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 The Tactical Traveler

joe A BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING
FOR DECEMBER 16, 1999


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

This week: 'Tis the season for low hotel rates; airfare gouging times nine; a State Department warning for New Year's and Ramadan; the lost-luggage limit will double to $2,500 next month; Le Grand Hotel in Rome reopens; and more.

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE: 'Tis the Season for Low Rates
For the most part, business travelers are home for the holidays until after the New Year. That means hotels are stuck with a surplus of empty rooms on most nights until the first week of January. The solution? Slash the dickens out of the nightly room rate and hope travelers check in. Want some examples? The $99 "Home for the Holidays" rate at selected LaQuinta (800-531-5900) hotels includes two consecutive nights of accommodations from December 19 through January 5. The "Holiday Sale" at Hyatt (800-233-1234) properties offers rooms as low as $59 a night through January 2. The "Holiday Haven" promotion at Omni (800-THE-OMNI) properties runs through December 27 and includes two rooms for the price of one. Rates start at $119 a night. "Dream Deal Holiday" rates at Doubletree hotels include breakfast and are as low as $65 a night through December 30.

CYBERTRAVELER: All The Theater World's a Website
Frequent flyers don't get to entertain at the theater as often as their desk-bound colleagues back at the office think they do. But when the opportunity does present itself, Theatre.com [http://www.theatre.com] is a handy new tool. It offers extensive show listings and details about performances around the nation, direct links to online ticketing services, a useful news department, links to reviews in local and national publications, and a treasure trove of information for those few business travelers who have the time and money to keep up with what's new in American theater.

DOLLAR WATCH: Price Gouging Times Nine
Foiled in their attempt to raise business and leisure fares over the Thanksgiving weekend, the major airlines last weekend settled for a 3 percent increase on unrestricted walk-up fares. Left untouched were the advance-purchase fares generally used by leisure flyers. In case you've lost count, the latest business fare bump is the sixth general increase in unrestricted ticket prices this year. That represents a cumulative price increase of 17.5 percent on walk-up fares in most domestic markets. In comparison, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday that consumer prices increased just 0.1 percent in November. And through October, the Consumer Price Index had increased just 2 percent over last year. Do the math, frequent flyers. Walk-up business fares up 17.5 percent. Inflation running at about 2 percent. That means business airfares in 1999 have risen almost nine times faster than the nation's general inflation rate.

INTERNATIONAL ITINERARY: Worldwide Terrorist Threat
The U.S. State Department has raised a red flag on international travel during the next few weeks. A new "worldwide caution" warns overseas travelers that "terrorists are planning attacks targeting American citizen during the period of time leading up to and through the beginning of the New Year and Ramadan events and celebrations." The attacks, the State Department believes, "could be planned for locations throughout the world where large gathers and celebrations will be taking place." During the period, U.S. citizens are urged to "avoid large crowds and gatherings, keep a low profile and vary routes and times of all required travel." For up-to-date information, surf to the State Department site [http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html].

ON THE FLY: Business-Travel News You Need to Know
The lost-luggage limit for checked bags lost or damaged on domestic flights will double to $2,500. The Transportation Department announced the decision Tuesday and it will take effect in 30 days. The current minimum limit of $1,250 has been in force since 1984. It may be the cheapest price ever offered for flights across the Pacific: Continental is promoting fares as low as $199 roundtrip to Tokyo if you depart on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Tickets must be purchased at Continental's website [http://www.continental.com]. Travelers in Maine have better connections to Boston/Logan Airport now that US Airways Express carrier Colgan Air has launched nonstop service to Augusta, Bar Harbor and Rockland. The flights will be operated with 19-seat turboprops. One of the best hotels in Rome, Le Grand, was scheduled to reopen this week after a 9-month, $35 million renovation. Rates at the 161-room/25-suite property start at about $370 a night. The CIGA hotel that's now part of the St. Regis Luxury Collection, the property was opened by Cesar Ritz in 1894. A 2000 BMW Z3 roadster is the prize in an auction sponsored by United's Mileage Plus program. Minimum bid is 50,000 miles. The winning bidder's miles are donated to Doctors Without Borders, recipient of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. Bids must be submitted by December 31. Information on the auction is posted at the Mileage Plus website [http://www.mileageplus.com/bmw/].

This column originally appeared at biztravel.com.

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