Blow it on the High Points
Executive Editor of budgettravel.msnbc.com
As world events and geopolitical instabilities have driven anxious globetrotters back inside their own borders, the folks who run overseas hotels, airlines, and adventure outfits have been slashing prices in order to lure them back out again. Lest you feel like too much of an opportunist, think of it this way: An influx of tourist dollars is no small boon for these destinationsand you may find yourself gaining perspective on issues abroad that you'd never acquire on your home turf.
Just as this tourism-dependent island was recovering from last year's terrorist attack at a Kuta Beach nightclub, a car bombing in August at the Jakarta Marriott, on Java, put Indonesia back on the world's danger list. While the two spots are hundreds of miles apartgeographically and culturallytrouble anywhere in Indonesia slows traffic to Bali. Which is why Escapes Unlimited (800-243-7227, www.escapesltd.com) is offering five nights' lodging, airport transfers, and a round-trip Cathay Pacific flight to Denpasar from L.A. or San Francisco for $799 ($859 from New York; additional days cost $20 per person) so that you can surf, kayak, and hike in the nearby towns of Seminyak, Sanur, and Ubud.
"Let's Fall in Love Again!" reads the smiley-face banner on the French Government Tourist Office Web site. Tourism in France is down 10 percent, due in part to Franco-Yankee dissension before the Iraq War. Now the French are eagerly courting Americans again. Rail Europe fares between France and Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland have been cut 40 to 70 percent, and some hotels are offering discounts to guests with U.S. passports. At Paris Abotels, Americans get 25 percent off through mid-December.
Go ahead, cry for Argentina and the plight of its peso after several years of political strife. Better yet, take your U.S. dollars southward and enjoy the advantageous exchange rate. Bargains start at $133 per night at the formerly very pricey Llao Llao Hotel & Resort (011-5429-4444-8530, www.llaollao.com) in Nahuel Huap National Park, near Bariloche. Or join a four-day Maxim Tours (800-655-0222, www.maximtours.com) trek in the high Andean plains for $244 per persondown from $535. "When their currency crashed," says owner Caryn Maxim, "so did our prices." KENYA
East Africa's safari industry was just bouncing back from the 1998 embassy bombings when 9/11 renewed concerns about connections between Nairobi and Al Qaeda. The resulting tourism fall-off means a higher-than-average lion-to-human ratio in Kenya's game parks these days. Adventure Center (800-227-8747, www.adventurecenter.com) now posts last-minute specials offering up to 15 percent off seats that would otherwise go empty. In August it advertised a rate of $2,179 on its 15-day Faces of Kenya itinerary, including airfare from New Yorkmore than $600 below the regular price.
When the World Health Organization declared the SARS threat contained in July, airlines responded with unprecedented discounts that they hoped would spur tourism back to its pre-scare highs. But travelers have been slow to respond. The result: You can still fly to Hong Kong from the West Coast at a deep discount (a Cathay Pacific flight from Los Angeles cost $499 at press time, about 30 percent below traditional fares). Once you're there, take a 12-day, hotel-based hiking trip in the rugged Yunnan province with World Expeditions (888-464-8735, www.weadventures.com) for $1,690.