Deals too good to miss

Hotel frequent guest programmes are forever running special deals which encourage you to stay a certain number of nights to get extra points but by far our favourite offers are the simple ones – and it can’t get any simpler than the promotion just launched by Carlson (the company that operates the Radisson, Park Plaza and Park Inn brands).

To celebrate the re-launch of their programme as Club Carlson, all you have to do is join  (if you are not already a member), register for the promotion and then stay on two separate occasions between now and 15th June and you will get a free night certificate valid until the end of the year.

If you are clever, you can get away with just two individual nights in some of their cheaper hotels and redeem the reward at one of the more expensive ones. However, whichever way you do it, this is definitely a good deal. More details here.

Starwood are also about to launch their own promotion which – rather typically for Starwood – is good, but not as good as others. Stay three times between 1st May and 31st July and get one free night at a slection of hotels. Register here.

Finally, to celebrate the Royal Wedding (if that really is an excuse), Heathrow Express is offering tickets at a 50% discount up until 2nd May. Bookings can only be made on-line here – enter the code HEXB7P when prompted.

Air Asia brings its LLC concept to London hotels

Tony Fernandes’ PR dept must be working overtime. Hard on the heals of reports that his long haul airline Air Asia X is scaling back the In-flight Entertainment offered on its planes, comes the news that this hyperactive entrepreneur plans to bring 1,500 new hotel rooms to the British capital.

Tune Hotels.com, part of the Tune Group, Mr Fernandes’ private investment outfit, has formed a strategic partnership  with London-based Queensway Group to invest in, develop and operate 15 hotels. The first example of its “five-star sleeping experience at a one-star price” is scheduled to open at 118 Westminster Bridge Road in the third quarter of this year. The company avoids gyms, conference facilities and up-market catering, and instead focuses on high quality basics such as comfy beds with en-suite power showers and a pay-as-you-use system of optional add-ons for energy-consuming amenities. As you’d expect, the best deals are available for those that book early, online.

Dubai Still No Bargain

Reports in the press have suggested that the financial embarrassment of Dubai is resulting in a number of good hotel deals suddenly becoming available. Hotels.com issued a press release stating that the average price for a 5 Star hotel room in Dubai for the first six months of 2009 was £174 per night and that rooms are now available for January at an average of just £144.

Sounds like a bargain, doesn’t it?

Except that January is low season. Sun-worshippers really will not feel comfortable on the beaches until late February. Rates tend to be at their highest between March and June when the weather is at its best.

Hotels.com compared the rates for the first six months of the year with the rates for just one month – which we would expect to have the lowest rates anyway.

In other words, a completely misleading comparison! Hotels.com surely knew this.

Our own view is that hotel rates in Dubai have long been on the high side and many hoteliers are reluctant to get involved in any sort of price-war. They want to maintain Dubai’s allegedly “exclusive” reputation.

January 2009 would have produced some fairly competitive hotel rates in Dubai and we are sure that January 2010 will also, but most of this is due to fairly normal seasonal discounting. Dubai’s finances might be in a mess and its image forever tarnished but there is no direct reason why the possible financial failure of a property developer should cause existing hotels to suddenly reduce their rates.

Agents suggesting that there are massive bargains to be had in Dubai are being disingenuous.

Bargain Alert

Bank Holidays are a traditional time for airlines and hotel chains to launch special Sales. The August Bank Holiday is a particularly popular time because it marks the end of the traditional summer peak so airlines and hotels are once again looking for customers.

We have no inside knowledge of which airline or hotel chain will announce a sudden sale. These are often promoted at short notice and might only last for three or four days. If you are a registered customer with a particular airline or chain you are likely to get email notification of any special promotion but if there is a company you are interested in then it might be an idea to register now and keep an eye on their website.

Unless you are travelling in the next few days, or availability for a flight or hotel is already looking tight, we would hold off making a booking until the weekend. It also would not do any harm to do a bit of study in advance by looking at sites such as www.kayak.co.uk which will show you fare graphs to see how fares develop over a period. There is no point in rushing to grab a bargain and then discovering it was only the fairly standard price that other companies were offering.

Doing a little work now might help you get a very good deal at the weekend. Remember that for a company to promote a price as “special” it should be a genuine reduction on what is currently on offer – that suggests this week’s prices might be artificially high so they can be reduced at the weekend!

The First Cuckoo?

As night follows day, travel bargains follow any form of natural catastrophe. We would certainly never advocate travelling to anywhere dangerous but an earthquake in a remote region of a country can put people off travelling to the whole country, and neighbouring countries as well. The travel business can only react in the way it knows best – by slashing rates.

We still do not know the full extent of the Swine Flu outbreak but the image of Mexico has been severely tarnished and we imagine some nervous travellers will avoid the country for months, if not years,  to come. Assuming that Mexico is given some form of “all clear” in the next few weeks, we can expect a rush of bargain deals. If you are interested in Mexico, it might just be worth waiting for a little while because there are bound to be savings to be made.

However, even we were a little surprised last week when we spotted a group of hotels in Cancun offering some very special rates – but only to travel trade employees. That does rather look like indecent haste but if you are looking for some cheap, slightly exotic, sun in June then Mexico might be just the place