Travelers want deals — here’s where to find them, says HotelPlanner CEO

It’s been a stellar year for the travel industry, according to Morning Consult.

The market research company, in a new report entitled “2023 Holiday Travel Trends,” summarized the year by stating: “leisure volume soared, airplanes were packed, and hotel bookings were high.”

But heading into the year-end peak travel season, consumers are showing increased price sensitivity to flight, hotel and vacation rental bookings, according to the report.

More people are using rewards and points earned from hotels (+4%), airlines (+5%) and credit cards (+9%), compared to 2022 holiday travel, to subsidize all or part of their trips, according to Morning Consult.

“The industry is very healthy right now. We’re hitting record revenues in both airlines and hotels right now,” Tim Hentschel, CEO of the booking website HotelPlanner, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

But there are still deals to be had, he said — just not at the luxury level.

“Luxury travel right now is at an all-time high … High net worth individuals are flush with cash right now, and with interest rates rising, obviously they have more disposable income,” he said. “There’s a huge rush out there for all things luxury — five star is going higher and higher.”

Bargains can be found in the lower hotel categories, he said because “demand is actually down in one- and two-star hotels.”

Another tip, said Hentschel, is to seek out secondary spots.

There “are jewels out there… We get to major cities all the time for conference and work travel. So taking your vacation off-the-beaten-path, not only is more exciting, but it also can lead to nice savings,” he said.

Hentschel spoke to CNBC through a video call from a ski vacation in Trisul, Norway — a destination that’s lesser known than the Alps, he said.

“I didn’t even want to say Trisul … it gets more and more busy every year. And so now that I’ve said it on TV, maybe more people will be coming here, and I’ll have to find another secondary ski destination,” he said.

Budgeting is big this Christmas

American travelers say they plan to travel more this winter, compared to 2022, but budgeting is a huge factor in their travel decisions, according to a survey published by Vacasa in November.

Some 88% of travelers have shifted their travel plans to save money by:

  • driving instead of flying – 34%
  • looking out for special deals – 27%
  • spending less at a destination – 27%

Nearly one in three travelers are staying in rental homes this winter, with more than half (58%) saying that they provide better value and more space, the survey showed.

More than two-thirds are driving to their destinations this season, according to the survey.

Those who are flying may want to avoid booking air travel on Dec. 26. It’s expected to be the most expensive day for both domestic and international return flights this Christmas, according to the travel app Hopper.

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