When is a vacation not a vacation?When you can’t relax because you’re worried about spending money. The current economic crisis is forcing many to be financially creative, and that includes travelers, many of whom are researching destinations, boning up on travel tips, and scouring the Internet for deals like never before. Think you can’t afford a winter getaway this year?Think again.
The slowing global economy has a silver lining for vacationers: increased competition among travel providers. The Caribbean—where high season officially begins on December 15—is a prime example.
“Travelers are the great beneficiaries, as hotels, restaurants, and tour operators become more aggressive [this high season] in their pricing, offering enticing, value-added offers,” says Rick Newman, chairman of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau.
Hugh Riley, interim secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, agrees. “All the Caribbean nations have one overriding mandate in the current economic climate: to provide incentives to travelers.”
While airlines like American are cutting the number of daily flights to the region, hotels are where the real bargains are. For example, the U.S. Virgin Islands—made up of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John—have joined forces in offering a “Winter Escape” promotion with more than $500 in savings off of holiday stays at more than 25 hotels, including The Buccaneer, Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, and Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.
The luxurious Parrot Cay resort in the Turks and Caicos hasn’t yet had any cancellations (that it knows of) because of the economic crisis, but bookings are down due to a 50 percent drop in scheduled flights to the island. The property is trying to entice travelers with special deals, like its “7 for 5” offer, where guests get two free nights with a five-night stay through January 31, 2009.
As most experienced travelers will tell you, accommodations are often the most expensive part of a vacation—especially during high season in the Caribbean—which is why travelandleisure.com decided to take the work out of finding a tropical hideaway by selecting 10 surprisingly luxurious and authentic hotels, resorts, and guesthouses across the Caribbean where nightly rates are less than $150.
A longtime secret among budget-minded cool-hunters, the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril lives up to its name. Carved into pocked stone cliffs on the island’s western edge, the hotel villas overlook the see-through waters of Pristine Bay, and there’s a 60-foot horizon pool. Or, take Chez Pierre on Long Cay in the Bahamas, with its breezy cottages and barefoot comfort. Days at this resort, founded by a Canadian chef and his wife, are about swimming, fishing, and taking it easy. Incredibly, the already reasonable rates also include breakfast and French-inspired dinners featuring the daily catch.
In the Dominican Republic, the character-filled 16th–century colonial mansion Hotel Doña Elvira has a palm-shaded pool and is just steps from Old Santo Domingo. And, off of French-speaking Guadeloupe on Terre-de-Haut, one of the island’s top properties, Hôtel Auberge Les Petits Saints, is surrounded by Saintes Bay, named by UNESCO as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Its rates right now?A low $115 a night.
Luxury, in many forms, can be had for less. There’s never been a better—and more affordable—time to take off to the Caribbean.