Specialists sound out a Manhattan transfer

Specialists sound out a Manhattan transfer

SOME specialist operators featuring New York are beginning to opt for alternative forms of accommodation as the city nears bursting point, especially in the run-up to the millennium period this winter.

Smaller boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts and suite accommodation are being considered in order to skirt round the problem of high pricing and lack of availability.

Director of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau in London Sarah Handy said: "Some operators, such as America As You Like It, are promoting the smaller boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts in trendy Greenwich Village, which is only a 15min taxi ride to Fifth Avenue and Central Park.

"There are some very good budget hotels that are not expensive, and this style of accommodation is becoming extremely popular."

Rates for the city's smaller boutique-style hotels range from around $110 per room at the Washington Square Hotel in Greenwich Village, which includes complimentary breakfast, to around $350 a night at The Mark Hotel in Upper East Side.

However, many mainstream operators want to feature centrally located, big-brand properties which are increasingly difficult to come by in view of New York's increasing popularity both domestically and worldwide.

American Connections managing director Mike Carter said: "One of the main bugbears of New York is the outrageous pricing of accommodation. When it is paired with Florida, clients complain that the accommodation is higher priced and of poorer quality."

Premier Holidays claims the lack of available quality rooms in the Big Apple is a major drawback.

North America general manager Rob Haynes said: "The big frustration in trying to sell New York City is finding quality accommodation at peak times. In the run-up to Christmas, rooms are at such a premium that we sometimes have to turn down as many requests as we can satisfy."

However, he added that the city was still a major seller and, despite its lingering reputation for having a crime problem, was as safe as any UK city.

City-break specialist Travelscene said New York jumped from 15th to 11th in its top 20 cities table for January-June 1999 with a growth of 28% compared to the same period last year.

But although the operator has increased the properties it features from eight to 10 this year, the hotel capacity problem remains.

Commercial manager Paul Stanley said: "It is a major inhibitor to growth. There are simply not enough beds to satisfy demand, and with hoteliers firmly in control of the market and pricing, we cannot see the situation improving in the short term.

"Our advice is to encourage clients to book early or choose an alternative option."

Travel 4 product manager Louise Davis said: "New York is the most popular of our US cities.

Demand is huge and while our allocations enable us to get competitive rates, visitors booking direct may have trouble getting accommodation at anything other than rack rates at peak periods."

Handy said most UK operators were demanding smaller bed allocations from a wider variety of hotels across the board.

"With rates being much higher than anywhere in the US, it is difficult for hoteliers to give out small allocations on a short-break basis," she added.

"Stays are getting longer, from a week to 10 days, and people are also using the city as a base for venturing into other areas, as well as a two-centre combination with Toronto, Connecticut or Pennsylvania."

New York City expects 34.8m trips to be made to the Big Apple by the end of this year - up 2% over '98 - with Britons accounting for 800,000 visitors. The UK is the third largest market after the US and Canada.


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