Fuel injection: Properties ease travel angst with gas rebates

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As prices at the pump continue to creep upward, a growing number of hotels that are heavily dependent on customers who drive have begun subsidizing the cost of gasoline.

While not a new idea, the need seems more urgent this season as prices push to record highs.

Inns, B&Bs

Nearly 200 inns and B&Bs, members of BedAndBreakfast.com, are participating in the networks Tanks a Lot promotion by providing gas cards, credits or other schemes for subsidizing fuel costs.

As of this month, the typical subsidy ranged from $25 to $50, though a few were as high as $80.

Promotions are offered for varying time periods. Some offers end as early as June 30; others run through the year, but those generally require weekday stays and black out holidays.

BedAndBreakfast.com is an online directory and reservations network, listing more than 6,000 B&Bs and inns in the U.S. and abroad.

Spokeswoman Marti Mayne said the network introduced Tanks a Lot two years ago, with June start dates in 2004 and 2005. However, members started rolling out their gas offers in April this year because of skyrocketing gas prices, she said.

Mayne said members, who were concerned that people wouldnt travel, responded with rebate plans when travelers became vocal about gas prices.

She added that she frequently hears from members that, based on guest comments, this is their most successful promotion.

One of the best offers can wind up rewarding owners of gas guzzlers. Historic Inns of Rockland, Maine, promotes Drive Mean to Save Green, a two-night midweek package, valid through July, that offers a choice of three inns and pays, in gas money, $10 per cylinder in the guests car, up to eight cylinders.

The same group of Maine inns rewards carpooling with a $50 gas card when two or more couples travel in one car and stay two weeknights.

When gas prices spiked this spring, the Rabbit Hill Inn of Lower Waterford, Vt., offered through June a straight $25 room credit per night with no cap, said co-owner Brian Mulcahy.

Rabbit Hill also offers a two-night Carpool Getaway Special, available to at least two couples traveling together through Sept. 14, priced to yield savings of up to $130 per couple.

A few BedandBreakfast.com members supplement gas subsidies with other car-related services. Coppertop Lodge and Retreat Center in Hebron, N.H., is one of the most ambitious B&Bs, offering through October a car wash, wax, detailing, rim polish, oil change, on-lift safety check plus up to $30 in gas with a four-night, midweek stay.

Barr Ranch Retreat in Odessa, Texas, offers a $25 cash rebate through July for those staying two nights. An ironic twist: The visit includes a guided tour of drilling operations on the ranch.

Vacation homes

ResortQuest International, specialists in vacation home rentals, is promoting the Gas Up and Go package for its 17,000 properties in the U.S. and Canada through 2006.

Guests who drive to their rentals will be reimbursed up to $50 for gas purchased during the week before or up to a week after leaving a ResortQuest site, at any gas station in either country.

ResortQuests first gas rebates were initiated in 2004, said Kristina Jonathan, director of marketing and Internet strategy. She said they were created to boost drive-in business in the West as gas prices began to rise.

Those early efforts were so successful that the company created a national program that launched in October. Benefiting from national marketing, Gas Up and Go is even more successful by an order of magnitude, Jonathan said.

Hotels

A selection of hotel groups and individual properties have introduced gas subsidies, as well.

The 95-unit Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, N.H., offers up to $75 based on miles driven. Guests receive a credit on charges at checkout equal to 10 cents per mile for a one-night stay and 15 cents per mile for two or more nights, based on roundtrip mileage from home to the hotel, (the maximum is 500 miles). The offer applies to bookings made before June 30 for travel by Sept. 21.

Guests traveling 300 miles and staying two nights at Eagle Mountain would receive a $45 credit. If the guests vehicle achieved 15 miles per gallon, the credit would amount to a $2.25-per-gallon rebate.

Our guests may be having second thoughts about going away on a summer vacation this year, said general manager Jerry Jacobson. The lodging industrys summer business will be impacted by high energy prices. Something has to be done.

Eagle Mountains program, he said, takes into account that some guests travel greater distances than others, and that the value of the program increases dramatically for those driving fuel-efficient automobiles.

The Eldorado Hotel & Spa in Santa Fe, N.M., meanwhile, relaunched its Santa Fe Gas Rebate, a $50 credit for minimum weekday stays of at least two nights through July 31.

Upon arrival, guests must present a dated gas receipt that corresponds with the date of check-in. The gas can be purchased locally or at home. The property began giving gas rebates last summer.

All three Gaylord Hotels properties are providing a $25-per-day room credit for minimum two-night stays through Sept. 10 to help offset the high cost of filling up, the group said.

We believe travelers want a helping hand, said John Caparella, chief operating officer of Gaylord Hotels.

The offer is good at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville; Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla.; and the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.

Like ResortQuest, Gaylord Hotels is owned by Gaylord Entertainment.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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