Travel Notes: Discounted rates the most-used hotel promotions

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What are the marketing gimmicks used most widely by hotel operators to attract guests?

Room discounts, followed by free Wi-Fi and other amenities.

A survey of more than 25,000 hotel owners and managers in North America by the travel website TripAdvisor found that discounted rooms were offered by 58 percent of U.S. hotels surveyed. It was 63 percent in Mexico and 53 percent in Canada.

"Regionally, it seems that the industry tends to use some of the same methods of attracting travelers," TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter said.

The next most popular incentive was "special amenities," as the survey put it, naming free Wi-Fi as an example. In the U.S., 44 percent of hotels offered the amenities to guests. Perhaps the most alluring promotion for travelers is a free night's stay -- only 14 percent of hotels in the U.S. offered that, compared with 34 percent in Canada.

Other incentives offered by U.S. hotels included free parking (31 percent) and free newspapers (20 percent).

US Airways meal upgrade

US Airways is giving passengers in the economy section on some routes the chance to eat like the well-heeled folks in the front of the plane.

The airline has begun offering economy passengers traveling to Europe, the Middle East and South America the choice to upgrade their meals for an extra charge of $19.95 per meal.

A sample premium meal: citrus-marinated chicken skewers on Mediterranean orzo topped with mango chutney, served with lavosh crackers, shrimp cocktail, grilled vegetables and creme brulee cheesecake with fresh berries.

Vegetarians can order portobello tortellini marinated in sun-dried tomato pesto, served with caprese salad, lavosh crackers, hummus, baba ganoush and cheesecake with berries.

The premium meals are served with wine.

American luggage delivery

American Airlines is offering to deliver your luggage direct to your home, office or hotel so you can skip the baggage carousel.

Of course, it costs extra.

The new service will cost a minimum of $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags and $49.95 for three to 10 bags.

That will get your luggage delivered to a location within 40 miles of the destination airport. But if the final destination for your bags is farther, you pay an extra $1 per mile.

The charges will be on top of the usual checked bag fee of $25 for the first bag, $35 for the second and $150 for additional luggage.

American is partnering with Bags VIP Luggage Delivery for the service.

Here's how it works: You order the service online when you book a flight and drop off your luggage at the airport ticket counter. When you get to your destination, you skip the carousel and your luggage is delivered to the address you designated.

The service will be offered at about 200 airports across the country, including Pittsburgh, according to American's website. However, it is not offered on international flights..

"We think this service will be especially valuable to families traveling with children as well as our business travelers who need to go straight to a meeting or into the office," said David Vance, the airline's managing director for customer operations planning.

Most want pets with them

As Americans, we love our pets and we love to travel.

How much?

Given the chance, 51 percent of U.S. pet owners said they would take their pets on every trip they took, according to a new survey by the American Automobile Association and Best Western International Inc., one of the world's largest hotel chains.

Among the pet owners surveyed, 95 percent said finding lodging that accepts animals is crucial to travel planning. But if they can't find pet-friendly hotels or motels, 25 percent of those surveyed said, they sneak their pets into their rooms anyway.

Not all pets make good travel buddies. Eighty-five percent of pet owners say they travel with a dog and only 21 percent take along a cat, according to the survey.

Families flying together

A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill to make it easier for family members to sit together on a plane.

But the $1 trillion airline industry said no such law is needed.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently introduced legislation that would direct airlines to "establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together during that flight."

A spokesman for Mr. Nadler said the government can't force airlines to waive fees for premium seats so that families can sit together at no extra cost. But he said it can require that airlines draft a policy on the subject and make it public so passengers could see which airlines were family-friendly.

"We are not forcing anyone to do our bidding," said Ilan Kayatsky, a spokesman for the congressman.

But Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation's airline industry, said family members can sit together without paying higher fees by simply booking tickets early.

"Airline seats, much like tickets to sporting events or concerts, are at their greatest availability when purchased early, which is when most families book travel," the group said.



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