The Tactical Traveler

FOR JANUARY 25, 1999


This week: The big winter hotel discount bazaar; the dollar surges against the yen; fulfilling Tuscan fantasies; a huge weekend bargain from Sabena; and more.

The first quarter is the slowest time of the year for business travel and that leads hotels to slash their daily rates in an attempt to stimulate traffic. Make sure you take advantage of the slack period and get the best rate possible. Wherever you go, ask about short-term promotional rate, unique package offers or free upgrade deals. Some of the good deals currently available:
+ Ritz-Carlton hotels have knocked rates down as low as $78 per night when you charge your stay with a Visa card. The special rates are available through March 31, but the deals vary by city, and aren't available every night. Sample rates: $140 in Shanghai, $115 in Kansas City, and $88 in Montreal. Check restrictions at 800-241-3333.
+ Four Seasons hotels offer $100 "City Pleasures" certificates through March 31 for travelers who present an AT&T Calling Cards. The certificates can be applied to the bill at check out or used against a future stay through May 31. A two-night stay is required; for more information, call 800-474-5806.
+ Le Meridien hotels are offering "Le Passport" rates through March 31. Sample rates: $137 a night in Brussels, $129 in Turin, and $183 in Dallas. A two-night minimum stay is required; for more information, call 800-543-4300.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Peninsula (800-262-9467) reopened last fall with rates that started at $535, but special packages through mid-May reduce prices as low as $370 a night. And in Seattle, 31 downtown hotels are promoting "Super Saver" package rates until March 31. Sample rates: $125 a night at the Alexis, $90 at the Hampton Inn and $115 at the Vintage Park. Call 800-535-7071 for reservations and information.

CYBERTRAVELER: Financially Speaking
If you're invested in the airlines or if you're just fascinated by the financial realities of the airline industry, point your browser to PlaneBusiness ( It takes forever to load, but the site is chockablock with financial statistics, quotes, quarterly results and witty and knowing banter about the state of the industry. There's even a feature called "PlaneSearch," which allows you to read up on current stories about specific aircraft types.

DOLLAR WATCH: A Yen for the Facts
The Japanese yen slumped to about 145 to the U.S. dollar last summer and Tactical Traveler quoted some currency watchers predicting it would fall as far as 180 by yearend. So much for the experts and our visions of cheaper travel in Japan. Just after the New Year, the dollar fell to 110 yen, a 27-month low. On Friday, January 22, it was trading at about 114 yen. What happened? No one actually knows, especially since the Japanese economy is in a long, deep recession and the U.S. economy continues to hum along nicely. What are the experts saying now? Well, they suggest Japan will remain the basket case of major economies in 1999 and the U.S. economy will continue to cruise. As for the relative value of the dollar against the yen, your guess is apparently as good as theirs.

JOE SENT ME: One Fantasy Fulfilled
Like just about everyone other business traveler on the planet, you probably fantasize about taking some time off, finding the perfect little farmhouse in Tuscany and living la dolce vita. Now you can actually do it. Several English-speaking ex-pats, who are part-time residents of Tuscany, have launched the Tuscan House website ( The site is growing and evolving, but it already offers a wide range of Tuscan homes, farmhouses, and estates for rent to weary frequent flyers. Profusely photo-illustrated, each rental is carefully detailed and explained, and prices are extremely reasonable. If you're hoping to fulfill your Tuscan fantasy this year, or even if you're just looking for a fresh vacation idea, surf on over to Tuscan House. And don't forget to tell 'em that "Joe Sent Me."

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Belgian Bargains
Sabena, the Belgian carrier, has emerged as one of the world's most aggressive marketers of weekend travel packages. Its current offer: weekends in Brussels through March 14 for as little as $750 a couple. Included in the deal: roundtrip flights to Brussels from New York, Newark, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati and Atlanta; two nights at the Hilton; buffet breakfast; and all the taxes. The packages are non-refundable and seats are extremely limited. Call Sabena (800-955-2000) for rules, restrictions and availability.

This column originally appeared at

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