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September 3, 2009

Summer Hotel News (and a review: Palomar Atlanta)

Filed under: hotels,travel deals — Chris @ 12:46 am

RATES CRASHING. Hotel rates are WAY down, too. That’s because hotels can’t just go park excess hotel rooms in the desert like airlines can park planes. This means there are a LOT of unsold hotel rooms going at bargain basement prices—- and we are talking some of the most popular destinations in the country like Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and Hawaii. European rates have tanked, too!

Examples of average hotel rate declines this summer
In US:
•    Las Vegas: -25%
•    New York: -25%
•    San Francisco: -23%
•    Honolulu: -18%

In Europe:
•    Barcelona: -35%
•    London: -25%
•    Rome: -23%

TOUGH TIMES. The first half of 2009 was brutal for the hotel industry. According to Smith Travel Research, occupancy fell 11% in the first six months of 2009. The average daily rate dipped below the bellwether $100 mark to $98.66. Revenue per available room slipped 19%. Ouch. However, the outlook for hotels is improving as the economy seems to be warming up.

CANDLEWOOD SUITES HITS NYC. We always love a NEW hotel in NYC and here’s the latest from InterContinental: “Candlewood Suites is bringing a full-scale apartment experience at a midscale hotel price to business and leisure travelers at a prime location just one block from Times Square. Guestrooms are all-studio suites with wide rooms, including a full kitchen with full-size refrigerator, stove top, dishwasher and microwave, and stocked with pots, pans, plates, glassware and utensils; comfortable recliner; large workspace with desk chair; and deluxe bedding.  Unlike most New York City midscale hotels, the Candlewood Suites offers amenities typically found in apartment buildings, including a complimentary 24-hour fitness center, complete with cardio and weight machines, and complimentary onsite laundry for guests. Location: 339 West 39th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues—over near the Port Authority. Rates in August start at about $220 per night. When we checked rates for Sept and Oct, the hotel was already sold out most nights!

AN ALTERNATIVE TO TRIPADVISOR. Check out this very helpful new hotel review site where hotel guests post their own VIDEOS of hotel stays. Very revealing!

MORE FREE INTERNET. So here’s a positive trend that we are hearing about more frequently: Many full-service hotel brands are FINALLY getting the message that guests are tired of paying for wi-fi when they can get it free at most limited service brands. For example, Hyatt now offers free wi-fi in all hotels to platinum and diamond members of its Gold Passport program. InterContinental Ambassors get it free, too. We are hearing that many west coast luxury properties, such as Ritz-Carltons are also offering it for free. Let’s hope the trend continues!

DISINTEREST IN LOYALTY PROGRAMS? Membership in hotel, airline and car rental loyalty programs has declined 31.2 percent since 2007, according to a new study from the loyalty research company Colloquy. The results, based on interviews with 2,152 U.S. consumers, indicate there still is interest in loyalty programs, but travelers are picking fewer carriers and hoteliers with which to invest their time and money.

Between our business trips, press trips and personal travel, we stay at a LOT of hotels. We’d like to share our experiences with BAT readers here in the Hotel Category. Palomar01

HOTEL PALOMAR-ATLANTA. A few months ago, the new Hotel Palomar in Midtown Atlanta hosted us for one night. The 21-story, 304 room hotel is just off I-75/85 which runs north/south through the center of downtown. It’s a brand new-from-the-ground-up hotel at 12th and West Peachtree. Rates generally run in the $150 range, but we’ve seen specials as low as $99 per night.

We stayed there on a Saturday night in late May. Having had many positive experiences at other Kimpton Group hotels scattered around the country, we had high expectations, and we are pleased to report those expectations were met this time around.

For a hotel that had only been open a few short months, we did not detect the slightest bit of just-opened jitters. All the staff, from the bellhops who greeted us on the street, the front desk staff, housekeepers…everyone was completely on their game. We are used to giving a wide berth to the staff at brand new hotels as they work through opening kinks, but that was definitely not necessary at the Palomar.

We really liked the modern, yet comfortable design of our room. Lots of ambers, browns, grays and tans in both wood and stone with a splash of red and orange here and there. Nice desk with an Aeron-like chair. Wi-fi is free for members of Kimpton’s In-Touch loyalty program. Flat screen TV. A nice bright and modern bathroom with a big tub-less shower.

Overall, it had the mod feel of a W Hotel without the disco-y dark corridors throbbing to a deep beat which always strain us when traveling on business.  We had an outstanding meal in the hotel restaurant called Pacci and then spent several hours on the rooftop deck, complete with its own screened in porch (nice southern touch amidst all the steel and glass towers of Midtown).

The only downside was the enforced valet parking @$30 per night (plus tip). There’s no self-park option, which is too bad considering that the hotel parking lot is located right next to the hotel…and about 100 feet from the valet stand. Next time we’ll ditch the car and take MARTA!


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