California resort offers $19 'survivor' package

Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:09pm EDT
 
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By Laura Isensee

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - For their one-and-only family getaway this year, the Billingtons checked in to an upscale San Diego resort on Sunday with many of the usual vacation accessories -- bathing suits, board games and golf clubs.

But they also brought flashlights, sleeping bags and an inflatable mattress because the pool-side room they booked for just $19 comes with a tent where the beds normally would be. They even had to pack their own toilet paper.

While many of Southern California's luxury hotels are battling a severe slump in business by offering extra services and more amenities, the Rancho Bernardo Inn is luring guests with the exact opposite -- no frills and barely any basics.

Called the "Survivor Package," the hotel's deeply discounted promotion lets patrons trim its standard $219-per-night rate on a sliding scale of deprivation, lowering charges with each amenity stripped from the room.

The most basic version: a room for $19 with no bed, toilet paper, towels, air-conditioning or "honor bar," and only a single light bulb in the bathroom for safety. The next level up adds in a bed -- sans sheets -- for $39 a night. For a bed plus toiletries and toilet paper, the rate is $59.

Maureen Carew, assistant general manager of the four-star inn, called the promotion "clever marketing in a downtime."

THRIFTY VACATIONS

Herman Billington, 39, a personal trainer who owns his own business, says it's the only vacation he, his wife and their two sons, aged 9 and 10, plan to take this year as they concentrate on "keeping it lean."   Continued...