Down economy leads to vacation deals

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(Host) Around this time of year many Vermonters are itching to escape the cold and snow and head south.  

But with the current economic downturn, tropical vacations are out of reach for a lot of us. Or are they?  

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, vacation destinations are slashing prices to get you to visit.

(Keck)   Mickey Mouse misses you – a lot.  So much so that Disney is offering guests who pay for four nights at their resorts an extra three nights free.   And certain Disney Cruises are letting kids travel for nothing.   Scott Milne of Milne Travel and American Express says resorts worldwide are doing whatever it takes to fill empty rooms.

(Milne) "If you look at Occidental resorts, or Club Med or just the premium brand hotels – the Palace in Mexico – pretty much across the board everyone is feeling the same problems right now.   If you’re flexible, both with your dates and your flight times, and your destination, there’s tremendous opportunities."

(Keck)   For instance, maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Paris.   Scott Milne says airfares are great, but you’ll save even more if you travel in late March instead of May.  Typically, you can also save on airfare by leaving on a Wednesday or a Sunday instead of a Saturday.   The time of day can affect your price as well.  And while last minute shoppers have often had to pay more – Milne says that’s no longer true.

(Milne) "Boston to Cancun – right now for March travel, $222 round trip with taxes.  Last year that was probably a $450 – if you were lucky and could find a base fair."

(Keck)  Milne says the best deal he’s seen is a 12 day Alaskan cruise in August.   He says tickets on Holland America start at $1,300 a person.   Last year – he says those same tickets would have cost more than $2,500.   Vermont destinations are offering deals of their own to entice visitors here.    Jen Butson of the Vermont Ski Areas Association says now is a great time to have friends come up and ski.

(Butson) "Lift tickets during the holiday and mid season can range at some areas from $60 to $80.  So we’ve got deals, we’ve got buy one get ones, we’ve got St. Patty’s deals where lift tickets are even $17,  so you’re getting savings of up to 75 and very often 50% off."

(Keck)    Samantha Kolber works for the Vermont Hospitality Council, a division of the state’s Chamber of Commerce.   She says despite the weak economy, Vermont’s ski areas have done well this year.   While the weather’s definitely a factor, she says Vermont’s close proximity to major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston, Montreal and Quebec are also key to the state’s success.

(Kolber) "And being within a day’s drive really helps us retain the travelers who want a getaway and not have to pay the high airfare to get away at some of the other major destinations."

(Keck)    That’s good news, says Kolber, because visitors to Vermont bring in over $1.6 billion a year to the state’s economy.   

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.

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