Sizing up this year’s batch of Black Friday travel deals
By Elaine Glusac
When it comes to Black Friday sales, travel companies usually rise to the occasion, knowing consumers are in buying mode. But now that travel is back with a vengeance — Airbnb, for example, just reported its most profitable quarter in company history — sales may not be as impressive this year.
“Travel companies that are trying to bounce back don’t have the incentive to offer a lot of deals, because everyone wants to travel,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com, which compiles sales.
So, instead of rate cuts, hotel sales may take the form of added amenities or room credits, according to Jan Freitag, the national director of hospitality analytics at CoStar Group, a commercial real estate analyst. “Consumers don’t need to be enticed to travel, they’re doing quite well on their own,” Freitag said.
Still, Black Friday sales can encourage hotel occupancy in slow periods; they can also help fill cruise ships and tour groups on future trips, enabling operators to hold the line on prices later. This year, sales at more affordable accommodations target travelers feeling the inflationary pinch on their budgets.
From hotels to cruises, here’s what to expect and how to get the most out of travel deals offered during the Black Friday sales season, which generally takes place the last two weeks of November.
‘Watch everything like a hawk’
With few early-season deals, this may be the year of the pop-up sale. “Your best bet is to be ready to watch everything like a hawk for those two weeks,” Ramhold said.
Understand the terms before buying. Many bargains may be nonrefundable, require prepayment or have blackout dates. Promotions favor near-term travel, with the biggest discounts in slow periods.
In many cases, it will pay to act fast as the number of discounted bookings are limited. In New York City, for example, hotels participating in NYC Hotel Week, which runs Jan. 4 to Feb. 13, will offer rooms at 23% off while they last, starting Nov. 15.
To remain competitive, most big hotel brands and online travel agencies participate in holiday promotions. For example, Hyatt is holding a sale at more than 950 of its properties globally, including the Thompson, Washington, D.C., where 15% off bookings made from Nov. 23 to 29 start at $159 for stays from Dec. 22 to March 23 (use code CYBER).
The holiday sale at the online agency Priceline, Nov. 22 to 28, includes up to 20% off select hotels, 20% off rental cars and up to $3,000 in onboard cruise ship credits.
Between Nov. 21 and 29, Accor, which runs hotel brands including Fairmont and Sofitel, will offer up to 30% off rooms at North American hotels for stays through June. Loyalty members will get an additional 5% off (membership is free). Before the sale, rates at the Sofitel Mexico City Reforma start at $300.
Like larger chains, smaller groups such as Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which operates more than 25 hotels in Hawaii and Florida, aim to build their loyalty club enrollment, which is free, by offering 30% off rates from Nov. 25 to 28 to members. Prediscount rates at the Aqua Oasis in Waikiki start at $185 a night.
Robust hotel discounts
This season may be stingier, but some hotel deals will offer substantial discounts or allow for far-horizon travel.
Xanterra Travel Collection’s Black Friday promotion, Nov. 22 to 29, will discount stays up to 30% at several national park lodges in Yellowstone, Zion and other parks. Before the discount, rates in mid-February start at $222 at El Tovar Hotel on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and $169 at Zion National Park Lodge.
At Alohilani Resort in Waikiki, rooms will be on sale at 35% off Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 for stays Dec. 1 through June. With the discount, nightly rates start at $269 and include complimentary beach rentals such as surfboards and umbrellas.
In Cabos San Lucas, Mexico, Solmar Hotels & Resorts will run a sale from Nov. 21 through Dec. 4 with discounts of up to 66% off stays through Dec. 20, 2023. Discounted rooms start at $190 a night at Playa Grande Resort and $435 at Grand Solmar Land’s End.
Among sales for stays throughout 2023, Virgin Hotels will offer 30% off Nov. 25 to Jan. 2. Boutique hotels in the Eat. Drink. Sleep portfolio will be 25% off (prediscount winter rates at Bellanca Hotel on Catalina Island, California, start at $179).
Bargain rates reduced
Although many hotels resist slashing prices, more affordable properties may seek to encourage travelers who are otherwise deterred by inflation.
Such promotions “remind customers that they do indeed deserve a break over the holidays, which they can afford to pay for without breaking the bank,” said Chekitan Dev, the Singapore Tourism Distinguished Professor at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration.
Known for efficiently designed rooms in cities such as London, Amsterdam and New York, Yotel will offer 40% off rates booked Nov. 17 to Dec. 1 for stays through September. Nightly rates start at $195 prediscount.
In Portland, Oregon, the hotel and hostel Lolo Pass has private rooms from $125 a night and dormitory beds from $35, which will be reduced by 40% Nov. 28 and 29 for stays through March (use code CYBER2022).
A group of redesigned motels and ski lodges, Bluebird by Lark is offering 25% discounts on bookings made Nov. 25 to 28 for travel through April. Before the discount, rates start at $171 at Bluebird Hunter Lodge in the Catskill Mountains.
Sentral hotels, which include coworking spaces designed to appeal to digital nomads, will offer up to 30% off stays booked Nov. 21 to 30 for stays through 2023. Nightly rates normally start at $102.
Many promotions aim to convince travelers to linger.
In Nashville, Tennessee, the Bobby Hotel will offer three nights for the price of two from Nov. 14 to 28 for stays through April 11 (nightly rates from $259).
On the Caribbean island of Grenada, Mount Cinnamon Resort is putting its 37 suites and villas on sale from Nov. 25 to Dec. 9 at 30% off stays of five or more post-high-season nights, from April 10 to Nov. 30. Before the discount, nightly rates start at $490 (code MC-BLACKFRIDAY).
Four resorts on Islamorada in the Florida Keys will charge for two nights and offer the third night free, including Pelican Cove Resort & Marina (nightly rates from $179), Postcard Inn Resort & Marina (from $186), La Siesta Resort & Marina (from $296) and Amara Cay Resort (from $299). Book Nov. 24 to 29 for stays Dec. 1 through June.
Cruise for less
Cruise lines run their own annual sales during “wave season” in the first few months of the year. But plenty participate in Black Friday.
Lindblad Expeditions straddles both sales with its offer, running to Jan. 13, on 2023 Galápagos sailings that includes airfare from Miami to the islands. Eight-day trips start at $9,390 a person.
Holland America Line is discounting bookings made Nov. 11 to Dec. 1 up to 40%. The sale includes a seven-day Alaska sailing in May priced at $599 a person prediscount.
Cutting fares on many trips until Nov. 30, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is offering 13-day departures in India at $5,999 a person after a $1,500 reduction.
Yacht trips in 2023 at the Sailing Collective will go for 15% off Nov. 25 to 28 (code SAILMORE). Its small-ship offerings span the Mediterranean, Asia and Antarctica. An eight-day February sailing around Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean starts at $3,600 for a single cabin before the sale.