With three weeks to the start of Pesach (eve of March 29th), Jewish newspapers still featured advertising for one of the many programs all over the US. Sources say that an estimated 20,000 vacationers will spend the holidays in major hotels. But they also point out that there will be 1,500 fewer rooms than last year, namely as a result of the shutdown of five programs, three by the Smilow family. Guests who booked at some of these programs have scrambled to re-book in other programs.
One food distributor said that he believed that the programs were 20% ahead of last year when the recession first impacted the programs. “It is really a consolidation that will in the end have more guests and less empty rooms,” he said.
In other words, he points out, the operators will have less empty rooms. There appeared to be some last minute bargains as several of the programs dropped prices in an attempt to fill their remaining rooms. The program operators had become accustomed to the last-minute bargain hunters who trade in the lower prices for some of the less desirable rooms.
Yitzchok Neger who operates a major program in Lancaster PA will have more than 1,100 guests in what he calls the “Wal-Mart model,” offering prices at around $1600 per person. He and several other operators who are also in that price range hope that volume will allow them to turn a profit even at the lower prices. Even some of the most successful programs still have 30-35 rooms to fill.