By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency
If you have a yen to stay in a five-star hotel, you’ll find you can arrange that experience for less than $250 a night in major cities from Athens to San Antonio. So says Hotels.com, the large OTA (OpenTravel Alliance) that is part of the Expedia family, and large OTAs ought to know: They can mine their records of actual prices actual travelers pay.
Of the 10 world cities with five-star rates between $177 and $234, you can enjoy a luxurious stay for less than $200 a night in Panama City, Bangkok, Istanbul and Berlin, and for rates of $201 to $234 a night in Athens, Frankfurt, Beijing, Phuket, San Antonio, and Melbourne Australia. It’s been a while since I’ve been in some of those places, but the list seems on the mark. At the other end of the scale, even after falling 18 percent, five-star rates in Venice still wound up averaging a big $438 a night.
If you’re willing to go down a bit to the four-star level, you can find hotels for $150 or less in Athens, Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Las Vegas, Madrid, Panama City and Phuket. Some of the best deals are at older hotels, once listed as five-star, which have downgraded to a lower level due to the emergence of newer, more lavish properties. And if you’re on a really tight budget, Hotels.com says four of the 50 top destinations for U.S. travelers to Asia offer three-star accommodations from $46 to $76 a night.
You can take a look at the details of the Hotels.com data at hpi.hotels.com/us-h22015/. The report focuses heavily on year-to-year changes, which are of less use to most travelers than current rates, and it also focuses on average rates, which I also consider less useful than rates by hotel class: I always remember the adage, “A statistician is someone who drowns wading a river that averages three feet deep.” Still, the data do show some useful generalizations
Five-star hotels are not uniformly over-the-top expensive anywhere, but the most famous places remain far above average. In Bangkok this month, for example, Kayak shows rates at 15 five-star places. The renowned Mandarin Oriental topped the list at $305 per night, but rates at the other 14 ranged between $67 and $187. Kayak had even the Peninsula at $132, perhaps a measure of the fact that Asia’s one-time legendary top hotel has been eclipsed by newcomers. Similarly, even in notoriously expensive London, Kayak found a few five-star spots in the $250 range, but it listed classic Claridge’s at $553, which it called a special value compared with a list price of $863. Among the other renowned spots, Kayak shows you’ll pay a whopping $951 a night at the Gritti Palace in Venice, $1,086 at the Four Seasons George V in Paris, $895 at the Mandarin Oriental in New York, $705 at the InterContinental in Tokyo (but the legendary Imperial is a mere $373).
You get the picture: Clearly, not all five-star hotels are comparable. If you want to stay where the celebrities stay, or the places featured in a novel you’re read or seen in a favorite film, you’ll likely pay for the privilege. But if you just want a really nice pad, you can do reasonably well almost anywhere.
Hotel prices for travelers from the United States vary for three main reasons: currency fluctuations, the local supply/demand balance and seasonality. Europe is particularly good these days, largely due to the relatively weak euro. A long time ago, I described Germany as “off limits to economy travelers,” but these days you can do very well even in Berlin and Frankfurt. Overall, you can also do quite well in most of Asia, and in much of South America.
As always, rather than selecting a destination based on a hotel, I recommend selecting a destination based on what the destination has to offer. But sometimes what you really want is the five-star treatment, and, fortunately, you can find it at surprisingly low prices if you look.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at email@example.com. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website.)
Tribune Content Agency — May 3, 2016
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