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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR JUNE 22, 1998


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: Halting hotel-rate inflation; Crandall's after-American odyssey; double points for Oreos; low-ball pricing on Bali hotels; lower rates and more perks at Shangri-La; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: Halting Hotel-Rate Inflation
Hotel-rate increases nationwide are far outpacing the nation's negligible inflation rate. And in some markets--especially New York, Chicago and San Francisco--the rate rises are appalling. New York, for example, now has a half-dozen hotels routinely charging an average rate of $500 a night. How do you beat the increases? Book through hotel consolidators, who act as factory outlets for unsold rooms. The national consolidator I use most frequently is Quikbook (800-789-9887). A current example: a friend visiting New York last week couldn't get a rate better than $275 a night. Quikbook found her a room for $125 a night. There are also some excellent city-specific consolidators, including San Francisco Reservations (800-677-0155). But beware: the best-known consolidator, Hotel Reservations Network (HRN), is not recommended. Its prices are rarely better than those you can negotiate directly with the hotel and its payment policies are unacceptable. Most consolidators secure your rate and your reservation, then you settle your bill directly with the hotel at check out. But HRN requires payment in advance; cancel your room, and you must negotiate a refund through HRN.

CYBERTRAVELER Crandall's After-American Odyssey
Hey, Bob Crandall, you just retired as chairman and chief executive of American Airlines. What are you gonna do next? I'm gonna go sailing across the Atlantic! No kidding, folks. When Crandall left the airline stage last month, he and his wife literally went sailing off into the sunset. You can read all about his ship, the trans-Atlantic crossing, and his up-to-the-minute progress by tapping into www.janandbob.com. Crandall was smart enough to take precautions, however. There's no E-mail link, so you can't flame him about some real or imagined indignity you suffered at the hands of American when he was at the airline's helm.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Double Points for Oreos?
Getting double points for Oreos--or ice cream, heads of lettuce, ketchup, cereal, and a couple of gallons of gas. In case you hadn't heard, American Express is running an interesting new promotion: double Membership Rewards points until August 31 for charges made to qualifying Amex cards at many of the nation's supermarkets chains and gasoline stations. No sign-up or special notification is required What's the goal of giving double points for routine purchases? To convince you that Amex cards ain't just for travel-and-entertainment expenses anymore. Although it dominates the T&E category, Amex lags far behind Visa and MasterCard in charge volume when it comes to everyday expenditures. So, to convince you that your Amex cards are just down-home tools of modern family life, American Express is offering you an incentive to flash the card in supermarkets and gas stations.

IN THE LOBBY: Bali Low
With the violent turmoil in Indonesia over, at least temporarily, the U.S. Department of State has a new position on travel to the troubled archipelago. According to a June 11 Public Announcement (available at http://travel.state.gov), U.S. Embassy and Consulate officials are now permitted to return to Jakarta. Civilians (that's us, folks!) are now being cautioned they need only avoid Indonesian areas "where violence has been reported." One area where violence has not been reported is the island of Bali, home of all those elaborate, but high-priced, resorts. Desperate to lure travelers back to Bali, all the high-priced resorts have slashed their rates to historic lows. One example: the $118 "Bali Blue Skies" rate at the Ritz-Carlton (800-241-3333). If you're looking for a great getaway at an amazing price, check for Bali low prices.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Shangri-La on Sale
The financial crisis throughout Asia is forcing the Asia-based Shangri-La chain (800-942-5050) to slash rates and up the perks for the next several months. The "Rate Break" promotion at Shangri-La's 36 properties are as hefty as 40 percent; guests also receive double program credits with Shangri-La's 11 airline partners (including Canadian, United, and Northwest). The lower rates and fatter awards are available at most properties until around Labor Day, but some have extended the promotion through October. Sample prices: a 40 percent reduction to $98 at the Shangri-La in Kuala Lumpur; a 35 percent decrease to $149 at the Far Eastern Plaza in Taipei; and a 30 percent reduction to $206 at the Kowloon Shangri-La in Hong Kong.

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

Copyright 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.