Hotel.com's annual Hotel Price Index, released on Monday, looks at trends in hotel prices paid by actual travelers—not just deals advertised by hoteliers. With insights into the habits of highly successful hotels and hotel guests, Vice President for North America Victor Owens sat down with us to explain how to get the most out of a hotel stay in 2013.
This year's HPI tells us that for the second year in a row, there is strong growth in North America when it comes to hotel price, indicating a renewed American confidence and willingness to travel. With a total average price increase around the world of three percent, compared to the four percent raise from 2010 to 2011, domestic locations saw higher-than-average increases. Otherwise, the highest growth occurred in the Caribbean and the Pacific (driven by the increasing popularity of all-inclusive resorts), while Europe and the Middle East experienced a slight price fall.
So what does that mean for you? According to Owens, getting out of the tourist comfort zone is the key to getting the best bang for your buck. Traveling like a local means you can come home a victorious trendsetter with an arsenal of new recommendations, but it can also mean saving more. Owens pointed to Eastern Europe as the hottest spot for 2013—cities like Warsaw, Budapest, and Dubrovnik all offer new experiences for the seasoned traveler, without insanely high prices. The top 10 destinations with 5-star rooms under $200 can be found on the site, along with recommendations for neighborhoods in domestic cities that will take you off the beaten path and into true-local territory (think the Warehouse District, New Orleans).
"The major cities will always be the majors, and people will always go there," Owens explained. "But people are thinking about things like, If I start in Rome, what other cities can I get to? There are places you wouldn't think of—like Warsaw—where you don't necessarily think: I want to go there with my girlfriends to have fun. But there are some tremendous opportunities there."
This year's HPI also indicates that expectations for great hotels are changing, no matter the destination. Amenities like spa services, wellness resources, and locally sourced food are more in-demand than ever before—guests are seeking home-away-from-home comforts. On the planning side, smart hoteliers should be utilizing your mobile attention, no matter how big or how small. With the rise of mobile booking, look for properties that allow you to book within the app or site, as well as browse photos and learn everything you need to know before settling on it as your destination. While Owens says that people are turning to their phones for immediate help and quick deals, the tablet screen can be a great place to dive deeper and find "a meaningful, richer, more immersive experience." A well-stocked mobile presence just might indicate a knowledgeable and helpful staff, and will definitely allow you to become the savvy guest you'd like to be.
Encyclopedic concierge services have also come into play when defining the value of a property. "I can find a great rate somewhere," explains Owens, "but if the staff doesn't know what's going on in the area, what's unique about the area—I won't be able to talk and brag about my experience, my unique trip." To that end, the Wanderlust tab (added last year) breaks down recommendations based on interest. Top destinations for foodies, art fanatics, spa seekers, and more are organized into a tool for travelers.
Finding the perfect hotel can be a challenge. But seeking out new destinations—from Eastern European cities to increasingly popular Sun Belt spots like Big Sur, San Antonio, and Atlanta—can give you the chance to be the first to discover a great trip without breaking the bank.