Travelers get more bang for the buck, survey finds

January 02, 1994|By Barbara Shea | Barbara Shea,Newsday

Complain about high taxes, medical and grocery bills. But don't expect much support if you grumble about travel prices. A cecent survey showed that almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) believe they get more value for their travel dollars today than they did in the late '50s.

The survey was sponsored by Budget Rent a Car, which is XTC celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

Asked whether travel is easier and more affordable today, 81 percent of respondents said leisure travel has improved, and 88 percent said business travel is better now. Eighty-nine percent believe they get more choice for their car rental dollar today and 84 percent feel that discounts and low rental rates have given Americans greater mobility.

Another study indicates that travel prices are looking better than consumer prices in this country. The U.S. Travel Data Center recently released a report on travel costs during September, showing that prices fell for the first time in three months. According to the center's Travel Price Index, a 5.3 percent decrease in lodging rates led the overall 1.7 percent decline.

No significant increases were recorded in measured travel categories, which include airfares, intracity public fares and other transportation, motor fuel, food and beverages. The largest increase in any travel category was in entertainment, which rose seven-tenths of a percent.

What are the costliest and cheapest international cities for travelers at the moment?

The latest analysis of 100 locations worldwide by the management consulting firm of Runzheimer International held a couple of surprises. Moscow turns up among the most expensive, and Bordeaux, France, one of the least expensive.

The Runzheimer Meal-Lodging Cost Index is based on single lodging at business-class hotels and motels and meals in business-class restaurants (first-class food, but not the city's most expensive gourmet dining spot).

The most expensive city -- $455 a day -- is Tokyo, followed by Paris at $353, New York at $330, Moscow at $328 and Hong Kong at $326.

Least expensive destinations were London, Ontario, at $100 a day; Panama City, Panama, at $108; Bordeaux, France, at $123; Colombo, Sri Lanka, at $125; and Quito, Ecuador, at $129.

The rates are determined by two major factors, according to Karen Batterman, Runzheimer vice president for travel management.

"First is the local economy," she said. "What are the wages and salaries of the native population compared to the U.S., and what do these represent in purchasing power? Second, you must consider the foreign exchange rate against the U.S. dollar. A strong U.S. dollar when exchanged for a foreign currency translates into cheaper prices for the American business traveler, and vice versa."

The only recent discouraging news on the travel front came out of the Travel Industry National Conference and 1994 Outlook Forum, where a U.S. economist predicted that out-of-work and overworked Americans are going to have less and less time to go anywhere.

According to the industry publication Travel Management Daily, Sandra Pianalto, first vice president and chief operating officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and a former member of the National Airline Commission, pointed out that workers who are out of a job, doing temp work or starting a new position simply have less time off.

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