Bargain shoppers know a good deal when they see one and budget travelers have a keen eye for finding the last-minute steal, but when it comes to luxury travel, is it possible to buy on the cheap?
Gilt.com, an online invitation-only website that offers designer clothes and accessories at discounted prices, launched its travel arm: Jetsetter.com. The concept is similar to its sister site: luxury accommodations and vacation packages are offered at discounted rates during a set period of time. If you’re a member of the site, you can log in to see what’s being offered that week and set your calendars to buy when the slot opens.
With Jetsetter.com, either you want the deal that’s offered or you don’t – there’s no negotiation and no turning back once you’ve purchased. You can view the sales ahead of time, which allows time for planning (a good thing since some of these deals will take you around the world). The catch: The deal is only good for a certain amount of time – anywhere from 24 hours to a week — and only a handful of rooms are available so if you don’t act fast, you don’t get the deal.
But the real question is: how good a deal is it?
The featured deals on Jetsetter include some of the best resorts in the world, like the Four Seasons Costa Rica and Mandarin Oriental’s Elbow Beach in Bermuda, and vacation packages including safaris in Kenya, and a guided tour of Chile’s Atacama Desert. There are basic rooms to be had at some swanky hotels and if you’re looking for a quick getaway but not sure where to go, this site could provide the inspiration you need to book a trip.
I spent a few weeks on the site looking the standard room rate sales for hotels and here’s what I found:Rooms at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado were offered at $100/night. The rooms were courtyard views and for $50 more you could upgrade to a mountain view. The price includes all mandatory taxes, surcharges or fees. A quick scan of the hotel’s website offered rooms starting at $159 excluding taxes and fees. With Jetsetter.com’s deal, you save at least $60 night.
Omphoy Ocean Resort, Palm Beach, Florida is one of South Florida’s most private beachside resorts. The boutique hotel is currently hosting a fourth-night free promotion, with rooms starting at $239/night. But if you don’t want to spend four nights in Florida, the Jetsetter.com deal offered rooms with a pool view from $140/night. A deal? In this case it’s a steal, but you’ll have to compromise a view of the ocean for a view of the pool.
The Pierre New York, a member of the Taj Hotel Group, is one of New York’s most prestigious properties. With views of Central Park and Fifth Avenue, you can’t go wrong with a view from your room at The Pierre. Jetsetter.com offered rooms starting at $365/night, but the sale did not include weekends. I checked the rates for a mid-week stay on the hotel’s website and rooms start at $595. A savings of more than $200 is a win for the traveler in this case.
These are merely examples, but a good indication of the type of sales happening at the invite-only site. So if Jetsetter hosts these rates at such low amounts, how do the hotels make money? Simple economics: More rooms sold at a lower rate means more money for the hotel, especially if the standard room rates on the hotel’s website aren’t selling at all. These properties don’t pay to be listed on the site, but they hope to provide a deal strong enough to generate a good amount of travelers.
My opinion: Hotels around the world are looking for any way to recoup costs lost from the last two years. Jetsetter’s sales are worth the price, if you’re not into aesthetics (rooms with a view, private suites and amenities you might score by booking with the hotel directly). Sign-up for an invitation or get someone you know who’s a member to send you an invite. Even if you don’t end up buying, the hotels and vacation packages offered provide some stellar inspiration for your next trip.