A snapshot of Hotels.com’s annual price index

How do you know if you’re actually nabbing a great deal? For starters, it helps to know what other people are paying.

Hotels.com has been compiling its Hotel Price Index since 2004. The info is based on average prices actually paid by consumers who book through Hotels.com. These prices also factor in any promotions (4th night free, 30 percent off, etc…). Trend data can be a bit dry, so here are some highlights from the 2009 report that was released today.

Globally, travelers paid 14 percent less for hotel rooms in 2009 than in 2008. The numbers work out to roughly what we were paying back in 2003, according to Nigel Pocklington, Hotels.com’s vice president for global marketing. It’s a classic example of decreasing demand plus too much supply.

Prices listed below are the average nightly rate paid for a room, plus a comparison of 2009 data to 2008 numbers.

Las Vegas:
$85; 18 percent cheaper
New York City: $199; 24 percent cheaper. “It’s unprecedented for a New York City hotel room to go below $200 in recent years,” Pocklington told me by phone.
Dublin: $122; 27 percent cheaper
London: $185; 18 percent cheaper. Pocklington notes that if comparing in British pounds, rooms in London were 7 percent cheaper, but with the currency fluctuation factored in, 2009 inventory was more like 18 percent less than 2008 prices.
Bangkok: $100; 16 percent cheaper
Hong Kong: $125; 20 percent cheaper
Sydney: $131; 18 percent cheaper
Cape Town: $130; 2 percent cheaper
Dubai: $185; 25 percent cheaper

I was surprised to see that a room in Dublin ($122) was roughly on par with Hong Kong’s nightly average of $125. Meanwhile, London and Dubai tied at $185. The question on everyone’s mind is, of course: What about this year?

“2010 will be a year of stabilizing, but it will still be a good year for travelers,” Pocklington said. “Shop around and book early. There will be attractive promotions throughout the year.”

As you evaluate travel deals this year, it won’t hurt to use this price index as a benchmark to see how 2010 is really measuring up.