Is the off-season getting more expensive? | ET REALITY

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As a traveler who prefers the low season for its more affordable prices and fewer visitors, I try not to fly in July and August, at least in the northern hemisphere. I wait until fall, when flight and hotel rates typically drop and crowds thin.

Or they used to.

This year, in September, hotels in Florence, Italy, were charging near summer highs. I was locked out of Key West, Florida in November, a historically slow month. Considering the eco-resort Living Beach near Zihuatanejo, Mexico, during the first week of December (a bargain for long travel), I could only find one night available at prices under $500.

What happened, I wondered, to the offseason?

“September is the new August,” said Jack Ezon, founder of Embark further, a high-end travel agency based in New York City, explaining that the European travel frenzy expanded the calendar. Almost a third of its clients who usually travel to the Mediterranean in July and August rescheduled their trips for June, September or October.

“People are making decisions to avoid crowds and heat,” said Virgi Schiffino Kennedy, founder of luxury tripa travel agency based in Philadelphia.

“I’m seeing summer rates coming into the shoulder season,” he added, noting that destinations like Santorini and Mykonos in Greece, which peak in July and August, “are now impossible to book in September.”

School calendars still largely dictate the biggest peaks in travel annually, but the drops are not as dramatic, both in numbers and rates.

“I think we’re at the beginning of a change,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst who runs the company. Atmosphere Research Group based in San Francisco, and attributes the trend to flexible work schedules. “Summer will always be the peak season, but I think we’ll see more off-peak travel in the fall, winter and spring, so those valleys may be shallower.”

Travel is certainly back (the World Travel and Tourism Council said the industry will regain 95 percent of 2019 activity this year), but it’s not a replica of pre-pandemic patterns.

Compared to 2019, leisure stays worldwide increased by 12 percent in spring 2023, with more than 230 hotel and MGallery Hotels. Fall 2022 bookings are up 7 percent for leisure guests compared to the same period before the pandemic.

“Booking during shoulder season was once travel’s best-kept secret, but more and more people are catching on to the trend,” said Matt Berna, president of the Americas at intrepid journeys, a global travel company. He said this year’s fall and spring bookings have grown 56 and 70 percent, respectively, compared to pre-pandemic business, inspiring the company to increase its departures to meet demand.

The river cruise line AmaWaterways has done the same by adding new itineraries for November and February.

adventures gwhich offers small-group travel, said bookings from Americans are up 40 percent this year over 2019. As summer trips to Italy dry up, travelers are sure to look deeper at the calendar, said Steve Lima, vice president of growth of the United States and Latin America for G Adventures.

“It’s like Disney is always busy and there’s no good time, so you just leave,” Lima said.

Katie Parla, Rome-based cookbook author and private guide food toursdescribed a scenario in which travelers who booked a tour for their 35th wedding anniversary were unable to take it until the 37th due to travel restrictions and complications in recent years.

“The peak season used to be from Easter to October, but this year Rome started to be affected a month earlier and my calendar is already almost full until the end of December, which is very rare,” Ms Parla said.

Seasonal change is not just a European phenomenon. Apple Entertainment Group, which offers affordable vacation packages in Mexico and the Caribbean, has seen bookings spread more evenly throughout the year for the past three years. As a result, their prices are more consistent throughout the year.

In an August report, Camps of America found that 67 percent of campers had changed their travel plans this year due to weather. Nearly 64 percent of campers who delayed their trips planned to take them after Labor Day. The recreational vehicle rental platform RVShare said shoulder season bookings have grown twice as fast as those of the main summer season, which it attributes to flexible work policies and efforts to avoid extreme heat.

Claire Ramsdell, 31, who works nomadically in customer service for an outdoor activities company and blogs about hiking, she spent the summer in Bozeman, Montana, but it was too hot to work from her vehicle, forcing her to rent expensive accommodations with roommates and poor Wi-Fi.

“I’m not sure why I tried to branch out into such a popular and expensive destination this summer,” she wrote in an email from Colorado, where she plans to hike this fall. “I should go back to traveling in the off-season and to less crowded places.”

In a recent Expedia travel forecast, 70 percent of fall travelers are adults without children.

“We have the flexibility to get the cheapest flights and hotels and not have to wait in line at the Vatican, sweating in the summer crowds,” said Riana Ang-Canning, 31, from Vancouver, Canada, who works in networking. social and travel outside the country. She spent extensive time with her husband.

It’s easier said than done for families with school-aged children to decide to avoid the high prices and heavy summer traffic, but some parents are considering alternative solutions.

Before the pandemic, Jennifer Glaisek Ferguson, a mother of two children ages 5 and 8 in Weston, Connecticut, and her family took a sweltering summer trip to France that they vowed not to repeat. The importance of attending school and keeping up with the curriculum has discouraged the family from missing a lot of school to travel, but she is willing to miss some days.

“When there’s an opportunity to see something new and different where they can learn, I’m willing to take the hit,” Ferguson, 53, said.

Lux Voyage’s Schiffino Kennedy said her family clients tend to add a day or two to long weekends.

“Clients call with their school calendar in front of them looking to make the most of the holidays,” she said, noting that she does the same; This Oct. 9, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, she plans to take her 9-year-old daughter out of school a few more days for a five-day trip to Sedona, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon.

Misty Belles, vice president of global public relations for the travel agency consortium. VirtuousHe predicted that the return to school could boost bookings in late spring, just as school ends.

“Normally in Europe, travel doesn’t start until mid-June, but I think we’ll see many trying to get there early before the heat becomes a factor,” Ms Belles said.

From a business perspective, the erosion of low points in the booking calendar is intentional. Travel marketers have long pushed “green season,” from May to November, in Costa Rica, when it is rainy but lush, and “cabernet season” in Napa Valley, from November to April, when things slow down and restaurant reservations dwindle. the french laundry may be easier to catch.

Montreal in Lumière, an annual winter festival, was established 25 years ago as a way to encourage travel to the Canadian city in a slow period. Last year, the 18-day winter festival attracted nearly 800,000 attendees to its ice rinks and concerts. Participating restaurants were booked at 96 percent capacity.

To encourage off-season visits to Cape Cod, Pelham Hospitalitywhich operates three hotels, has introduced activities such as indoor roller skating. Chatham Bars Inn calls September and October “secret summer” with programming that includes dinner at the property’s nearby eight-acre farm.

“As a destination, minimizing occupancy ‘valleys’ is important to maintain year-round employment to support tourism businesses and a high-quality experience for travelers,” wrote Bill Lewis, CEO of the Magnolia Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, and president of the Victoria Hotel Association, in an email.

Whether it’s the relative quiet, the deals or the weather, off-season conditions have earned their own renown, said Andrew Lloyd, director of Lloyd & Townsend Rosaan agency specializing in the letting of castles and properties in Great Britain and Ireland.

“I don’t think there’s an off-season anymore,” he said, noting that the special light in the winter months draws photographers to Scotland. “I am constantly amazed at how busy places are during the so-called off-season months, and eventually you realize that the world is a very busy place now.”

Crowd-averse fans like me will brave Iceland in the snow, despite the dangerous driving, and visit Homer, Alaska, in October, when half the stores are closed. I can do things my way: quieter, cheaper, more local.

“My love for off-season travel is based on being frugal, but I also can’t stand the heat and prefer to see the mountains when it’s 30 or 40 degrees instead of 80 or 90,” said Heather Bien, 38, a writer. blogger and marketer based in Washington, DC, who plans to stay in a glamping tent in North Carolina in December.

For people without that kind of strength, it’s time to stop thinking of the seasons as months and instead as weeks or even days. These microshoulders still exist in many places in November (excluding Thanksgiving week), the first weeks of December, and, outside of ski destinations, in January and February.

For best results, go during off-peak hours Monday through Thursday. In Four Sisters InnsA collection of 17 boutique hotels in California, the lowest rates are available weekdays during the winter and early spring.

“The new shoulder season in Europe is winter,” said Jonathan Alder, founder of Jonathan’s travelsan agency based in Winter Park, Florida. “To be there when it’s 30 to 50 percent cheaper and without crowds, go to Rome in January.”

On Lake Como, in northern Italy, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo touts October as an ideal time to visit, when the weather is good, crowds disperse and rates are less than half of peak season (starting at $825 a night compared to $1,870 in summer). But it’s a short window. The hotel closes for the 2023 season on November 5.


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