We all know that airlines sell
their tickets for hugely different amounts. But did you
know that hotels sell their rooms for widely varying rates, too?
And just like the airlines have
various rules to try and restrict who qualifies for which fares,
so too do hotels.
Use the knowledge offered in
this new series of articles to help you play the hotel's game
and get the best rate possible next time you are booking a hotel
Step 1 - Optimize Your Choice
So you've decided you need
to stay somewhere for several days, and now you're working out
which hotel to stay at.
Stop! Go back!
You've already gone too far down the track. The very first
thing you should do is - if you have date flexibility - attempt
to determine if there are better or worse dates to stay in the
place you're visiting, and at the hotel you want to stay at.
Date flexibility might mean
changing your travel dates - even if only by a day or two.
Or perhaps it might mean changing the order in which you visit
the destinations that are to be included in your travel
Impact of Festivals and
For example, a small town
that has a major festival over a weekend is not going to have
discounted rates in their hotel rooms.
This can even be true in
large cities with major conventions - even a city with as many
hotels rooms as Las Vegas will occasionally fill up, such that
hotels that sell their rooms for as little as $50 or less a
night will instead be asking $250/night during the convention.
So make sure to check ahead if you are booking
hotel rooms in Vegas,
New York, or other major cities by checking with their
Visitors/Convention bureau for major event information.
As well as festivals, long
holiday weekends will also distort hotel occupancy levels.
But these distortions happen
both to increase and decrease hotel occupancy levels. In
places where people like to vacation, hotels will fill. In
places people travel for business purposes, hotels will empty.
Some places are more popular
at some times of year than at others.
They often will have
seasonal rates to reflect these variations in demand - for
example, summer destinations will be cheaper to stay at during
the empty winter months, for example, and vice versa for winter
destinations if you're considering traveling there in summer.
The actual seasonal periods
may not be obvious to you, however, and may not be as simple as
just a high and a low season. There may be several
different seasons. And the timings may vary from area to
area. For example, some parts of the world have rainy and
dry seasons. And of course, the (weather) seasons in the
other hemisphere are reversed to those in your home hemisphere.
Weekday and Weekends
Many hotels - and indeed
some complete cities - are variously full during the week and
empty in the weekends or vice versa. Hotels in the central
financial district of a city probably are full Monday - Thursday
nights, with some residual occupancy on Friday and Sunday, and
almost no-one in the hotel on Saturday nights. But hotels
in places where people like to go for weekend short breaks will
be full on Saturday nights, semi full on Fridays and Sundays,
almost empty on Mondays and Thursdays, and very empty on
Tuesdays and Wednesdays. An example of this would again be
Some hotels in some areas
have done a good job of balancing their weekday and weekend
business, and other areas have steady business every day of the
week because people travel there for longer than short weekend
breaks - for example, Orlando.
But in many areas, hotels do
have peaks and troughs during every week, and even hotels that
have managed to build a steady level of occupancy may be quoting
a very different rate for weekend days than for week days.
Sometimes this is apparent, but sometimes if you start your stay
on an expensive day, they might 'forget' to adjust the rate for
the lower cost days.
Individual Hotel Issues too
As well as these factors,
individual hotels can also have changes in their own occupancy
level due to hosting groups or conventions.
Maybe they've a wedding
group that has filled the entire hotel for the two nights you
want to be there, or maybe they have a convention in the hotel
for the three night period.
Like most factors to do with
hotel occupancy levels, this too has a flip side. Maybe
they've just had that big wedding group or convention cancel, so
they've suddenly switched from being full to being empty.
Can You Change Your Dates
So - for your first step,
see if you're planning to travel at a good time or a bad time.
If you can adjust your
travel dates, even perhaps only by a day or two, or swap the
order of places you'll be visiting if you're going to several
different places, you might get access to lower hotel rates
right from the start of your negotiation.
How to Find Out if it is a Good
or Bad Time
You can call the area's
Convention and Visitor Bureau and ask them if it is a good or
bad time - but you'll need to qualify what you mean by good and
bad. To them, a good time is when all hotels are full!
Ask instead if it is a time when hotel occupancy rates are
typically higher or lower than average.
You can also get a feeling
by looking at hotel availability through one of the internet
hotel booking services. If you are seeing 100 or more
hotels, all with low rates on offer, for one week, and then only
20 hotels, with high rates, for the next week, you can probably
guess what this difference in results means.
Consider also calling the
hotel(s) you're thinking of staying at directly. Ask
whether they are getting close to full or if they have lots of
availability for the dates you're looking at, and if you can get
a sense not just for their current booking levels but how they
expect this to evolve prior to the actual dates of your possible
stay, that would be helpful too. Maybe the hotel currently
has no bookings, but maybe you're arranging nine months out, and
it is a corporate hotel that gets 75% of its bookings in the
three weeks prior to when guests arrive. A hotel like that
would have no real idea if it will be full or empty until as
short as a week or so prior to the dates of your stay.
Read more in the rest of this
This is part 1 of a series on How
to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate - please
also visit :
Optimize the dates of your stay
When is the best (and
worst) time to make your hotel reservation
What is Included and What
Hidden extra fees and how
to resolve them
Who to Speak/Book With
and What to Say
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5 Sep 2008, last update
06 Mar 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.