The hospitality industry is not immune to the economic downturn. Companies have reduced business travel by their employees. The economy has also made many consumers reluctant to spend on tourism and vacations.
Airlines can respond by reducing capacity - taking planes out of service and cutting back on the number of flights they offer. Hotel owners, though, have buildings with a fixed number of rooms. Every day that a hotel room sits empty costs its owner money. Some hotels are cutting prices and offering promotions. On occasion, hotels reduce the benefit of the lower rates by adding surcharges for their amenities, such as a resort fee or a surcharge for housekeeping and other services.
Examples of promotional opportunities include the following: Starwood (Westin, W, Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridien) is offering a free weekend night award with every two night stay at any Starwood property that occurs between May 31 and July 30, 2009; the free night must be redeemed by the end of September. Marriott will award a Marriott Rewards member a free night at any participating Marriott hotel or resort after that member stays at participating hotels/resorts this summer on three separate occasions. Hyatt is offering rooms at its Summerfield Suites hotels at a 30% discount.
Not all hotels have followed this formula. For example, several luxury hotel chains have discreetly lowered their rates in some locations but more generally believe that their brand has a cachet that does not require anything resembling a fire sale. As the hospitality industry weathers the economic storm, the old saying that "everything is negotiable" still holds true, especially when it comes to items other than rate. When staying at a hotel, you can ask for:
- An upgrade to a bigger room, a suite or club floor
- Meal or drink coupon
- Free Internet service
- Reduction in transportation costs
- Reduction or elimination of health club fees (if applicable)
Negotiate these items when you are at the hotel. You can also ask the hotel to eliminate some or all the amenity surcharges. Hotels will likely reverse charges you don't agree with, but be sure to address the subject before you check out. No one knows how long the slowdown in travel will last, so if you are on the road, use the economy to your advantage while you can.