Upscale urban hotels, scraping around for new guests to replace their typical jetsetters, are finding them in their own backyards, as local families and couples on weekend getaways continue to fill rooms that might otherwise go empty.
“The new phenomenon, post-9/11, is, `Let`s get a babysitter and drive into the city for the weekend,` ` says Spencer Rascoff, vp/ Hotwire.com. Hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria and the new W Times Square in New York are selling out on weekends. And online travel giant Expedia reports the most popular hotel booking destinations for New Yorkers and Chicagoans are New York and Chicago, respectively. And Travelocity found that while Chicagoans have booked 16% more hotel stays for this summer on the site this year compared with last, June-August bookings for hotels in neighboring states were up 30%. The same pattern was true in Los Angeles, New York and even Knoxville, TN. Overall bookings for all three destinations increased 29%, but bookings for locations in neighboring states were up 43%.
“The pattern of demand has changed,” says Starwood Hotels & Resorts CEO Barry Sternlicht. “You`re doing much better on weekends than on weekdays, when you used to sell out.”
He cited locations like the Sheraton Suites in Key West, FL and the St. Regis Monarch Beach, CA as examples of places where hotels are thriving because of drive-in guests from Miami and Los Angeles, respectively. The drive-in trend is not just a reflection of lingering fears of flying, says William Hanley, evp/American Hotel & Lodging Association. Part of it is the hassle factor at airports, especially for parents traveling with children. `Dragging kids through the airport, especially if you change planes in Chicago or Atlanta, is a real hassle,` said Hanley.