From the Mecca of the Hospitality Industry
While the anti-tourist marches have gotten front-page in the international press, Mallorca continues as a mecca for the hospitality industry. Tourism is the economic driver of Mallorca and accounts for over 80% of total GDP and over 50% of total employment. Unemployment has fallen to below 10.6% (2017 and expected same or reduced by end of 2018), the lowest in Spain, because of the strong hospitality industry. Why?
- More investment has come into the Balearics, making this the number one investment market in the Mediterranean. Most hotel properties have modern conveniences with knowledgeable staff. ADR (average daily rate) and occupancy rates are on the rise, leading to increased REVpar (revenue per available room). This means rates will remain high and climb higher in Palma.
- Streets are safe and secure. Even if you can't see them, major communities and all major roadways on Mallorca have a strong police presence to protect locals and visitors.
- Healthcare is excellent. If you are traveling and become ill, most villages have an urgent care facility (PAC). If they can’t help you, they will send you to one of the major hospitals on the island. Private and public hospitals are rated equally as good in an emergency situation.
- Political and financial instability in certain sea-and-sun destination countries is favoring Spain, especially Mallorca.
- Excellent living conditions on the island means there is no shortage of competent staff. The lifestyle is laid-back in the midst of stunning scenery and luxury.
So how can you get great rates in this environment? #
It may seem like booking a room on a travel site like Expedia, Priceline or Hotwire is the best option for finding discounted room rates. Just pay attention to details. I have a friend who always uses Booking.com which seems to be a good site. He suggested it to me once for a last-minute booking. When another site marked the property as fully booked, Booking.com showed rooms available. I called directly to the hotel and was told, ‘yes, the place was full.’ Ignoring this piece of information, I went ahead, booked with Booking.com and got a room for a fraction of what other hotel booking sites had quoted. The reason: In general, hotels hold blocks for online booking agencies and also take rooms offline for internal use. Franchise and chains on Mallorca have blocks of rooms contracted years in advance for agency bookings.
Boutique hotels in villages have websites for you to book directly. Their rates are usually higher because their cost per room is more than tourist hotels because of the size and properties. Larger properties have volume discounts pre-negotiated with online agencies. The independent properties make up for this higher cost by more personalized services. For instance, in high season, Palmanova, C’an Picafort and Alcudia have good packages that you can book via online agencies. If you want a unique experience in an owner-operated hotel in Banyalbufar or Deía, you’ll have to book directly with the hotel at a higher rate. Make a personal phone call to the manager or owner. You may not receive a lower rate but they may arrange to include a reduced price for a special dinner or they may include breakfast in your room rate. Weigh your budget and decide what works best for you.
Even if you are a seasoned traveler, here a few ways to save money: #
- You may check out the layout of the hotel prior to booking to see which rooms might give you a better view, have better access or be less noisy. When booking in a franchise or a larger property, this is fairly easy to see. You can always call directly and ask questions such as which rooms have windows that open to allow for a fresh breeze, which rooms are away from the elevators (noise) and which rooms have a sea view. If views aren’t your thing and you are good at conversation, just ask the person on the phone which rooms are less expensive. You can choose one of those or…
- If check-in is at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., show up around 5 p.m. and ask to speak to the front desk clerk or the concierge. Request a room in the area of the hotel you want. Many times, you will be given this room at the same rate unless your request is outrageous.
- Wait until last minute, then begin searching on a ‘private or incognito window’ on your computer. This might appear like a nightmare for someone who likes to play it safe, but many room cancellations happen within 48 hours of the reservation date. A fresh cancellation may get you big savings. For the best deal, call the hotel directly or show up in person - unless you are married to a control freak. (This writer would be ticked off for a week if her husband did this to her in one of the most sought-after markets in the Med because she is one of those obsessive minds preferring everything scheduled far in advance of arrival. I promise I’ll write another article about getting decent rates for advance bookings.)
- Get an app that finds last minute hotel rooms. The app will let you reserve in advance and then get you the best deal the day of booking. HotelTonight, HotelQuickly and OneNight are rated as the top three by Forbes.
- Negotiate. Call to haggle over the price. Be genuinely nice but this goes back to #1 - conversations with staff go a long way in helping you achieve your goal. Remember though that receptionists are not the best to haggle with since they usually have little pricing flexibility. Talk to the bookings clerk or assistant manager.
- If you are celebrating, tell them. They love to help people make memorable occasions. Better yet, if you have an Instagram or Facebook account, show them you want to publicize your visit and how many followers you have. If your event is a honeymoon, an anniversary, a baby shower, a hen party or a mental health holiday after working straight through to afford this vacation, ask them to help you celebrate. If you book directly at Santuari de Cura, you’ll get a bottle of Prosecco. Even if you are booking with an international hotel like Melia, they have properties that are less expensive than others plus they are always running special deals. Melia, in particular, has a strong conference business. During high season, staying at the main properties along Paseo de Maritimo might be challenging. But Palmanova properties are a good "go-to" for less expensive alternatives for nice accommodations. Buses and taxis are easy to access.
- Check dates. High season in Mallorca runs late May to early September. Airline and hotel are best bought in packages as early as possible. Mallorca is a seasonal market with long shoulders – meaning: many places are open March through November. Palma hotels are open year-round. But if you are willing, do your homework and you will find great deals during shoulder seasons.
- Make sure to not get caught with “Resort Fees.” You may see a great rate, but when checking it out you find the total is double what you expected it to be. Just start over. These are learning lessons. Mallorca is a place that might get you hooked.
Mallorca is stunning with much to do. Most every place on the Island is accessible by car, bus, bicycle or taxi. If you choose a hotel that seems further out, know that you have transportation choices to see the art galleries of Palma, the beaches of Pollensa and Santanyí, the yachts in Port Andratx or the salt marshes in Ses Salines. While you are at it, check out Mallorca's Top 10 Coves. Even in winter months, the beaches are a respite from hectic, urban life.
AM Tip: Make reasonable requests on staff and booking agents. If you ask for a suite and are paying for a single occupancy, you will be denied.
Enjoy your vacations. See the world on a budget.
By Memphis Holland
7 September, 2018