Highs and Lows
"Every sector of the travel industry will be up, up, up, this summer," says Suzanne Cook of the Travel Industry Association of America. "The momentum in travel recovery that began last year is continuing, and Americans are traveling in record numbers."
- That's great news for the travel industry, but not for companies trying to control travel costs--higher demand means higher prices. Car rental rates are up an average of 10 percent to 15 percent over last year. Hotel prices in many major cities are skyrocketing, and hotels are regularly selling out in super-hot markets like Boston and Manhattan. Recently imposed fuel surcharges are bumping up airfares. Even airport parking rates are on the rise.
- Since small businesses usually don't have the volume to negotiate lower prices, finding travel deals is tough. And when they do find deals, travelers get bogged down in the fine print or have to jump through too many hoops to realize true savings.
- That could be changing. For example, Budget Rent A Car just announced a simple offer to small and midsize businesses that rent cars at least once per month or spend at least $1,000 per year on car rentals: Those companies that enroll in the Budget Business program get an additional discount on Budget's lowest rates on all car classes. They also receive a $2 rebate for every day an employee rents a Budget car. A company with five travelers who rent cars five days per month would earn back $600 a year from the rebates alone! Members also get no additional driver fees, unlimited mileage, and complimentary Rapid Return and Fastbreak (express, paperless rental) services. For more information, see www.budget.com, and click on "Frequent Renter."
- Hoping to snare more price-sensitive travelers from small and midsize businesses, Delta introduced Simpli-Fares earlier this year. With SimpliFares, Delta dumped the onerous Saturday-night stay-over rule, cut ticket change fees from $100 to $50, and capped its one-way walk-up fares at $500 (coach) and $600 (first-class). See www.delta.com/simplifares for more information.
Chris McGinnis is author of The Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide.