If you thought the travel bargains were unbelievable this year, just wait until 2010.
I’m fully aware that this prediction flies in the face of conventional wisdom. I mean, how many travel experts have you seen on TV lately, warning that the deals are going, going, gone?
They’re everywhere. But they’re probably wrong.
✓ A recent forecast by Mintel, an international market and consumer research firm, predicts travel sales will basically remain flat in 2010 (they fell a projected 2.2 percent, to $123 billion, this year). However, air travel and hotel sales will drop by roughly 2 percent each, it says.
✓ Research by Deloitte & Touche paints an equally bright outlook for bargain-hunters. “Leisure travelers will continue to seek out specials in 2010,” says analyst Adam Weissenberg. “With hotels fighting to hold their rates as much as possible, they may offer an additional free night, complimentary spa treatment or discounted meals. For its part, the airline industry is also boosting incentives for leisure travelers by offering such things as a monthly pass.”
✓ In case you’re wondering why the deals will probably continue through next year, industry guru Peter Yesawich of Y Partnership has an answer: According to his research, just over half of all active travelers say they plan to “stay fewer nights” on an upcoming vacation than they did this year. The implications are of “considerable concern” to the travel industry, he says, because they could push prices lower.
I realize nobody knows the future, and predicting travel prices is a fool’s game. Still, it seems to me the real question isn’t whether there will be more deals, but where they’ll be.
Here are 10 places to find them during the Year of the Deal.
1. Bargains are (almost) everywhere.
If you come across a hotel or cruise line that insists it “never” discounts, don’t believe it. In 2010, everyone will discount. It’s just a question of how much. Amanda Sundt, the chief marketing officer at the adventure travel site iExplore, says upscale resorts will continue to offer spa and dining credit credits and two-for-ones. Worse, hotel capacity is expected to grow as major chains like Hyatt and Four Seasons open new properties. “Look for good introductory deals as the hoteliers want to start seeing an immediate return and build buzz about the new properties,” she says.
2. Yes, even airlines.
The travel industry’s soothsayers want you to believe that airfares are on the verge of taking off again. They may be right. But they probably aren’t. Chris Lopinto, the president and co-founder of Expertflyer.com, says lackluster demand from leisure travelers will continue to keep fares low. In fact, he predicts fares will stay depressed until business travelers jump back into the game. “I think once business and business travel picks up again, we’ll see air prices go significantly higher,” he says. When? Maybe by the fall of 2010. Then again, maybe not.
3. Forget blackout dates.
Resorts offer so-called “value” season during off-peak times to lure guests. Guess what? Those value prices could last all of 2010, according to hoteliers like Steve Heydt, president of Elite Island Resorts, one of the largest independent Caribbean hotel groups. “Resort business is not showing any measurable increase,” he told me.