Uganda hotels to charge less for locals

Uganda’s hotels are facing tough times. Despite their country having top attractions such as Nile rafting trips, the Great Rift Valley, and safaris in the many national parks filled with wildlife, the average hotel is running at only 50 percent capacity. Adding to this problem is that wealthy Ugandans don’t go for internal tourism, preferring to jet off to more exotic destinations like Europe. Well, exotic to the Ugandans anyway.

Hoteliers in Uganda have decided to change that by offering a 40 percent discount to Ugandan citizens at certain times of the year. So if you decide to head on over to East Africa to see Lake Victoria, elephants, mountain gorillas, and all the other sights Uganda has to offer, you’ll have a chance to meet more locals than ever. Travelers to Africa tell me the capital Kampala is a lush town full of energy and interest, and it even made it into the list of 15 green cities. Uganda has a lot to offer, and they deserve a healthy tourism industry after they thumbed their collective noses at the terrorists.

[Photo courtesy K. Stefanova via Wikimedia Commons]

$19 hotel room, bed not included

For $19, I wouldn’t expect much out of my hotel room. But a bed, lights and toilet paper are among the things I would consider to be basic necessities at any price. That’s not the case at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, where guests can elect to have different features of their hotel room removed in order to decrease the price.

The “Survivor Package” starts at $219 for deluxe accommodations and breakfast for two. Take out the breakfast and the price goes down to $199. Take out the AC or heat and you’re looking at $159. The removal of pillows, sheets, lights, linens, and toiletries decreases the price incrementally to just $39. Then things really get interesting. For $19, the resort will remove the bed and replace it with a tent. Basically, you’re paying for an indoor campsite.

The hotel’s manager says he wanted to do “something different” for a promotion. This gives guests on a budget a cheap, and memorable, way to enjoy the resort, which is set on 20,000 acres in San Diego. There’s a a golf course, three pools, three restaurants, and a spa that was named as the best by Conde Nast in 2008.

The deal has already been quite popular, with over 50 people making reservations for the $19 rooms. The promotion will run from August 16 to 31.

[via CNN]



Gadling TAKE FIVE: Week of May 16–May 22

It’s been a week already since a bulk of Gadling writers descended upon Chicago. Now that Memorial Day weekend is upon us as a kick off to the summer, we’ve been gearing up to give you some tools for the road and ideas of where to head.

  • Sean, our newest Gadling blogger has graced us with a post on Oxford, England’s Pitt Rivers Museum. After it year of remodeling, the museum has reopened. Check out the gallery he’s included and details about the shrunken heads. The post is part of a new series Museum Junkie.
  • For anyone who has traveled with a pet, particularly a canine, finding a hotel that is happy to have Fido can be problematic. Annie’s post on the top five pet friendly budget hotel chains is a handy guide. I can vouch for La Quinta Inns, one of the suggestions. Staying there with our dog this past December was a breeze and it didn’t cost us one dime more.
  • Kraig, an adventurer to the max has been writing posts about his travels to the Amazon. The one on Iquitos, Peru covers what makes this region of the world so spectacular and is a starting off point for finding out what he discovered.
  • If you’re a “where did the film this scene?” kind of person, there’s a map designed just for you. Scott’s post on Where It’s At, a web site focused on pop culture landmarks is interactive. People can add the landmarks they know to help it grow.
  • As part of our budget summer travel series, Brenda suggests a trip to Molokai from Honolulu. It sounds simply fabulous.

Budget Travel: Hotel deals at Hotwire

How well do you handle the unknown? If you don’t have the stomach for it, avoid Hotwire. Now, if you don’t mind taking a bit of risk, you can save a fortune by using this website to book your next hotel in the United States (or a limited list of international destinations). I’ve used Hotwire several times, and the vast majority of my experiences have been great. The one that wasn’t (only one) had nothing to do with Hotwire; I was just disappointed with the hotel.

Hotwire is one of the many bargain travel websites that is fighting to carve out some turf on the web. Unlike the others, it delivers some amazing prices. You just don’t know where you’re going to stay until you pay for the rooms. Using Hotwire, you enter the city where you want to stay, proximity to neighborhoods or local attractions and the caliber of hotel you prefer. Star ratings are assigned to each property to help you judge quality, and they are based on Hotwire user feedback. As a reference point, the website does tell you the types of property that are commensurate with a particular rating. So, the process isn’t completely blind, but you still don’t know where you’ll hang your hat.

I used Hotwire three times last year to book hotels in Washington, D.C. I stayed at Capital Hilton, Hilton Washington and the Hotel Helix. My experiences were generally positive with all three.

At the Washington Hilton, I had to walk a lot farther than I expected from the subway station, which is apparently a common problem. The staff at the front desk saw my tired, sweaty face and said, “Yeah, most of the websites make the hotel seem a lot closer.” Immediately after that, he ran to get me some moist paper towels to help me cool off. The hotel itself was excellent, particularly at a discount of more than 70 percent. I also booked the Capital Hilton through Hotwire and had no surprises at all. Again, I saved more than 70 percent and was thrilled.

The Hotel Helix was a bit disappointing. In my opinion, it should have been rated a full star lower than it was, and I left feedback on Hotwire to caution future users. Hotwire itself wasn’t the problem. The rate was fantastic, and I was able to save some money on a trip with little lead time. But, I just didn’t like the hotel. Why do I say this? It happens, and you need to know that flexibility is necessary. Sometimes, you won’t be thrilled with your room. That’s just the risk involved with Hotwire.

Now that you know the good and the bad, let’s talk about money. It’s routine to save more than 50 percent of a hotel’s regular rate using this website (at least in my experience). Hotwire is able to do this by finding the unsold inventory at hotels around the country and bargaining for deep discounts. In the hotel industry, a room-night is a perishable commodity. If you don’t fill Room 437 on March 16, you can’t save it for later. Sometimes, it’s better to get something than nothing. Also, the hotels don’t can avoid implicitly devaluing their rooms through the blind process. This is the service that Hotwire provides to hotels … and to you.

The deals vary. If you are looking for a great room during peak season, you’ll probably be disappointed. But, if you have reasonable expectations, they’ll probably be exceeded. On a recent search, I found hotel rooms for under $150 in downtown Boston for mid-March (at a property given 4 ½ stars). I also found sub-$100 rates in Paris (four stars) and London (four stars, as well) for the same period.

After you book one of these great deals, don’t forget that you have an obligation when you get home. Just as you read the reviews before taking your step into the unknown, many will follow you. Help them out as others helped you. Hotwire will send you an e-mail asking for your feedback on your stay. All you have to do is click the link and complete a brief survey.

Do it.

You can go as long or short as you like, but people will read – and rely on – your review. If you have booked a room using Hotwire, you probably will again, and you’ll read the reviews. So, participate in the process. It’s what you want everyone else to do.


In India, the Focus is on Mid-Market Hotels

A combination of growing demand from business travelers and a souring economy have led hotel developer Accor to focus on mid-range hotels in the world’s largest countries. So far in India, the formula seems to be a good one. As the country grows economically, more people will be traveling there for business purposes. Smaller businesses or independent entrepreneurs who don’t want to spring for a 5-star room have few options. Accor’s budget brand, Ibis, has already opened one location in Gurgaon. The company also has two Novotels in Hyderabad. These hotels are focused on providing solid service with a few extras, but nothing in terms of the over-the-top luxury seen at a 4 or 5-star. The strategy is to be attractive both to domestic and international business travelers.

Currently, over half of Accor’s India bookings come directly from corporate buyers seeking bulk rates. However, the mid-range prices and services could be attractive to independent travelers seeking an economical alternative to India’s current hotel options.