It’s Memorial Day Weekend and traditionally the start of summer, or, in many cases, high season….but not this year!
Given the unforgiving the law of supply and demand, welcome to a very special summer. It’s actually a combination of the law of unintended consequences – a perfect storm of a strong U.S. dollar, global instability, terrorism and fear. And what do you get? A global buyer’s market in travel!
You’re likely aware of the disruptor airlines entering the U.S. market, and you’ve seen the great low roundtrip fares to Europe, Scandinavia, and Asia.
Airlines like Norwegian Shuttle, which is flying to U.S. cities like Providence, RI, Stewart International in New York, and many major cities as well, to Europe and beyond; Wow, which flies first to Iceland from the U.S., and then connects on to Europe; Edelweiss, which flies non-stop from Zurich to San Diego, as well as Las Vegas; and Air Asia, which is about to use Hawaii as a destination (which means you get to use it as a hub), flying ultra-long haul flights from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Honolulu with fares starting at $149.
The Bottom Line is that it is now cheaper to fly from Honolulu to Malaysia than it is from New York to Washington, D.C.
And fares continue to drop in the wake of global instability as well as the growing perception among foreign travelers that the U.S. isn’t welcoming. In the last year, inbound travel to the U.S. has declined a staggering 16%. That’s a lot of empty airline seats as well as hotel rooms. It also means that U.S. retail will take a big hit–estimated at more than $10 billion this year. Bad for American business, but great for American consumers.
So now that you know all of this, where are you going to go?
Here are my choices for 2017: Portugal. Imagine the beautiful kingdom of a dead empire, where the food is phenomenal, the people define hospitality, and the dollar goes very far. A dinner at an expensive restaurant, including wine, might set you back $50 (that’s for two people). France is on sale as well. Remember, it’s not just airfare and hotel rates, but basic goods and services, ranging from a cab ride to a tube of toothpaste to clothing. Buenos Aires, thanks to a very weak peso, is my top pick in South America. In fact, each summer (and especially THIS summer), I go to Argentina and do my Christmas shopping. The same applies to Thailand, where the baht is still depressed against the dollar. Imagine a high standard of living and a low cost of living — and you’ll make an immediate move to Bangkok.
Does the global buyers’ market in travel apply in any way to U.S. destinations? It does, because of the drop in inbound foreign travel. But don’t necessarily book online. Embrace the C word, as in…conversation. Remember, not all the inventory is displayed online. And pricing this summer will be fluid, to say the least — so my advice is to research on line, but then have a direct conversation with the travel provider.
And don’t just focus on the room rate. It’s about overall value once you agree upon the room rate, and that comes in the form of the conversation….will they give you free wifi…will they get rid of the dreaded resort fee…can your kids eat or stay free? None of these questions can be asked online. But the conversation can accomplish miracles, not the least of which is you’ve established a relationship with an individual at the hotel. Be sure to stay in touch with them BEFORE you get there. You might find yourself first in line, without ever having to ask, for an upgrade. With all this excess capacity in the market, this is definitely the summer you should get one.
Happy Traveling! PG
Peter S. Greenberg is the Travel Editor for CBS News, reporting regularly on CBS This Morning, and the CBS Evening News. A multiple Emmy-winning investigative reporter and producer, Peter was formerly the Travel Editor for NBC’s Today, CNBC and MSNBC.