Big savings at luxury hotels — uncovering surprising bargains

Written by admin on February 19, 2009 – 8:59 pm -

The time has come to get down and dirty when it comes to saving money when traveling for business. The faltering economy is enough to give most people hives. How and where to save money has become a major factor.

Hotel consultant Michael Matthews, a frequent contributor to JoeSentMe advises people to set their sights higher rather than lower. “Hotels at the bottom of the lodging ladder are doing fine because travelers, who normally stay in the mid-tier properties are being forced to downgrade. Mid-tier properties are hurting too because their rooms are not being filled by travelers dropping down from the five-star rung. Why? There are far fewer hotels in the top tier. Therefore fewer travelers downgrading to the middle tier.”

Matthews says that, “luxury hotels at the five-star level are currently hemorrhaging cash. Their revenue per available room, a crucial measure of financial health, is off 16 to 20 percent. And occupancy rates have plunged to the 50 percent level.” As a result, luxury hotels are discounting and cutting rates like there’s no tomorrow. (And for some of them, there may not be a tomorrow.)”

Always a skeptic, I decided to test Mr. Matthews’ premise. After surfing the Internet’s many many hotel booking sites, I was amazed by some of the prices that are currently available. Even in Manhattan, rooms in super-deluxe hotels are costing out at less than $250 per night.

If you’re somewhat flexible and (even better) can book at the last minute, you may be able to score a room in a “palace” hotel for less than $200. Hotels need to keep rooms occupied so they aren’t forced to fire staff members. Something of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.

Travel agents who work closely with specific hotels may be able to find rooms at a fraction of the cost of the quoted rack rate. For that matter, anyone who pays the full rate now (unless there’s a special event taking place and a limited number of available rooms), should have his or her heads examined.

Wondering if French hoteliers would be receptive to negotiating, I called one of Paris’s top hotels and spoke with the General Manager. He said that some hotels are opting to be rated with one (or more) fewer stars that are awarded by the Ministry of Tourism. Jean-Jacques explained hotels that as a consequence, hotels are liable for paying lower taxes to the French government. In addition, many corporations don’t want their personnel staying at the most expensive hotel in the city.

One friend, Arthur, who spends a great deal of time in Paris, has negotiated a rate of $225 per night at one the Paris’s most prestigious hotels. Dinner for two people in the dining room costs considerably more than that. Arthur guarantees 100 room-nights per year and pays the total amount each January. As a result, he’s treated like a king and is usually upgraded to a suite and generally the same one. He concedes that he’s shuffled to a deluxe room during the fashion shows.

What happens if he doesn’t need to be in Paris all of that time? He says that even if that’s the case, it still costs less than booking a room as needed. Last year, he gave two sets of friends wedding gifts of five nights each at “his” hotel. They were thrilled.

Have you discovered any money saving hotel secrets? I was thinking B&B’s were the solution. But this is an intriguing idea.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.


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Posted in Consumer Traveler |