Want to really get away?
“Now is probably the best season to travel,” said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
In big tourist destinations, hotels have resorted to slashing room rates. Stays in Las Vegas, New York and Honolulu dropped by at least 20 percent, according to Travelocity.com. Nationally, the average room will cost you $142 this summer, down from $165 last year. And that’s not all.
“You find many hotels are offering free breakfast, some of the luxury hotels I’ve seen are offering $200 towards spa or golf,” said Dow. “I’ve seen others that offer three nights for the price of two – so it’s a good deal to shop.”
Deals are good, because business is bad, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller. Out of the 4.5 million hotel rooms nationwide, occupancy rates are expected to slip below 56 percent this year, down from 60 percent in 2008.
Beverly Banton has made up rooms at the Sheraton New York for 14 years and has never seen times so tough.
“We used to have like three room attendants on each floor, now we only have one,” Banton said.
Her boss, Dan King, was forced to lay off or reduce hours for about 300 employees this year.
“Our business is down 25 percent,” King said. “You have to think about the ripple effect. Not just our associates in this hotel, but look around – cab drivers and the theaters and the stores.”
Seventeen million Americans make their living from the travel and tourism industry, which creates 2.4 million jobs every year. Since the recession started, some 400,000 jobs have been lost.
A third of tourism dollars comes from business travel, and corporations are scaling back, canceling small meetings to large conferences – anything that might be considered extravagant at a time when companies are laying off workers.
Fancy retreats are no longer in vogue in South Florida, where hotel reservations are down almost 12 percent from this time last year.
“The sunshine is free and it’s fantastic, but I think people almost feel guilty about coming down and spending two free hours on the beach,” said Jim Mauer, the general manager of Marriott’s Harbor Beach Resort.
Those deals on the beach may not last beyond summer. The hotel industry is expecting modest rebound in bookings this fall.