Clem Bason is the president of Hotwire.com, the discount travel Web site. I asked him about the outlook for bargains in the second half of the summer, and to address some of the consumer complaints about so-called “opaque” travel sites.
Q: Can you give me an idea of the kinds of rates you’ve seen, compared with summers past?
Bason: It’s truly an amazing time to travel if you’re a bargain-hunter. Hotel occupancy rates have plummeted along with the economy – more than 55 percent of the hotel rooms across the US were empty on any given night in July. And this translates into deep discounts for consumers. Opaque rates in New York City have dropped 32 percent. San Diego is down by 29 percent and Orlando is off by 22 percent compared to last summer, just to name a few.
Airfares are a similar story. Over the Fourth of July weekend, our bookings were off by 25 percent versus last year. That’s even with retail prices that were down by 10 percent.It’s a very different story for rental cars, however. Published rates are 15 percent more expensive on average this summer. Why? There’s less inventory because cash-strapped vendors aren’t adding to their fleets.
Q: Yes, we had an executive from Enterprise talk about that last week. What do you expect to see during the second half of the summer? Will the bargains continue?
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