|By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles
TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 04, 2012--The cost of air travel has rebounded to pre-recession levels, and now it looks like the prices of hotel rooms for business travelers are on their way to those heights.
Hotel rates for business travelers in North America surged 9.3% in April, coming within 3 percentage points of the peak pre-recession rates in fall 2008, according to Pegasus Solutions, a technology company for the hotel industry.
"Rates in many markets are either continuing to grow at near-record paces or setting new year-over-year growth records," the Dallas company's report said. "Steady demand is the great enabler of this remarkable rate growth."
For leisure travelers, rates increased 7.3% in April but remained below pre-recession peaks by double-digit percentage points, the company said.
STR Global, which tracks supply and demand in the hotel industry, reported that the overall average hotel rate in the U.S. at the end of April was $105.71 -- a 5% increase compared with the same period in 2011.
By comparison, the average U.S. hotel rate was $107.01 in August 2008, just before rates dropped for 18 straight months because of slumping demand and the faltering economy.
The Pegasus report predicts that rate increases will continue in the months ahead.
More travelers to use credit card rewards this summer, survey says
During this summer travel season, more Americans are expected to use credit card rewards to cover some of their costs, according to a new survey.
The survey by credit card company Capital One found that 52% of those who plan to travel this summer said they would use credit card reward points to pay for some costs. Last year, 42% of those who took the survey said they planned to use credit card rewards.
As for what they will use those reward points on, 58% said they planned to use them on airfare, 42% on hotel costs and 18% on gasoline.
"In today's tough economic times, more consumers are using rewards to make the most of their summer vacation time and limiting the impact on their wallets," said Amy Lenander, vice president of rewards programs at Capital One.
Best Western hotel chain goes after overlooked grime
One of the world's largest hotel chains, Best Western International, is attacking the assumption that mid-scale hotel rooms are often beset by unseen germs and filth.
Under a new program announced last week, housekeepers at more than 2,100 Best Western hotels in North America will be armed with ultraviolet sterilization wands and black lights to target overlooked grime and muck.
The wands will use ultraviolet light to sterilize areas that most often get touched by guests, including telephones, clocks, light switches and door handles. The black lights help housekeepers spot hard-to-see biological matter, including bodily fluid and food.
Housekeepers will also wipe clean the television remote controls and put them in holders to show that they have been sterilized.
The Phoenix company, with more than 4,100 hotels in more than 100 countries, said it launched the new cleanliness program after research found that hotel guests are often suspicious about the cleanliness of mid-scale hotels.
"This intrigued us, as we saw a real opportunity to lead the industry with advanced cleaning practices and recognized products," said Ron Pohl, Best Western senior vice president brand management & member services.
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