That may sound high until you realize rack rates at the iconic “Pink Palace,” which just emerged from a US$115-million renovation, start at US$475.

Snag a bargain

Dial for dollars In the US today, it’s seldom necessary to pay the full shot at a hotel. Start by checking the posted tariff at its own website; then scan third-party booking sites for a cheaper one. Finally, phone the hotel directly to ask about unadvertised specials (that’s code for “can you sharpen your pencil, please”). Take a minute to click www.Biddingfortravel.com before making the call. It tracks successful Priceline bids; thereby showing how low digs in a certain class and area can go.

Try something new Believing the good times would last indefinitely, developers enthusiastically embarked upon a mega-hotel building spree a few years back and the ribbon is only being cut on some of their projects now. The massive MGM Mirage CityCenter complex in Vegas is one notable example. That means new rooms will be competing for guests in markets that are already glutted. So keep an eye open for introductory rates set by hoteliers eager to build buzz and fill beds.

Beat the clock

If you have your heart set on a certain hotel, planning ahead will let you take advantage of pre-purchase incentives. Hilton family hotels, for instance, typically shave up to 25 percent off when you pay seven to 14 days in advance. If you’re simply looking for somewhere to lay your head, though, booking last-minute can yield substantial savings — and with so much inventory available, there is little risk involved. Since it’s never too late to strike a bargain, try asking for an upgrade at check-in.

Get the add-ons When shopping for a hotel room, look past the per-night cost and consider any extras that might be thrown in at no charge to sweeten the pot. Luxury establishments, in particular, are loath to reduce their published prices (once they go down, it’s difficult to bring them up again). Yet add-ons are another matter entirely: complimentary breakfasts, spa certificates, resort credits and assorted other in-house perks are becoming commonplace. Ditto for a third night free.

Rent it out The recession started with a bang when the housing bubble burst, and many of the second homes folks bought as investments are now being rented out. On sites like www.Homeaway.com, the number of available properties has risen. In late 2007, for example, it had 4300 Californian listings; two years later it has 7300. Not surprisingly, the number of “special offers” is also up as owners anxious to make their mortgage payments drop rates and minimum-stay requirements.

Pursue your passion In a nod to the recession, special interest websites have been busily adding sections devoted to deals. Say you’re heading for Scottsdale and want to enjoy its spas and golf courses. www.Spa-addicts.com identifies promotions for those who love being pampered (think 20 percent off hour-long treatments at the Mondrian); while www.Internationalgolfvacations.com has greens packages for every budget. Since both sites have an international scope, they work for scores of destinations.

see the sights Excursion providers frequently respond by charging less in the face of dwindling business. At the time of writing, Discover Hawaii (a respected Honolulu-based company) had reduced virtually all its tours — some by 25 or 50 percent. For options elsewhere, visit www.Tourcorp.com, pick a place, then click “Today’s Tour & Activity Specials.” DIY types who need a car to sightsee independently will be happy to hear Alamo and other major rental agencies have their own online “Hot Deals.”

Look locally Official tourism board websites are another valuable resource. www.Orlandoinfo.com is a case in point: its “Discounts and Promotions” page lists bargains at accommodations, restaurants, attractions and stores. Plus it has a downloadable Magicard coupon book that can lower your tab even further. Reputable commercial sites can prove useful as well. www.Vegas.com is particularly good for hotel hunters because its “Las Vegas Deals” page notes blackout dates and shows the percentage saved beside the price.

Find the right flight Airfares, being hinged to flight cuts and fluctuating fuel costs, are hard to predict. Hence it pays to be proactive. Sign up for email updates or personalized fare alerts (most airlines and third party sites have them); then be prepared to pounce when the moment is right. As with hotels, it is also wise to look at what’s new and/or competitive. The non-stop Calgary-to-Honolulu route, introduced seasonally by both Air Canada and WestJet for 2010, is a potential winner on both counts.

Save a bundle When searching for airfares, don’t forget to look at pre-packaged and build-your-own vacations that include flights and lodging. www.Expedia.ca is a good site for sussing out the latter as it allows you to clearly see how much might be saved by purchasing the various components together.

Whether you plan ahead to grab early bird savings or wait for last minute sell-offs, it helps to be flexible with dates, destinations and (if you live near the US border) departure points.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

Comments

Post a comment