• Tue. Jan 19th, 2021

How to Game Black Friday Travel Deals During a Pandemic

ByBot

Nov 24, 2020

Normally, the 14-room Tierra Magnifica resort in Nosara, Costa Rica, doesn’t participate in Black Friday sales as it never had trouble filling its few rooms. But this year is different. While Christmas and New Year’s bookings are strong, periods before and after are weak, inspiring the 25-percent-off sale on Nov. 27 through Dec. 6, with rooms from $274, and 50 percent off spa services.

“We’re not in it this year to make money,” said Steve Jacobus, the owner of the resort. “We’re in it to increase loyalty. We know the people we bring in at a discount will return and tell friends. We’re keeping the lights on and everyone employed.”

Survival of the busiest is the invisible hand feeding Black Friday travel deals this year, which seem to be growing based on the number of first-time sales, deeper discounts and extra perks, all usually bundled with flexible cancellation policies.

Notably this year, the Black Friday sale window has been expanded, not just to what is known as Cyber Week — the week following Thanksgiving — but to much of November. At nearly 200 of its properties worldwide, Melia Hotels International is offering up to half off its rates throughout the month. At many of its luxury hotels, including the SLS Brickell in Miami, Sbe is offering 20 percent off rooms booked in November and 30 percent off bookings made Nov. 27 through Dec. 30 for stays through November 2021. The online travel agency Expedia is lengthening its sale by five days this year, running through Dec. 1, often highlighting free cancellation policies.

“We know that flexibility is every bit as important as finding a great deal right now,” wrote Christie Hudson, a spokeswoman for Expedia, in an email.

Generous cancellation terms mean there’s little risk in securing a deal. G Adventure’s cyber sale has more than 400 trips in 2021 at 21 percent off with just a $1 deposit.

“If you see a great deal, there’s no risk in taking it,” said Christopher Anderson, a professor of operations management at Cornell University’s hotel school.

While strategizing travel to coincide with the timing of a coronavirus vaccine remains a gamble, the stronger bet, he added, might be booking a trip for the summer or beyond when vaccine availability may be more widespread, unleashing pent-up demand in the travel market.

“If you can get those reservations with full flexibility, that might be a free option you want because I would expect a big uptick in demand,” Mr. Anderson said.

The following are other ways Black Friday travel deals are offering more value this year while accommodating the possibility of pandemic-disrupted plans. As always, caveat emptor: Beware blackout dates and other restrictions in the fine print.

The number of first-time participants in Black Friday sales characterizes the drive in the market to entice nervous travelers.

For the first time in its 26 years in business, the luxury adventure lodge group Explora is offering discounts up to half off its all-inclusive rates at its five properties in Chile (Patagonia, the Atacama Desert and Rapa Nui), Peru (the Sacred Valley) and Argentina (El Chalten, opening in December). The sale runs Nov. 27 through Dec. 1 for travel until March 2022. Rates, which include all guided excursions, meals, open bar and round-trip airport transfers, normally start at $528 a person at Explora Valle Sagrado.

Another first-timer, the 21 stylish and affordable citizenM hotels, will hold a 30 percent off sale now to Dec. 1 for stays through 2021. Prediscount rates at locations in Seattle and Times Square in New York City normally start at $109 and $119, respectively. Cancellations are free up to 2 p.m. the day of arrival.

If you’re not sure you’ll get your mountain fix this winter because of lingering travel restrictions, Ski Portillo in Chile aims to lure you to the Andes Mountains with its inaugural Black Friday sale, running to Dec. 7 for travel in July and August. A seven-day ski stay normally costs $3,600 a person, including lodging, lift tickets and meals, or $1,543 for a three-day stay; the sale cuts those prices by 25 or 30 percent, depending on the date of stay.

Homes & Villas by Marriott International is new to the sale, too, and is offering 15 percent off last-minute stays within 10 days of booking through Nov. 30, and 10 percent off bookings sitewide through Dec. 2 for stays over the next two years. Prediscount, offerings include a two-bedroom beach condo in the Florida Panhandle (from $156), a midcentury modern ranch in Palm Springs, Calif. (from $2,229), and a 17th-century estate in Scotland (from 5,247 pounds or about $6,968).

ImageProvenance Hotels, a collection of 13 boutique hotels, is offering up to 50 percent off prepaid rates with no fees or rate adjustments for booking changes throughout 2021. Above, one of its properties, Hotel Lucia, in Portland, Ore.
Credit…Provenance Hotels

Some deals take on that giant hurdle to travel — Covid-19 — with safety net provisions.

For bookings made in November, the Moorings, a charter yacht company operating in the Caribbean and French Polynesia, will include travel insurance for up to two guests. The policy, valued from $171 a person, would cover trip interruption and medical expenses up to $10,000 if a traveler is diagnosed with Covid-19 during the sailing. Charters booked before Dec. 31 for travel until Nov. 1, 2021, will fall under the company’s flexible booking policy, which gives travelers the option to reschedule without a penalty fee or receive a credit to rebook within 12 months of the original departure date. Weeklong charters in the British Virgin Islands start around $4,700.

Provenance Hotels, a collection of 13 boutique hotels across the country, is offering up to 50 percent off prepaid rates Nov. 25 to 30, with no fees or rate adjustments for booking changes throughout 2021. Discounted rates start at $59 a night at the Hotel Preston in Nashville, $70 a night at the Revolution Hotel in Boston and $239 a night at the Villa Royale in Palm Springs, Calif.

As full-scale cruising begins the long voyage to resuming service sometime in 2021, many cruise lines are extending their flexible booking policies, including Hurtigruten. Through Dec. 2, the expedition line is offering select itineraries at up to 50 percent off and requiring a $500 deposit rather than the normal 20 percent of the trip cost. Bookings made through December qualify for the line’s flexible cancellation policy, which provides a refund, including the deposit, within 90 days of departure for sailings through Sept. 2021, and 180 days for trips October through December 2022. Deals include 2022 sailings that circumnavigate Iceland, starting at roughly $3,880 a person, after the discount.

The luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent is meeting the social-distancing moment by putting its Private Escapes on sale during cyber week, Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. These are private itineraries that often include airport greetings and transfers, private guides and sightseeing excursions, hotels and some meals. With the deal, a seven-day trip in Croatia in 2021 that is normally $3,395 is $1,995 a person, and a nine-day journey in Egypt is 50 percent off, at $3,195. Changes for Covid-19-related reasons are allowed up to 15 days before departure.

Credit…Il Salviatino

Many travel companies are sweetening their deals with extra perks.

Near Florence, Italy, the seasonal Renaissance-villa-turned-hotel Il Salviatino never opened in 2020. But it’s planning to operate May 13 to Nov. 27, 2021, and will kick off bookings with a weeklong sale through Nov. 30, at 40 percent off, with rates starting at 273 euros (or about $325), including breakfast, high tea and shuttles to Florence (nonrefundable prepayment required, though travelers may change their dates without penalty through March 31).

On St. Lucia, the all-inclusive Windjammer Landing resort is offering villas at 50 percent off, starting at $141 through Dec. 4, and throwing in a $150 spa credit for stays of three nights or longer until Dec. 18, 2021. (If St. Lucia is on your radar, check out the island’s page dedicated to Cyber Monday deals with discounts of up to 50 percent).

Kimpton Hotel & Restaurants may appeal to your inner altruist with a 25-percent-off room deal and a $5 a night donation to the charity No Kid Hungry on bookings at more than 70 hotels worldwide, made Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 on stays through Sept. 7, 2021 (cancel up to three days before arrival with no penalty).

Acre resort in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, is marking its rooms down one-third (to as low as $183) on three-night stays through Oct. 2021, including daily breakfast and morning yoga, arrival cocktails, a mezcal tasting and round-trip airport transportation (email TreehouseReservations@Acrebaja.com by Dec. 1 and reference AcreBlackFriday2020 to book).

In many cases, the discounts are bigger this year.

At Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys, Sheldon Suga, the vice president managing director, said management weighed the possible tourism revival in 2021 against the fact that many families were suffering financially.

“We decided to do the right thing and extend our discount and the booking window,” he said of the weeklong deal, through Nov. 30, that offers 40 percent off versus 30 percent off last year for travel through Oct. 31 (rates start at $191, prediscount).

Last year, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts offered its rooms at up to 35 percent off during the seasonal sale. This year, the deal runs to 40 percent off, meaning an available $1,000 room at the Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands would be $600. The deal runs Nov. 27 through Dec. 1, with a penalty-free cancellation window of 24 hours prearrival, through June 30, 2021.

In Orlando, the SeaWorld-owned marine park Discovery Cove said this year’s sale is its biggest ever. Through Nov. 30, discounts range from 20 to 50 percent off; a regular dolphin swim package at $204 down will be as little as $102 on visits throughout 2021. The park also offers free rebooking up to 48 hours of arrival and full refunds more than 30 days out.

Rates still start at $599 a person at Miraval Resorts, three destination spas in Tucson, Ariz., Austin, Texas, and Lenox, Mass., during its sale from Nov. 30 to Dec. 7, but include a $275 nightly credit to spend on spa services and activities throughout 2021, up from the normal $175 credit.

The starting rate for a Zephyria Yachting charter in the popular Mediterranean port of Bodrum, Turkey, for a weeklong trip on a traditional wooden sailing boat known as a gulet is $15,750 for a party of four, including food and nonalcoholic beverages. During its first-ever Cyber Monday deal, Nov. 30, the price drops 20 percent on select boats during the season that runs from April through October.

Finally, consider investing in a decade of diversions at the upcoming LEGOLAND New York Resort, the new theme park expected to open in the Hudson Valley in 2021. It’s selling its 10-year pass at $1,999, or 60 percent off its $5,000 retail price, Nov. 26 to Dec. 1.


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