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Summer Hotel Rates at Key U.S. Destinations See an Average 17% Increase
Over Same Period 2011 with no Decline Anticipated Anytime Soon

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles TimesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sept. 17, 2012--If you've checked into a hotel in the last few months, you have probably noticed that rates have leaped upward.

And they probably won't drop any time soon.

During June, July and August, the average hotel rate at major U.S. destinations jumped 17%, compared with the same period in 2011, according to a study by the hotel pricing website HotelsCombined.

Some of the steepest rate increases this summer were at hotels in California. Anaheim -- home of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park -- recorded the highest price increases, a jump of 43% to an average daily rate of $155.25 in 2012 from $109 in 2011, according to the website.

Other big hotel increases in the Golden State were in San Francisco (24%), San Diego (21%), Los Angeles (19%) and Palm Springs (17%).

A separate study by TravelClick Inc. -- a New York company that provides booking software for major hotel chains -- looked at bookings made for August to December and compared them with those a year earlier. It found that the average daily rate in big cities in North America had climbed 5% since 2011.

Both TravelClick and Hotelscombined attribute the rate increases to increasing demand by vacationers and business travelers.

"Business and leisure travel demand through the end of the year is strong" and has pushed up daily rates, said Tim Hart, executive vice president of research and development at TravelClick.

Most passengers want in-flight Wi-Fi

About 80% of air travelers who participated in a survey at travel search website said they would like to connect to the Internet by Wi-Fi while in flight.

But slightly less than half said they would access the service only if it was free.

About 27% of the travelers said they would be willing to pay only if the charge was $5 or less. The finding should be no surprise. A 2010 survey by J.D. Power & Associates of 53,000 travelers found that free Wi-Fi was the most desired amenity for hotel guests in nearly every segment of the industry, from luxury hotels to budget lodgings.

The difference between hotel guests and airline passengers is that many hotel guests do get it free. Among guests staying at mid-scale hotels, 96% said they got free Wi-Fi, as did 64% of guests at budget hotels, according to the J.D. Power survey. None who stayed in luxury hotels said they got free wireless Internet.

The bad news for airline passengers: No major airline offers free Wi-Fi access. However, good news for the 27% in the survey -- several carriers offer Wi-Fi at a starting price of $4.95.

Airline seat may speed boarding time

For the last decade or so, airlines and academics have tried to come up with the fastest way to load a plane, for good economic reason: The less time airlines spend boarding passengers, the more revenue-generating flights they can squeeze into a day.

Every minute cut on boarding can save $30 a flight, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Air Transport Management.

Some airlines load from the back of the cabin to the front, while others load passengers in the window seats first and work their way in.

Now a Denver airline interior designer has a new idea to cut the load time: An aisle seat that slides away from the aisle and ends up on top of the middle seat, expanding the aisle space from 19 inches to 43 inches. After boarding in each row is completed, the aisle seat is slid back into position.

With the wider aisle, Molon Labe Designs said its "Slider Seat can cut loading time in half. The downside is that the seats have very little cushion and do not recline.

Hank Scott, founder of the company, said he has shown the design to aircraft builders Airbus and Boeing Co. and is working to build a prototype by November.

Scott said the seats were designed to save fuel and maximize cabin space for airlines on short-haul flights of less than three hours.

"I'm not going to tell you it's a comfortable seat," he said. "It's a quick-turnaround seat."


(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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