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Old 01-02-09, 02:50 PM
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Longhorns, Buckeyes Fans Avoiding Fiesta Bowl

Longhorns, Buckeyes Fans Avoiding Fiesta Bowl
Economy, Disappointed BCS Placement Listed As Main Factors For Travel Decline

POSTED: Friday, January 2, 2009
UPDATED: 9:21 am CST January 2, 2009

SAN ANTONIO -- A sluggish economy, apathetic fans and people concerned about their jobs has led many to stay home and not travel to Arizona for Monday's Fiesta Bowl.

Even though it's freezing in the Midwest, Ohio tour operators say they can't get people to book trips to Arizona to take in the big game between Ohio State and Texas.

In metro Phoenix, hotels and resorts are pushing low rates and freebies to spur last-minute demand, with luxury Scottsdale resorts going for as little as $119 on Hotwire.com.

"The demand here is terrible," said Lisa Cisco, owner of Travel Partners in Dublin, Ohio, a travel agency that has been selling bowl packages since 1979.

Cisco said she has booked just 64 clients for a $1,649 package that includes a game ticket, round-trip airfare, four nights at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak, breakfast and more. Two years ago, she had 708 buyers travel to Arizona to see Ohio State play for the national championship in Glendale.

This time around, Cisco figured she'd get at least 20 percent of championship-year sales, or more than double the number she has booked.

"We needed 13 motor coaches to go to the (2007) game," she said. "Now, we need one this year."

Travel agent Ike Reynolds in Columbus, Ohio, said his business is down "a good 60 percent" from previous bowl trips.

"Even if you have money ... you've been hit pretty hard by the losses in the stock market and you're sort of hanging on the sidelines not spending money," Reynolds said.

The same thing is happening in Texas, with many deciding to stay home, save money and watch the Fiesta Bowl on TV.

At Tramex Travel in Austin, bookings have been soft, with fewer than four dozen packages sold, owner Juan Portillo said.

Additionally, he blames fan disappointment over the Longhorns' bowl destination.

"I don't think they see the game against Ohio State as what we should be doing," Portillo said.

Some Ohio travel agencies say fans are tired of Phoenix. This is, after all, the Buckeyes' fifth appearance since 2003.

Others are disappointed the Buckeyes have lost their last two big games, for the 2007 and 2008 national championship. Ohio State sold some of its ticket allotment to the public earlier this month, seats that are normally reserved for season-ticket holders.

The Phoenix travel market reported double-digit declines in hotel occupancy through November and posted the biggest declines in other key measures, including room demand, which was off 7.1 percent, according to Smith Travel data.

Hotels responded by aggressively marketing their rooms and lowering prices.

At the 640-room Arizona Grand, rates are down about 15 percent from a year ago, and bookings are down about 10 percent, according to General Manager Richard Behr.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, Arizona Local News - Phoenix Arizona News - Breaking News - azcentral.com
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.

Longhorns, Buckeyes Fans Avoiding Fiesta Bowl - San Antonio Sports News Story - KSAT San Antonio
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