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More hotels are asking business travelers to come on in and stay awhile. Both major hotel chains and companies that specialize in extended-stay lodgings-hotels that cater to longer-term travelers and typically charge by the week-have plans to establish more extended-stay properties within the coming year.
"With the shortage of hotel rooms and cases where travelers want to stay for two or three weeks, people in the industry believe extended-stay lodgings are really in need," explains Robert Nozar, editor-in-chief of Hotel & Motel Management magazine.
Extended-stay lodgings have a lot to offer business travelers who attend conferences, work on short-term projects or take lengthy trips. For one, they're more affordable than pricey luxury hotels. Unlike economy lodgings, they offer a kitchen complete with refrigerator, microwave and dinnerware. Plus, with traditional hotels cutting back on personal amenities these days, most also have oversized towels, built-in hairdryers and other personal-care items to their advantage, says Nozar.
A few hotels that are expanding in the extended-stay sector include Extended Stay America and Choice Hotels, through its new Mainstay Suites, which opened in October. Holiday Inn also expects to make its entry into the extended-stay market by year-end.
Business travelers are developing travel plans and even booking reservations on the Internet because-let's face it-it can be more convenient, personalized and sometimes even downright fun. Following is a sampling of newly established travel sites on the Web:
Check airline, car rental, hotel and rail rates and then book reservations at the TravelQuest site (http://www.TravelQuest.com). International travelers can also find currency and exchange rates, passport requirements and up-to-the-minute weather advisories. To check out meeting space availability nationwide, link to the helmsbriscoe.com site by clicking on "meetings" from the home page.
Visa Expo (http://www.visa.com) offers easy access to lists and maps of Visa/Plus ATM locations worldwide. A special mapping function provides U.S. travelers with a glimpse of the three ATMs closest to their selected location.
Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com) is a must-stop site for business travelers. You can book reservations from a mind-boggling choice of 31,800 hotels, 50 car rental companies and more than 400 airlines. Then check out the latest travel accessories in the Travel Merchandise section, enter contests in the Minibar, or chat with travel experts in Travelive.
Tips on packing, personal safety, fitness and more can be found on The Executive Woman's Travel Network
(http://www.delta-air.com/womenexecs). You can share valuable travel experiences with other female business travelers in the Travel Forum. In addition, you'll find special offers from Delta Air Lines on ticket upgrades, companion fares and car rental discounts.
Take one step into the Travel and Transport's virtual travel office (http://www.tandt.com), and you can book all your airline, car rental and hotel reservations in one shot.
Road warriors making late-breaking decisions about where to stay will appreciate Hotel and Travel Index Online (http://www.traveler.net/htio/). This source lets users search for specific hotels or search by a particular region. The site also includes information on current specials such as reduced room rates, free upgrades and more.
If you're in a hurry, get your airline tickets delivered within two days by making reservations and paying with a credit card at Preview Travel's Reservations.com site (http://www.reservations.com). Details on airline fares and schedules are the main attraction here.
Low And Behold
You only had to witness the fare wars that occurred when Southwest Airlines announced a sale on tickets last summer to realize how much clout the low-fare airlines have. And Terry Trippler, editor and publisher of The Airfare Report, predicts that in the near future, low-fare airlines offering flights with inexpensive fares and limited service will become even stronger in the domestic market.
Expect more air carriers like Southwest, Western Pacific, Frontier and Reno Air to increase their flights into existing markets and to move into new regions traditionally served by major airlines, says Trippler. Most of the significant growth will be on the East Coast, where markets are ripe for the picking. Few of the low-fare airlines have yet to penetrate these areas-and frequent fliers are demanding their service.
Low-fare airlines will continue to grow because of the innovations they've introduced that save travelers money. These carriers were the first to implement ticketless travel and Internet bookings, which meant they could lower their ticket prices even further, says Trippler. To drive up sales, several low-fare airlines will also establish companion fares and gimmicks where travelers receive free tickets after purchasing a certain number of them.
Trippler believes recent concerns over the safety of low-fare airlines won't hinder their growth much. Says Trippler, "Consumers just have to be rational about this and use their best judgment."
At press time, low-fare carrier Kiwi Airlines announced a chapter 11 reorganization, calling into question these airlines' financial stability. At the moment this case seems to be the exception, though it's worth doing a little extra research to make sure the low-cost airline you choose is on firm ground.
Up, Up And Away
If extensive business travel is in your future, so are higher costs. Prices are expected to rise an average of nearly 5 percent in 1997. Rates for lodging will jump 7.5 percent; for air travel and ground transportation, 4 percent; and for meals, 5 percent. But it's car rental rates that will experience the largest hike-a whopping 8.5 percent.
But don't despair: By the end of 1997, new competition in travel services-including automated reservations through the Internet and ticketless air travel-should bring overall costs down.