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As Hotel Rates Climb, Which City is Most Afforadable?

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 10, 2011--If you want to save a few bucks on your next hotel bill, stay clear of New York and San Francisco and instead consider Virginia Beach, Va.

The latest statistics on hotel rates show that the Big Apple still charges the highest rates among the nation's most popular destinations, with average rates for a double-occupancy room at $446 per night.

Also atop the list of high-priced cities are San Francisco ($247), Miami ($232), Boston ($214), Washington, D.C., ($203) and Los Angeles ($185), according to numbers for mid-September from TravelClick Inc., a New York consultant on hotel revenues.

Meanwhile, average hotel rates in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area are $103, the lowest among the nation's popular destinations. Hotel rates in the area are also growing the slowest, according to the report, which doesn't offer an explanation for rate changes in individual cities.

Hotel prices have been on the rise and are expected to climb further, pushed by growing demand from business travelers, said Tim Hart, executive vice president of business intelligence for TravelClick.

"As the late summer leisure season comes to a close, it is clear that the business travel segment will resume its role as the primary demand driver for U.S. hotels throughout the rest of 2011," he said.

--Korean Air to debut its Airbus A380 at LAX

The Airbus A380 is the stretch limousine of jumbo jets, a double-decked behemoth that can comfortably seat about 500 passengers.

But the airlines that fly the massive jet out of Los Angeles International Airport, or hope to fly them soon, have different ideas for arranging the seating and other amenities in the plane.

Qantas, for example, began in 2008 to fly the plane out of LAX with 450 seats in a design that includes four sections: first class, business class, premium economy and economy. The first-class suites include 17-inch entertainment monitors and lay-flat beds with sheepskin-covered mattresses. The business-class section has a business meeting lounge with a sofa and a 23-inch monitor.

Singapore Airlines launched its A380 service in July with 471 seats. The configuration at Singapore includes 12 private suites that resemble luxurious train compartments, each equipped with 23-inch high-resolution monitors. In all, this plane offers 14 bathrooms, so there should be shorter lines when nature calls.

Korean Air will debut its version at LAX this week, in an arrangement of 407 seats, the fewest number of any airline flying the A380. The plane will have three sections, first-class, prestige class (a.k.a. business class) and economy class. The entire top deck is devoted to prestige-class fliers. The first-class suites will have 24-inch high-definition screens.

In addition to a duty-free shop at the back of the plane, Korean Air will offer three bars -- a self-serve bar on each deck and a "Celestial Bar," staffed by a bartender, in the back of the top deck.

Korean Air officials said they are not worried about passengers abusing the self-serve bars. "It's not a problem," said airline spokeswoman Ashley Chung. "Most high-end travelers know what they are doing."

--Air New Zealand rolls out quirky ads

Air New Zealand is cultivating a reputation as a small airline with a quirky attitude.

In 2009, the airline produced an onboard safety video featuring flight attendants and pilots wearing nothing but painted-on clothes. Last year the airline introduced Rico, a furry puppet with a thick accent who often slips into very adult themes.

Earlier this year, Air New Zealand recruited fitness guru Richard Simmons to record an air safety video, with him decked out in a sparkling tank top and tiny shorts. Now it's launching an online campaign featuring two guys dressed as conjoined sheep to promote its Skycouch seats, which lie flat to give two passengers space to cuddle. The new videos feature appearances by actor David Hasselhoff and twin Playboy Playmates Kristina and Karissa Shannon.

The airline's marketing director, Kathryn Gregory, said the videos are an effort by the airline to "showcase our fun, quirky personality."


(c)2011 the Los Angeles Times

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