Luxury for Less
by Diane McDavitt
President and Co-Founder
Luxury Link Travel Group
Luxury for less. We hear the phrase a lot, but what does it mean?
In most cases it’s code for “distressed” inventory that can’t be sold at regular prices. Last season’s handbag, a whole shipment of designer shoes with scratches on the heel, a spectacular suite at the Ritz…for tomorrow night.
That said, recent economic challenges have changed the definition of “distressed” for many retailers and that’s been a boon for buyers, particularly in the travel sector where the inventory is perishable. Rooms at some of the finest resorts in the world – in high season, no less – have shown up on sale sites around the web.
But what happens next, as the economy improves, supply tightens up and demand increases, but we’ve all been spoiled into expecting 50% off or more? The good news is there will always be exceptional travel values available, regardless of economic conditions. Will you have to look a little harder for them? No doubt. But those deals will exist. Here are a few ways to find them.
1) Flash Sale Sites
This phenomenon exploded on the web a couple of years ago; I’m pretty sure my mother was operating a travel flash sale site out of her home office at one point. Offering room night-only, limited time sales to a private membership group, the deals on these sites can be amazing though the selection is narrow. Some of these upstart companies have already shuttered but the big ones will remain standing because hotels will always have seasonal holes or last minute cancellations. Tip: Sign up for the top three (Vacationist and a couple others…I’ll let you Google them ) and be prepared to pounce when you see a great deal. Save now, travel later should be your mantra.
2) Travel Auction Sites
The advantage here is a shot at an exceptional deal; the ‘disadvantage’ is you might be competing for it. That said, the wait and the bitten fingernails are often worth it – Luxury Link offers high-end vacations including luxury room accommodations, meals, spa services and other extras you can’t find anywhere else; average winning bids are 50% of the best available rate. The good news is Luxury Link’s deals are offered year round regardless of the economy – luxury hotels use the site for exposure to an affluent audience. For less fancy fare, SkyAuction and Priceline offer the opportunity to bid for hotel stays in the mid to lower end range. Tip: Do your research. Check the hotel’s own web site to verify rates to be sure you’re getting a deal.
Take a serious look at shoulder and off-season for the destinations you wish to visit. Rates are lower, crowds are smaller – you can stay in some of the finest hotels in the world for a relative song if you’re willing to travel off peak. And let’s face it, regardless of your budget, do you really need to pay double to stand in line? Tip: Remember “off peak” is not only related to time of year; for some destinations it could mean Sunday to Thursday (Napa, anyone?) or weekends (New York City).