Friday, April 22, 2011

Travel Deals Abound Amid Economic Crises

The financial crisis of 2008 hit everyone, but some countries were slammed harder than others. And while worldwide economic recovery is certainly desired, there are some benefits to the financial woes for travelers looking for a sweet deal.

If you thought you could never afford a Greece trip, think again. Hotels.com Hotel Price Index says that the average nightly rate in Athens dropped 10% in 2010, to $132. And it is still falling. What about a week-long trip to the Emerald Isle? Totally doable. A seven-day package--with flight, hotel and car rental--costs $800 per person, down 11% from 2008.

If these prices do not intrigue you--and I cannot imagine why they wouldn't--just think about the good you will be doing by booking a trip to some of these locations. They need tourist dollars as they try to pay back loans and right their economies. International tourism was up across the map last year, but Europe did not rebound as well. According to travel experts, they are desperate to get tourists, more so than usual, hence the super awesome deals.

Greece has experienced a lot of economic damage over the last couple years. Tourism revenue fell by 9%--to put that into perspective, $75.4 billion--and now the government is trying to draw people back. It has waived the landing, takeoff and stop-over fees usually added to airfares and reduced hotel tax from 11% to 6.5%, which can add up to $100 or more. Experts say new Greece deals appear every week. There is an eight-night mainland package from $1,099 per person, including airfare, hotel stays in Athens and other cities, and transportation between cities.


Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik. SmartMoney.com
 Iceland started suffering even before the crisis hit in 2008. In 2006, inflation started pushing prices up and out of tourists' range. When the economy collapsed, Iceland's three major banks went down with it. It is still struggling to pay back loans, and needs tourists more than ever. Icelandair offers a stopover in the country on the way to Europe for no extra charge, and even offers a two-night package with airfare, hotel and a one-day tour from $599 per person. The average hotel rate in 2010 was $99, down 26% from 2008. However, tourists may be put off by the high exchange rate and expensive cities.

While the luck may not be with the Irish right now, you will certainly feel blessed when you check out some of the travel deals available to the country. Ireland economy continues to struggle despite aid from the European Union. Tourism is probably one area that can bring in the most cash, especially from the U.S. market. The most appealing deals are packages that bring tourists to the Irish countryside, so trips to major cities will still cost a pretty penny. Overall, it is one of the most affordable places you can go to right now. Average hotel prices are $117 per night, making it the most affordable destination in Western Europe. A six-night package from Dooley Vacations features stays at five different castles, airfare and rental car starting at $799 per person. There are plenty of other similar tours you can choose from, some even cheaper.

Galway, Ireland
Personally, I was not a fan of Portugal when I visited last summer, but it is one of the countries that needs tourism revenue and does have some pretty reasonable hotel and travel package prices. To give it the benefit of the doubt, I only spent the equivalent of about 36 hours there, so I did not give it much of a chance. Still, it would probably take more than a couple cheap hotel rates to get me back over. But, Lisbon does have some of the best rates for five-star rooms, averaging $169 per night. While there are a few tours being offered throughout the country, travel experts say that many companies do not feature Portugal on tours mostly because it is not the most popular place people think of for a vacation. Even so, there are some packages available, like one to the Algarve for around $550 per person--but not that airfare is not included.

Of these four countries, I would probably choose to visit Iceland--mostly because it is the one place I've never been--although Greece is definitely appealing. In all honesty, I wish Croatia was worse off economically, because that has been on my list of vacation spots for a very long time, and finding a cheap package there would be like striking gold.

I realize that since these countries are struggling financially, many of you may be, too. But I encourage anyone looking to take a spring or summer trip to research deals for these destinations, as well as others, because you may just find something spectacular.

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