As autumn begins, several European cities are shaping up as bargains compared to the same time last year, according to two discount travel sites.
Don't look to the longtime standbys, where a steady stream of business travelers tends to keep hotel rates high year-round. Rather, Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire group, suggests cities he calls "secondary but still wonderful." Instead of London, Paris or Zurich, how about Berlin, Budapest, Geneva or Prague? Current rates in these cities are down 21, 30, 31 and 37 percent respectively compared to last autumn, as measured by hotwire.com.
Bason attributes the lower rates to four factors:
1 - The Olympics. Because of London 2012, "This summer, Europe became an even hotter destination than usual," Bason says. Travelers flooded into London and extended their visits elsewhere on the continent, driving up prices all over.
2 - Post-Olympic oversupply of hotel rooms. "We're seeing a similar thing happen in Europe that happened in Canada right after the Vancouver games," Bason says. "London and surrounding cities opened many new hotel rooms in anticipation of record visitor numbers, and now that the big event is over, they're discounting."
3 - Annual fluctuations: Hotel rates normally decline after the summer peak season, even without special events like the Olympics. For even greater bargains, rates typically continue to fall through the winter and rise again in time for US spring break. That said, winter in most of Europe can be, literally, no picnic.
4 - European economic malaise: "As the continent in general sinks into what looks like a recession," Bason says, Europeans are traveling less, and more hotel rooms are going begging.
Stats from the low-cost accommodation specialist budgetplaces.com bear this out. While its figures differ from Hotwire's, in four of Europe's most economically distressed countries, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, budgetplaces.com finds nightly rates down significantly: 20 percent in Athens, 13 percent in Seville, 11 percent in Rome, and 10 percent in Porto, Valencia and Venice.