Travel

Fresh bargains await the smart traveler in 2017

Hiking in the Boise, Idaho, foothills is likely to become more popular as travelers discover Boise.
Hiking in the Boise, Idaho, foothills is likely to become more popular as travelers discover Boise. Courtesy of Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau

Change likely will define 2017 in many ways, and the travel industry is no outlier in that forecast.

Airlines, as they occasionally do, will look for new revenue streams by going extra-budget. Cities will continue building their allure through their food and drink cultures. More private homes will welcome guests in more cities as Airbnb forges stronger partnerships with local governments.

That’s at least how California State University, Chico, professor Matthew Stone sees this new year shaping up. As an expert in recreation, hospitality and parks management, Stone identified several travel trends that point to more options for the smart bargain hunter.

“As you see Airbnb grow and demand still growing for hotels, there will be plenty of opportunity for deals,” Stone said. “If you’re flexible on your travel dates, that’s where you’ll save the most.”

The discounts will come in different forms. To compete with budget carriers such as Spirit and Frontier, major airlines such as United and Delta have already begun experimenting with “third class” tickets that take away longtime features such as free overhead bins and pre-flight assigned seating.

Travelers can also take advantage of low fares if they’re open to different destinations. Over the fall, airfares to Bangkok, Singapore and other Southeast Asian locales dropped to around $500 before taxes and fees, in large part due to more competition from Chinese airlines.

“You might want to scan the world and see where you want to go,” Stone said, adding that more people could be lured by cheap fares to unfamiliar but promising parts of the world.

Airlines have also been dropping prices for domestic first class seats as they try to sell more spaces at the front of the cabin, Stone said. That coincides with the downgrading of frequent flier programs, which means offering fewer seat upgrades to elite fliers, Stone said. Finally, a stronger dollar will stretch American travelers’ buying power overseas, especially in Mexico and Europe.

Other trends for the new year: Mid-size U.S. cities such as Boise, Idaho, and Chattanooga, Tenn., are set to draw more visitors, and more hotels will offer a wider range of bargains and try to compete with Airbnb accommodations by branding themselves as local experiences.

If Stone’s predictions come true, smart travelers in 2017 could be seeing places they had never considered going to and saving themselves some dough while they’re at it.

Tokopah Falls Hike

What: Enjoy a moderately paced, guided stroll (about 4 miles round trip) along the Kaweah River to Tokopah Falls to watch wintering animals and take in gorgeous views. The hike is organized by the Sequoia Parks Conservancy.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4. Also Feb. 22, March 29 and April 19.

Where: Wuksachi Lodge, 64740 Wuksachi Way

Cost: Free

Information: www.sequoiaparksconservancy.org

Ocean Exploration

What: UC Santa Cruz’s Seymour Marine Discovery Center opens its doors to the public for free a few times a year.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6

Where: Seymour Marine Discovery Center, 100 Shaffer Road

Cost: Free

Information: seymourcenter.ucsc.edu/visit

Taste of Yosemite

What: The Taste of Yosemite culinary series brings together some of the nation’s top chefs to show off their world-renowned dishes in a series of demonstrations and five-course meals. Chef Maria Hines, a 2010 winner of the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America: and chef-owner of Tilth in Seattle, will be among the presenters.

When: Eight three-day sessions run from Sunday, Jan. 8 through Friday, Feb. 3

Where: The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, 1 Ahwahnee Drive

Cost: $199 for dinner only; $265 and up (per night) for dinner and lodging packages

Information: www.travelyosemite.com

Jessica Hice

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