The upside of rising travel costs

Raise your hand if you’ve had to change your travel plans in the last year due to budget constraints. Just about everybody, huh? Travelers who fly to their vacation destinations have had a rough time this year. Fares are up across the board, except in the cases where whole airlines have ceased operations entirely. Maybe planes don’t even fly to our destinations anymore, or those that do cost three times more than the budget airlines that have recently gone bankrupt.

Leisure travel has taken the biggest hit, of course, and resorts are suffering heavily as tourism is down 5-10% in many American vacation hotspots this year. Labor Day air travel was down this year for the first time since 2002, the first Labor Day following 9/11/01. The last part of this ugly equation is the development boom that began a few years ago — now more hotels than ever are competing for far fewer guests.

In order to stay afloat, hotels and resorts have been slashing prices and offering incredible vacation incentives to attract visitors. Some are cutting prices and offering deep discounts, and almost all have slowed their price hikes, which have been steadily increasing over the past several years. Other resorts are directly addressing the airfare issue. Sandals recently unveiled a new “fly-free” offer with an airfare credit of up to $550 per person for trips booked by Oct. 23, and Elite Island Resorts just announced a new promotion that guarantees round-trip airfare of $299 on American Airlines flights to its properties in Antigua. Both companies operate resorts in the Caribbean.

Now at the tail end of the summer travel season, hotels and resorts are bracing for an even weaker autumn and winter. If you can handle the more expensive plane tickets, you may be able to recoup some of that money in hotel savings. So if you put your summer vacation on hold this year, maybe it’s time to consider a fall getaway. It should be easy to find some bargains.