Priceline.com has released the results of its hotel room study of the top 50 U.S. destinations for summer 2006.The survey is based on a sampling of more than 100,000 opaque hotel room booking requests made by priceline.com customers for the period between June 15 and August 15, 2006.
As part of its study, priceline.com compared this year’s top 50 destinations to what customers chose in 2005.
Since the priceline.com study is based on actual booking requests, and not on consumer preference polls or votes, priceline.com believes the study is one of the more accurate predictors of summer travel trends. Also, priceline.com’s study focuses on specific neighborhoods instead of just cities, providing an added level of detail.
Priceline.com also conducted another study that tracked year-over-year changes in the average retail price of a hotel room this summer for major cities around the country. Visitors to Boston can expect the biggest increases in hotel room prices this summer - up 20.5% for a 3-star hotel and 34.6% for a 4-star hotel. Meanwhile, the biggest bargain is Washington, DC, where the price of a 4-star hotel room has dropped 21.6% year over year and the price of a 3-star hotel room has gone down 9.2%.
The top destinations portion of the study uncovered some interesting year-over-year shifts in summer travel trends. Big-city destinations are more popular this year than last, with sections of New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles all moving up multiple places on the 2006 Top 50 list, or cracking the list for the first time.
Most significant was the popularity of Chicago among summer travelers. Chicago’s Millennium Park area rose from the 35th most popular destination in summer 2005 to the #1 spot this year, replacing the Las Vegas Strip. “We are thrilled that travelers are choosing Chicago’s Millennium Park as one of their favorite destinations,” said Dorothy Coyle, Director, Chicago Office of Tourism. “Millennium Park offers visitors world-class art and architecture as well as a tremendous line-up of free performances featuring artists from Chicago and around the globe.”
Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue area was #2 on the list, rising three places. American summer travelers were largely U.S.-centric in their choices. Few international destinations made the list, possibly due to the weakness of the dollar overseas. Vancouver (#7 and #43) and London (#35) were the two most popular international destinations among Americans.
Other destinations that rose significantly in popularity this year compared to 2005 were Hilton Head (up 19 places), New York’s Midtown East (up 15 places), Anchorage (up 13 places), San Antonio’s Riverwalk (up 12 places), San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf (up 11 places) and St. Catharine’s Niagara Falls (up 10 places).
Big winners in this year’s Top 50 List include:
—Chicago’s Millennium Park. Opened in July 2004, Millennium Park has been steadily rising in popularity, jumping 34 places on priceline.com’s list since last year. The 24.5-acre park features state-of-the-art venues for outdoor and indoor concerts and dance, gardens, art exhibits and sculpture. This summer, the park will feature performances by cellist Yo Yo Ma and the Joffrey Ballet.
—New York’s multiple neighborhoods. New York City is a year-round favorite for priceline.com customers. Whether it’s the Fifth Avenue shops, Broadway plays, the hundreds of restaurants or catching the Yankees or Mets, the Big Apple can fill up summer vacations of any length.
—Boston’s Copley area. The biggest gainer on priceline’s list, the Copley area rose 36 places compared to 2005. No wonder. For visitors and locals alike, Copley is the cultural center of Boston. Trendy shops, world-class dining and the city’s theater district are all within walking distance.
History buffs can visit sites like Trinity Church, the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House. Towering over the scene is the John Hancock skyscraper with its observation deck.
—San Diego’s Point Loma and Shelter Island. Surrounded on three sides by water, the Point Loma/Shelter Island area is one of the most relaxing and scenic destinations in the U.S., which helps explain why it jumped 24 places on priceline’s most-popular list for summer 2006. Visitors can walk the miles of beaches, explore the 150-year-old Point Loma Lighthouse, go whale-watching, see future America’s Cup sail contestants hone their skills, surf with the locals or just kick back with a good book.
For travelers combing the Top 50 list for bargains, priceline.com had these recommendations:
—Las Vegas. The Strip fell 4 places to #5 for 2006 and this could be good news for summer travelers. Typically, Las Vegas hotel deals are more plentiful in summer and the list hints that the crowds might be slightly smaller. (Here’s a tip: for the best prices, book a mid-week stay). Regardless of whether is hot or cold outside, the action inside The Strip’s gambling palaces is always sizzling.
—Orlando. Can’t stand the holiday lines at Florida’s theme parks? Now’s the time to go. Orlando’s Universal Studios/Sea World area is down 8 places on the list, while the Disney World vicinity is down 5. Higher gas prices and summer heat may thin out the crowds, but it also means families can go on the rides as much as they want.
—The Caribbean and Mexico. Although deals were in abundance, these traditional winter favorites didn’t make the summer Top 50 list. That’s great news for bargain hunters. It may be warm, but the ocean surf, a sea breeze and an icy drink will cool things down in a hurry.