17 April 2014

Hotels - The seasonal ups-and-downs of hotel rates in New York

My travel business is focused on booking hotel rooms for business travelers.  In dollar volume if not also in number of room-nights, I've booked more in New York than in any other single location.

Highline Park - lower East Side
Over the years I've noticed a distinct seasonality to prices there.  For travelers to New York who want to keep the cost of lodging low, and who have the flexibility of traveling at any time, it's useful to know the seasons of lower priced hotel rooms in this remarkable city.

Here's a month-by-month summary.

January - lowest
February - lowest
March - lowest but starts to rise mid-month and beyond
April -  high
May - highest
June - highest but drops as the month goes on
July - lower
August - lower
September - after Labor Day prices zoom
October - highest
November - highest
December - highest until a week or so before Christmas then lowest (except New Year's Eve)

New York is a destination for all reasons, but like most big cities except for glaring exceptions like Las Vegas and Orlando, lodging demand is driven by business travel.

In the winter, business travel subsides and leisure travel in New York slows to a crawl.  In the spring and in the fall, business travel is very high.  In summer business travel declines which leads to somewhat lower rates in New York, too.  This is partly offset by increased leisure travel but these travelers aren't willing to spend as much on accommodations as business travelers are, and prices reflect that.  As in other destinations driven primarily by business travel, rates are generally higher for weeknights (Sunday-Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday) and lower for weekend nights (Friday-Saturday).

Let's go from the general to the specific using three different hotels as examples:
- Hampton Inn Times Square South (moderately priced hotel)
- New York Hilton (upscale, huge Midtown hotel)
- The Plaza (luxury hotel on Central Park South at Fifth Avenue)

Rates below are per night before tax for three weeknights in a standard room with king bed.  The rate is what is called "best available rate".  Lower rates such as AAA or senior may apply, but these discounts are taken off "best available rate".  (Rates were researched on 16 April 2014.)

28 April 2014
Hampton Inn: $289
New York Hilton: $349
The Plaza: $700

22 July 2014
Hampton Inn: $269
Hilton New York: $349
The Plaza: $625 

14 October 2014
Hampton Inn: $359
Hilton New York: $469
The Plaza: $775 

13 January 2015
Hampton Inn: $179
Hilton New York: $249
The Plaza: $650

While not as volatile as airline ticket prices, hotel rates are also dynamic.  The price for a room booked three months in advance may be different (higher or lower) when booked closer to the actual date of travel.  Take these prices merely as a random snapshot example of the seasonality of the rates, and not as a bronze, immovable tablet.

And then go take a big bite of the Big Apple.  There's no other city quite like it.