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Travel Industry Leaders Capture Summer Travel

5/19/2009

VALUE, DEALS, POWER AND FREE: TRAVEL INDUSTRY LEADERS CAPTURE SUMMER TRAVEL OUTLOOK IN FOUR WORDS

Best Western International, AAA and Cheapflights.com Address State of the Industry, Forecast New Travel Trends at Annual Best Western Leisure Travel Summit

NEW YORK (May 19, 2009) – Travel executives from Best Western International, AAA (American Automobile Association) and Cheapflights.com convened last week to address the summer travel outlook amid the recession. Four words summed up their summer travel predictions: value, deals, power and free.

VALUE
Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, said people today are savvier than ever about loyalty points and are always looking for the best hotel for their dollar. Amenities such as free Internet access, breakfast and parking at most North American locations are among the value-added services that make Best Western hotels particularly attractive this summer. Moreover, travelers are guaranteed to find the lowest room rates online at Bestwestern.com.

“Consumers may still be interested in high design, but they are no longer interested in paying for it. They want good service and basic amenities at a great price,” said Dowling. “Our year-over-year bookings in April indicate people are seeking value like never before. With consumer confidence rising, we are likewise confident that travelers won’t be staying home this year.”

DEALS
The combination of last year’s high gas prices and a depressed economy have led to the large number of deals offered today. Betsy Sell, managing director of travel products for AAA, said these deals are the incentives needed to get people traveling this summer.

“We have not seen this many deals since the period shortly after 9-11 and these offers are even better,” said Sell. “Never before in my 42-year career have I seen the bargains that are available today, including destination resorts offering seven-night vacations with free dining, cruises slashing prices in half and hotel room rates dropping 20 to 30 percent. The bottom line is these deals won’t last, so travelers need to take advantage of them while they can.“

POWER
Though a return to normalcy is in the air, Carl Schwartz, chief travel officer for the travel deals search engine Cheapflights.com, believes travelers are in control and should utilize this power to take their family on a trip which might have been out of their financial reach before.

“There has never been more power in travelers’ hands than there is today,” said Schwartz. “In the past, travelers had to maintain not only a flexible schedule, but also stay open about their destination if price was the deciding factor. However, this year, they have the options and the power to choose where and when they want to go for the price they want to pay.”

FREE
Leisure and family travel expert Amy Graff, who also blogs for Best Western, believes “free” is the key word that will pair travelers and travel-related companies this summer. Hotel chains are offering rich summer promotions, such as Best Western summer plans to reward travelers not only with a free hotel night after completing two stays at any North American property, but also by enabling guests to actually earn Best Western Rewards points while they stay. In addition, Alaska Airlines and Air Tahiti are among carriers offering free flights for kids on special routes. Convention and visitors bureaus across America are also promoting dozens of free activities for travelers visiting their areas, such as Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art and Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

“With gas prices expected to be $1.60 per gallon cheaper than they were last summer, families will be packing up their cars and hitting the road—something they were less able to do last year,” said Graff. “Family vacations don’t have to break the bank. My family will be touring the Great River Road which runs parallel to the Mississippi River this summer, on a budget of $150 a day.”

Other industry trends highlighted during the annual summit included:

•Top domestic budget destinations for the next 12 to 18 months include Hawaii, Las Vegas, Florida, ski resorts in destinations Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Big Sky, Mont., and hot weather destinations like Phoenix and Palm Springs, Calif.
•Top international destinations that are more affordable for travelers this year include Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Great Britain, Canada and Eastern Europe.
•Deals abound online. Travel brands are using Twitter and Facebook to offer exclusive deals and promotions.

ABOUT BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL
Best Western International is THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN®, providing marketing, reservations and operational support to over 4,000* independently owned and operated member hotels in 80* countries and territories worldwide. An industry pioneer since 1946, Best Western has grown into an iconic brand that hosts 400,000* worldwide guests each night. Best Western's diverse property portfolio, its greatest strength, stems from a business model designed to give owners maximum flexibility to address market-specific needs. Equally committed to the business and leisure traveler, Best Western recently embarked on a mission to lead the hotel industry in customer care. Since 2004, Best Western has served as the Official Hotel of NASCAR®. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.bestwestern.com.

*Numbers are approximate and can fluctuate.

ABOUT AAA
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

ABOUT CHEAPFLIGHTS.COM
Cheapflights.com is the best place to find cheap flight deals and up-to-date travel information. As a leading U.S. travel search engine, the site publishes one of the largest selections of airfare deals available online from a huge range of flight providers. Every day, travelers can search more than one million flight deals from both traditional and low-cost airlines, as well as smaller specialty-travel providers, plus handpicked deals and flight offers exclusive to Cheapflights.com. The Flight & Travel Info section and Flight News blog are packed with more than 1,000 destination travel guides, travel tips, and the latest news and information, to help flyers enjoy the best possible travel experience, every time they fly. Sign up for the Cheapflights.com weekly newsletter, which contains deals customized to travelers’ specific preferences, and follow Cheapflights on Twitter at Cheapflightscom.