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Holiday inns

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who stay at home for the holidays and those who don't.
Top Hotel Hochgurgl, Tirol, Austria
Top Hotel Hochgurgl, Tirol, /
/ Source: Forbes

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who stay at home for the holidays and those who don't.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in the latter group: They can't get home in time, they can't afford to travel, their family drives them crazy, or, best of all, because instead of slaving over a hot turkey and putting up with irritating relatives, they can be staying at a wonderful resort where people fuss over them. Best of all, after a round of golf or a private massage, they can still spend quality time with their loved ones without having to cook or clean up after them.

"During the holidays, families come together. Staying at a luxury resort is a great opportunity to be pampered, not worry about holiday meals, get a change of scenery and have 300 people at your disposal to make sure the experience is hassle free," says Atef N. Mankarios, former CEO of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts (nyse: HOT - news - people )-owned St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and founder of Dallas-based Mankarios Partnership, which provides asset management and technical services to hotels. "I couldn't think of a better way to spend the holidays, unless you'd rather fuss with a turkey and deal with crowded shopping malls."

Handing off the giblets to someone else comes at a price, of course, and hotels reap the benefits. PriceWaterhouseCoopers projects that revenue for the domestic lodging industry for the fourth quarter of 2005, the height of the holiday travel season, will total $29.1 billion (international figures not available). That's a 9% increase over last year.

"On an average night between Thanksgiving and New Year's this year, there will be 2.28 million occupied hotel rooms in this country. That's a record," says Bjorn Hanson, who leads the global hospitality and leisure division at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in New York. "And from Christmas to New Year, occupancy will be 47.8%, just below last year's record occupancy percentage," he continues. (While checking into a half-full hotel might not seem like a great Christmas gift to your family, Hanson explains that 47.8 is the percentage you get after averaging the occupancy rates of full resorts with the rates of relatively empty urban hotels across the U.S. at Christmastime--though cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco do enjoy high-occupancy rates over the holidays.)

Hoteliers all over the world know that holiday travelers translate to big, fat stockings stuffed with extra room revenue. A standard double room at Hôtel de la Cité in Carcassone, a medieval village in southern France, goes for $300 a night in early November, but starts at $1,200 during New Year's Eve: a very festive increase of 300%. (The hotel isn't totally shameless, however--they do close for Christmas, when they could very easily charge rates that are just as high.)

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Where are those desirable resorts? has compiled a list of Holiday Inns, places so picturesque, comfortable and hospitable that you are practically guaranteed a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah or raucous New Year. Our list includes ten properties in the Caribbean, Europe, North American and Russia, proving that despite a weak dollar, heightened oil prices and a slightly depressed domestic economy resulting from a severe hurricane season, Americans aren't afraid to go abroad.

"International outbound travel has taken a bounce upward this year, although it's still below where it was five years ago," says Adam Sacks, travel and tourism analyst with Massachusetts-based Global Insight, a company that provides economic and financial analysis and consulting advice to international firms. Global Insight lists Mexico, Canada and the U.K. as the three biggest countries attracting American tourism dollars since 2000.

As for the rest of the world, high energy prices and global security concerns, including a potential outbreak of the avian flu and intermittent terrorist attacks in destinations as diverse as London, Bali and New Delhi, hasn't prevented anyone from leaving home either. The Madrid-based World Tourism Organization's World Tourism Barometer, released this summer, forecast a 5% to 6% growth of international tourism for 2005, with the strongest growth forecast for Asia and the Pacific (10%), Africa (7%) and the Americas (6%).

So where will your winter holiday take you this year? Check our slide show to find out.