It's the new recession reality that travelers have come to expect good travel bargains. So it comes as no surprise that tour operators and packagers have maintained a steady pace of sales and deep discounts meant to get the quiet phones ringing again, even if just for a brief period.
And they appear to be working.
On Feb. 19, luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent launched a newly redesigned Web site and started a countdown sale with it. Starting at 9 a.m. that day, A&K offered 5% off on five of its "Once in a Lifetime" itineraries and increased savings by an additional 5% every 30 minutes for a maximum of 60% off at 3 p.m. that day, if the trips were still available by then.
The sale "doubled traffic to our newly redesigned Web site and attracted a new audience of prospective clients," said Pamela Lassers, director of media relations at A&K. "Purchasing started at 10% off and most of the trips were sold before reaching 30% off."
According to Lassers, 58% of people who purchased during the sale were first-time A&K travelers.
On Jan. 21, Globus Family of Brands announced a six-week air special with British Airways to some of its major European destinations, up to 50% off the carrier's published rate.
Steve Born, vice president of marketing at Globus, said the special fares gave the firm "an immediate lift in our Europe sales of over 20%, as well as an increase in the overall percentage of customers who were adding our air to their Europe booking."
"Agents are utilizing any and all specials as a way to reach out to their clients to give them a reason to travel," said Born. "Travelers are somewhat conditioned to wait for a deal. But when they see one they like, they're jumping, and good agents are certainly acting on them."
But according to William Cross, vacation sales specialist at American Express Travel Service in Atlanta, Ga., a word of caution to travel companies pumping out the deals: "The customers are aware that there are values out there, and they are asking about them. But there are a lot of them out there ... and it is a little overwhelming."