Tips For Gaming Hotel Websites To Get The Best Room Rates

hotel corridorMajor hotel chains have sophisticated software that dictates room rates based upon expected occupancy, but with a little knowledge and a bit of effort you can ensure that you get the best deal. The key to getting the best possible price is understanding hotel demand and trying different search terms to see which combination of dates yield the lowest prices.

Depending on location and time of year, some hotels have dramatically higher occupancy on the weekend, while others that cater to business travelers are busier during the week. If you want to save money, schedule your trip accordingly.

For example, let’s say you’d like to spend a week dividing time between San Francisco and the nearby Sonoma County wine region. If you want to save a bundle on hotels, hit Sonoma during the week, when it’s nice and quiet and the room rates are low, and then on the weekend stay in a business class hotel in the suburbs of San Francisco or in Silicon Valley.In many destinations, you can find a good deal on hotels any night of the week, save Saturday nights and sometimes Fridays. You can either work around this, as outlined above, or manipulate your search terms to make sure you’re not paying the higher Saturday night rate for more than one night.

If you plan to stay more than one night at a chain hotel, particularly if part but not all of your stay includes a weekend night, definitely split apart your travel dates into one-night increments to see how the price changes. For example, if you search for a room on the website of the Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia for a two-night stay, checking in this Saturday night, you’ll find a AAA rate of $260 per night. But if you split your search term to see the price for Saturday night and Sunday night, you’ll notice that while the Saturday rate is $260, the AAA rate for Sunday night plummets to just $134. The Hilton is quite content to charge you the higher rate for both nights but you’d be a fool to pay it.

This is not an isolated example. I did a quick search for other hotels this weekend and almost every hotel I checked out had a different rate for Saturday night versus Sunday night, but none offered the Sunday discount to the customer booking both nights together in one reservation on their sites. The Renaissance Marriott in Philadelphia offers a AAA rate of $279.95 for a two-night, Saturday, Sunday stay this weekend, but if you search just for Sunday night, you’ll notice the rate plummets to $180.45 – though you don’t get that rate unless you make two reservations.

The Hyatt Regency on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago has a Saturday night rate of $170 versus $116 on Sunday, but again their site doesn’t give you the lower Sunday rate unless you make two reservations. And the same goes for Chicago’s Westin River North, which has a $233 versus $118 split for this weekend.

The split can work the other way as well, especially in the suburbs. For example, the Hyatt House in Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia is $18 more expensive on Sunday night compared to Saturday this weekend. And there are also occasions when the hotel offers a better rate for multiple night stays compared to a single night stay. Again, it all depends on expected occupancy.

This summer, Orbitz got a lot of bad press after admitting that it shows higher priced hotel options to those searching for rooms on a Mac, so many advocate double checking searches on a PC, if you can, but I tested various searches on my PC and my MAC and they all appeared to yield the same results.

The bottom line is that you always need to check and split apart your travel dates when searching for a multiple-night stay. If you can save money by making multiple reservations, go for it, and add a note in the comments section asking them to combine the reservations so you don’t have to move rooms.

Then remind them again when you check in. Or, to simplify matters, call the hotel directly, tell them what you discovered online and ask them to extend the lower rate for your entire stay. They might not do it, but it’s worth a try. Whatever you do, don’t throw away money by failing to explore all your options online before booking.

[Photo credit:Uggboy Ugggirl on Flickr]

Report: Summer forecast improves for hotels

Summer has always been the peak travel season for U.S. travelers. While the past few summers have kept more Americans at home than usual, the summer of 2010 is shaping up to be a much better travel season, especially for hotels.

According to STR’s revised 2010 summer forecast, the U.S. hotel industry is forecast to end the summer with increases in all three key performance metrics in year-over-year comparisons – occupancy, daily rate and revenue.

For the months of June, July and August, STR – a worldwide leader in hotel benchmarking and research statistics – anticipates hotel occupancy to increase 4.3 percent to 64.4 percent; the increase in average daily room rate will rise 0.1 percent to $97.17; and revenue per available room will increase 4.5 percent to $62.60.

This is a successful jump from the summer of 2009, when STR reported occupancy fell 9.1 percent to 61.7 percent; average daily room rates dropped 9.6 percent to $97.15 from the previous year, and revenue for available room was down 17.8 percent to $59.96.

What’s this mean for travelers? The economy is still on the up-and-up and travelers are starting to resurface and indulge in their favorite travel traditions. If you haven’t already booked a vacation, it’s time to make some buying decisions. As hotels start to book at occupancy, less rooms will be available for discounts or upgrades. Want a few tips? Check out: Ask Gadling: Getting the most (hotel) bang for your buck.

[via HotelMarketing.com]

Guests to stay in control of hotel industry until at least 2012

The light at the end of the tunnel is always cause for hope. When market conditions are at their worst, the promise of a recovery keeps morale from plummeting and gives a reason to keep pushing forward. For the hotel industry, however, there’s nothing but darkness for the next year. The latest research from PhoCusWright paints a pretty dismal picture, evident immediately from the title of its most recent announcement: “Why Hotels Are Not Recovering Any Time Soon.” But, it could just as easily have been called, “Why Travelers Can Get Dirt-Cheap Rooms in 2010 and Probably 2011.”

Ouch.

If you’re looking for a culprit, start with those two traditional factors — supply and demand.

Demand is off substantially. Conditions right now are worse than they were in the dismal 1990/1991 season and during the post-9/11 recession. Last year, demand fell between 5.5 percent and 6 percent. This is far worse than the 2 percent decline posted in 2002 and the 1 percent drop in 1991. This year, PhoCusWright expects demand to inch higher by 1 percent to 1.5 percent, but this is relative to the severely depressed baseline of 2009. So, we’ll likely reflect at this time in 2011 on a slow recovery that still has some road in front of it.
Fortunately, a 5 percent increase in demand is expected in 2011, followed by a few years of growth in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent. This means that we’ll get back to 2007 levels by the end of 2011 and start to see net hotel market growth in 2012.

Part of the problem that the hotels face is an increase in supply. So, while demand is down, the industry has more beds that need heads in them. The ill-timed increase in demand is the result of projects that began before the financial crisis and subsequent recession. Nobody saw the credit market collapse coming, let alone the downstream effects, as evidenced by the 3 percent increase in supply last year. From 2011 to 2013, supply growth will slow down, though, as bone-dry credit markets and general financial malaise have led many development projects to stall. In fact, PhoCusWright expects hotel supply falls next year and the two years after.

The increase in supply and decrease in demand has put incredible pressure on occupancy. In 2006, hotels were able to put 63 percent of their room-nights to work, but last year, that fell to 55 percent. PhoCusWright expects the increase in demand and decrease in supply over the next few years to support an industry-wide recovery to 60 percent occupancy by 2012. At this level, hotels can usually pick up some pricing power, which translates to an improvement in rates.

In 2009, hotel room rates were of course impacted by the disparity between supply and demand, not to mention the general squeeze on consumer spending. But, these factors weren’t exclusively responsible for the 9 percent drop in rates last year. The hotels themselves bear part of the blame, according to PhoCusWright’s study. In an effort to fill rooms, they engaged each other in a “race to the bottom,” in which they tried to undercut each other for market share at any price.

Given the anemic growth in demand expected in 2010, expect room rates to continue to fall until 2011. The return to pre-recession levels will take a while, particularly given the economic conditions that will be with us this year. The result is another year of depressed revenues for the hotel industry. Last year, revenue per available room-night (RevPAR), the primary metric by which the hotel industry is judged, plunged 17 percent last year and will continue to slide in 2010. PhoCusWright expects the bleeding to stop in 2011, with 2012 RevPAR reaching only 90 percent to 95 percent of the peak levels sustained in 2007.

So, what does all this mean? A full recovery is likely four years away for occupancy and room rates. In 2011, the situation will stop worsening, and it will pick up in 2012, but it’s two years past then than you’ll see the hotels regain their strength. Until then, it’s the consumers’ show. Travel often. Slap a few more nights onto each of your stays. You’re in the driver’s seat.

[Photo via MigrantBlogger]