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WESTERN TRAVEL

Holiday deals are in the cards

December is slow season in Las Vegas. Time to move fast to find the hotel bargains.

November 20, 2005|Ken Van Vechten | Special to The Times

NOTHING starts out the holiday season like a couple of days in Sin City. Heresy? Parsimony.

"December is the slowest time of the year," says Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor. "It's supply and demand. So many rooms -- occupancy is down -- it leads to hotels competing desperately against each other to get customers into their places."

Nice change of pace when it's the casinos feeling desperation.

The lowest rates are midweek, typically near Christmas, though any time between late November and the onset of New Year's that sidesteps a direct hit with a holiday or the annual cowboy festival known as the National Finals Rodeo (Dec. 2 to 11 this year) will decrease prices in increments of $25, $50, even $100. And don't settle for what someone quotes over the phone, and don't assume the discounters always prevail; it's the holiday season and magical things happen ... wait and see.

Snooping around for rates the week before Christmas using typical search methods for an upper-market hotel and a value venue turned up a variety of rates (although these may no longer be available by the time you read this). For instance, rooms priced in the teens could be had at the Orleans Hotel and Casino west of the Strip. The Orleans' website and reservation line returned a rate of $40 (a night, standard room unless noted). But the Orleans will beat by 5% any legitimate third-party offer, and the hotel doesn't charge booking fees or invoke rigid cancellation provisions as many discounters do.

Another search turned up Mirage Las Vegas for $122 through the lowest-priced of a dozen online discounters, $89 via the hotel-casino's telephone reservation system and $89 with a view upgrade and $20 dining credit if booked online with the Mirage.

Curtis, who has been tracking and touting Vegas values for more than two decades, says, "Get on the phone and ask if they have a package going. Look at the print ads. The newest model is to check your chat rooms. News spreads there like wildfire when a good one [offer] shows up. The people who spend the time are going to reap the biggest rewards."

Curtis' last piece of advice could be the most lucrative: Sign online guest books.

The Mirage recently sent out an e-blast offering rooms during this same period for $75 with a view upgrade and $50 dining credit, and it went to savvy shoppers who'd signed on with the hotel-casino.

Such solicitations are an easy and cost-effective means for Vegas resorts to reach out to potential new customers, says Brian Handee, vice president of hotel sales and marketing at the Mirage.

In marketing-speak it's called "opting in." In practical terms, hotel-casinos are betting someone who shows enough interest to access a website and request information has the potential to become a valued customer, and the payout for the customer is enticing rates during slower periods.

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