I’ve been noting in our monthly newsletter for a while that this past year has been a terrific time to travel. Especially in terms of hotels, there have been some unprecedented bargains out there. The luxury hotels that have tried hard not to lower prices have been throwing in all kinds of freebies, from an extra night or resort credit to a complimentary spa treatment or golf game.
This can’t go on forever, of course, without the hotels getting into financial trouble. In the U.S. at least, the s&%t is already hitting the fan in a lot of places. Only in rare cases is the hotel shuttered, but guests are noticing other cutbacks: lower staff levels, inexperienced concierges, thinner towels, or fewer complimentary items at check-in or turndown. That’s the slant of this excellent article that ran Friday in USA Today: Hard times send hotel industry into survival mode. “In January, U.S. hotels had a record-low 45.1% occupancy rate”—the lowest since the tracking firm quoted started keeping records in 1987.
Things are especially bad in former bubble zones and in those resorts that depended on deep-pocketed corporate meeting clients. In California, 330 hotels have defaulted on mortgage payments and 76 are in foreclosure. The W San Diego was turned over to lenders in September after a loan default. The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas will close on May 2.
Fortunately, Latin America is booming. Apart from Mexico and Honduras—which have seen drops based on something besides the recession—most of the region was either flat or up in 2009. Outside of economic boom areas like Chile, Brazil, and Peru, however, you may have better luck getting the staff levels and amenities you expect at luxury leisure hotels rather than business hotels: tourism has not declined as much as international business travel.
Have you noticed any deflation of expected amenities or staff levels at luxury hotels in your travels?