As we approach Labor Day, the symbolic end of summer, many hoteliers are getting anxious about what the usually unpredictable fall travel season will bring. With family vacations over and kids back to school, autumn is often a time for seniors to travel. And typically, business travel—both individuals and meetings and conventions—starts to heat up after Labor Day. Of course, there's nothing typical about the current travel environment, so the industry is holding its breath to see if the travel patterns of past years hold true in 2009.
There's some reason for optimism, however, even if it's really just wishful thinking. While the overall hotel industry is still posting double-digit declines in RevPAR, some segments, markets, brands and individual hotels had better-than-expected summer seasons. Primarily due to the staycation phenomenon, hotels enjoying upticks in business included limited-service properties at roadside locations and in drive-to resort markets. Unfortunately, these positive results were spotty and not universal across the country.
And while we don't know for sure how active the fall travel season will be, projections from AAA call for a relatively busy Labor Day weekend. The travel organization says even though the holiday falls later this year (Sept. 7) than in 2008 (Sept. 1), it still expects this weekend to be the third busiest Labor Day weekend of the decade. Thanks to a plethora of travel discounts, deals and promotions and gasoline being a dollar-a-gallon cheaper than in 2008, more than 39 million travelers will take a trip of 50 miles or more.