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Finding Value in EuropeJune 3, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
As the recession spreads across the Atlantic, hotels and tour operators are searching for ways to keep travel affordable even for travelers accustomed to luxury every step of the way. In Eastern Europe, Mamaison Hotels is offering packages unique to every property, while in the west, Sceptre Tours is negotiating rates with suppliers directly.
The garden area of Mamaison Pachtuv Palace in Prague
Mamaison Hotels in Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Moscow are offering both discounts and added value throughout summer and into December. (Agent commissions are 10 percent.)
In Prague, for example, travelers can spend two nights in the five-star, all-suite, Mamaison Pachtuv Palace, roundtrip airport/railway transfers, full buffet breakfast and a three-course dinner for $726 per double room and $626 per single. On the other side of the Vltava River, the Mamaison Riverside Hotel is offering a similar package for about $498 per double room and $422 per single.
In a challenging economic climate, these packages must accomplish multiple goals, says Petra Deuter, chief sales and marketing officer for Mamaison Hotels & Apartments. “On one hand, they are to entice travelers to visit and [stay] overnight in the properties,” she says, “and at the same time, build awareness of the properties in general.”
Throughout Ireland, the UK and Italy, Sceptre Tours partners with businesses to build unique and affordable packages rather than offer deals or discounts. “Anyone can put a low price on the market,” says Ciaran Barry, Sceptre Tours’ director of marketing and sales, “but it’s the value of the product that our travel partners see for their clients.
“We have strong relationships with the vendors that we work with, whether it’s flights to Ireland or Italy or the ground people that we work with.”
Over the past year, Barry has seen dramatic changes in the industry, and in the way people are traveling. “The high-end traveler may not be flying first-class; they might be flying economy.” But, he emphasizes, they are still traveling. “The value packages we’ve been putting together have really supported them as well, because it keeps those kinds of packages [available to the] core audience.”
The system seems to be working: Sceptre’s sales in January were 33 percent above their sales of a year before. When asked if travelers are booking at the last minute out of fear, Barry leaps to their defense. “I don’t know if [travelers] are scared,” he says. “They want to pull the trigger on something, and there’s so much great value out there. Deals will come and go; you just want to make sure that that core product is still there. And it is. It’s just taking a little more time to come along.”