Is the Party at Home this New Years?

Reservations for New Year's Eve disappointing, procrastinators could profit

By Karen Shomo

It looks like Year 2000 will be celebrated from inside living rooms and homes around the world, not on elaborate cruises or in fancy restaurants. Restaurants have openings for New Year’s Eve and plenty of cabins are available on cruise ships. With just weeks until the big event the majority of hotels around the world have openings. What is going on? What’s been called the party of the century is fizzling out fast say travel experts in various press reports.

While millennium bashes have been highly publicized, it doesn’t look like the public is buying. Could it be the incredibly high price hotels and restaurants are charging? Maybe it’s the fear of computer problems related to Y2K. Whatever it is, the party looks like it’s going to take place at home.

A survey by Travel Weekly found that a full four-fifths of Americans do not plan to travel this New Year’s. On top of that 43% said the year 2000 didn’t mean anything to them. In Aspen, New Year’s hotel bookings are 9% from this time last year and in New Orleans 30-40% of all hotels rooms are still available.

In New York at the Broadway hotel, which overlooks Times Square, 40% of the rooms are open, according to the travel publication’s survey.

It’s not just the U.S., which is seeing so many hotel openings. A British survey finds fewer than 5% of their hotels are booked for New Year’s Eve. Another 15 percent of the British hotels haven’t even finalized their plans for the evening, according to First Option Hotel Reservations, which conducted the study of 2,000 hotels in Britain. The same is true for many British restaurants.

The survey found Britain’s midmarket restaurant chains might actually be closing early due to a lack of customers. Beefeaters restaurants, TGI Fridays, Pizza Hut and others will be closing their doors around 9 p.m. due to a lack of interest in their services on the big night.

What could be keeping people home? It’s possible it’s the cost! The Editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Laurie Berger, tells the Cox News Service it’s simple, it’s bad deals. Berger says prices started extremely high and became known as the "rip-offs of the century". Berger has tracked rates throughout the year and found that last winter most companies started charging outrageously high prices, and even when they began slashing rate consumers refused to go along. Travelers appeared to be turned off by the price gouging and they were also concerned about the Y2K bug.

With so little interest in parties and "millennium packages" this New Year’s Eve companies began cutting their prices. Berger says a Carnival cruise package started at $3,700 in February of this year dropped to $2,538 in June and then went back up again recently. At one time Carnival Cruise lines had jacked up their rates 300% for New Year’s Eve celebrations and now they have many open cabins with just three months to go. Airlines hiked up prices and even tour companies who buy in bulk were forced to pay more.

There is some good news for popular tourist destinations. Walt Disney World’s 17 hotels are long gone for New Year’s Eve, sold out! However, nearby Universal Studios’ still has room available it’s only 65% booked.

The message in all of this:if you want to travel the longer you procrastinate the more money you could save. Prices have been, up, down and upside down so would-be revelers may want to hold out for better deals come December Full Text Available

DATE: 10/14/99

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