A headline in the Los Angeles Times urges would-be summer travelers to ” Book ahead or you’ll pay more.”
The article’s exhortation to travelers concerns all aspects of summer travel from airline fares to hotel rooms. Smart travelers apparently make (and book) their summer plans at least two months ahead according to a Harris interacitve poll with some 8% starting as far as six months ahead. Expectedly, New York’s hotel rates figure among the highest, albeit comfortingly at number 3 behind Hawaii and Nevada (Las Vegas). While summer travel to the Big Apple is expected to be strong, anecdotal evidence of the 2-3 month advance booking trend is hard to come by. Instead what New York has been experiencing for nearly two years is a last minute trend to fill the rooms with lead times more in the 2-3 week range. Regardless, the trendline for rates in the last 24 months has been inexorably up.
The focus on big cities and leading destinations such as Hawaii and Nevada, however, ignores the vacancy factor around the country. Even though the industry’s occupancy is streaking to an all time high of over 65%, it still leaves an unoccupied 35% which translates into a staggering 575 million empty rooms per year. Putting those resources to use continues to be a challenge in most secondary and suburban markets, many of which lack the pizazz and flair of a New York or Las Vegas.