By Terry Trucco
No joke. The year is young, but so far 2014 New York hotel prices are trending lower than industry observers expected.
“Hotels in New York are not experiencing as high levels of occupancy as last year, at least from what we’re hearing anecdotally,” says Cheryl Rosner, co-founder and CEO of Stayful, a bidding website specializing in boutique hotel deals. “We were forecasting higher rates, but we’re not seeing them.”
A big factor has been the weather, from near-record snowfalls to frigid temperatures that just won’t quit (with a high that barely topped freezing, St. Patrick’s Day 2014 was the coldest in memory). Even the Super Bowl spike, when temperatures miraculously soared into the 50s, couldn’t offset a winter plagued by airport closings and other weather mishaps (no one’s added up the hotel losses from in-person business meetings surrendered to videochat).
But with nearly 100,000 rooms – up from 91,500 in 2012 – there’s more hotel inventory on the market than ever. And with alternatives like Airbnb and One Fine Stay nipping at their heels, hotels can no longer luxuriate in being an out-of-towner’s only game in town.
All this is good news if a New York hotel is in your plans for a near-term visit or staycation, especially while the weather remains unsettled. “It’s wonderful for consumers who want to do something spontaneously,” says Rosner, who noted a big jump in eleventh hour bookings for people who wanted to see the Big East NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden this past weekend. “New York has been a bargain this year.”
Bargains are not always obvious so it’s smart to read a hotel’s fine print. Hotel A may have a lower rate than Hotel B, but if Hotel B throws in free WiFi, free parking and a full breakfast you may wind up paying less at check-out.
For guests eager to try their luck bidding on a room, Stayful publishes a suggested bid, culled from its algorithm, for rooms in independent hotels like The Maritime, City Club and Night in New York. (The site also features hotels in eight other cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston.) But users are free to suggest any price they want. (The worst the hotel can say is no.) The best times to bid are seven to ten days before you’d like to arrive, Rosner says. Three days ahead also works well.
Even without deals, hotel prices are still lower than they were before the 2008 recession though they’re inching up. The average price of a New York City hotel room last year was $267 according to Hotel.com’s recent Hotel Price Index. That’s higher than those in any of the 50 most visited cities in the U.S., a list where New York was the second most popular destination, ahead of Las Vegas and behind Orlando.
But it’s also significantly lower than Wailea, on the Hawaiian island of Maui ($437) and Newport Coast, California ($427), two American locales high on the list of world cities where U.S. travelers paid the most in 2013. New York didn’t make that list, but it also isn’t what you’d call weather-friendly — or a resort. Indeed, it’s a long way from Bora Bora in French Polynesia, the city with an average $770 room price that came in first.