The FINANCIAL — Despite bargain air fares, cheaper hotels and theme park discounts, Americans and foreign visitors have cut US travel spending to the lowest level since the terrorist attacks of 2001, new government and industry statistics show.
The US Department of Commerce reported travel and tourism spending dropped in 2008, and plummeted at an annual rate of 22 per cent in the last three months of this year.
The downturn, the result of extreme consumer belt-tightening in the midst of bank failures, high unemployment rates and a seemingly worsening recession, seemed to be continuing. On Thursday, a summertime fare-cutting spree began among the nation's air carriers. On Friday, California reported that 14,800 leisure and hospitality jobs were lost in February, and an airline industry group reported passenger revenue was down 19 per cent for the same month compared with February 2008.
In California, the bad news rippled its way through a once-thriving tourist economy bringing higher hotel vacancy rates, shorter lines at amusement parks, empty tables at restaurants, and cheaper airfares.
Hotel owners, restaurant managers and other tourism business owners have responded by offering travellers historically low prices on vacation deals.
At the Hotel Del Coronado, a 120-year-old high-end resort on the sun-splashed oceanfront peninsula near San Diego, guests can now book one night and get 50 per cent off the second night, a deal rarely offered by one of the most luxurious hotels in the region.