How much value do you put on hotel rewards programs? While some travelers are almost obsessive-compulsive in their dedication to collecting air miles and hotel reward points, others simply collect them all and any benefit derived is simply considered a lucky bonus. NextAdvisor decided to calculate the cash value of various luxury hotel rewards programs and their findings threw up some interesting results.
The means for determining the cash value of points was ascertained by comparing the cost of a night’s stay in the peak season in a major US city with the number of points required for such a freebie, thereby getting an actual dollar value per point. NextAdvisor also ran the same scenario for air miles by calculating the value of a free flight using frequent flyer points. They ran the trial on most major US-based programs to compare the best value loyalty schemes.
The simple evaluation showed that Starwood Preferred Guest Program offered the best value in cash terms. This scheme rewards guests staying in Starwood-operated luxury hotels such as Le Meridien, W hotels, St Regis and Sheraton hotels with points which are worth $0.021 each. When double or treble points are offered on promotions, assuming one point per dollar spent, this can add up to 6% discount on the booking. In comparison, other programs such as Marriott Rewards offered points worth $0.008 and Hilton HHonors points were worth just $0.005.
The same value system was also applied to airline points and Southwest Rapid Rewards scheme came top with points worth $0.017 compared to United Mileage plus points which are worth $0.011 when redeemed against a flight, and Delta was slightly lower at $0.01.
Most interesting to American Airlines AAdvantage miles collectors is the fact that the points are worth more if spent on a hotel than if they are used for free flights. Similarly those high value Starwood Preferred Guest points are only worth $0.012 when used against a flight.
Ultratravel has come up with a new method of payment. It is specifically designed for international business travelers and vacationers who are tired of being ripped off by poor currency exchange rates, excessive transaction charges and the weakening dollar value on the world currency markets. The Ultratravel Currency Card is aimed at meeting the needs of the luxury traveler; it is free to apply for and has no annual fee.
The currency card is run in conjunction with VISA and initially offers three currencies: US dollars, Euros and UK sterling. The cards can be preloaded (and reloaded) as required, either online, by phone or by SMS. The big advantage of Ultratravel cards is that exchange rates are said to be considerably more generous than those offered at airports or high street Bureau de Change offices. Those watching the US dollar buy less and less abroad can secure a rate by uploading funds now which can be spent at a later date.
Unlike some prepayment cards, the Ultratravel Card has no transaction charges when used at the millions of shops, restaurants and hotels worldwide displaying the VISA symbol. For cash withdrawals at ATMs, the fee is fixed at a low £1.50 ($2.40).
Think tangentially and get a secondary card for children planning a student travel trip or requiring funds while on a gap year.
European travelers will already appreciate the benefits offered by the stylish Radisson Blu boutique hotel chain and are no doubt eagerly looking forward to the opening of the first US offering later this year. Chicago is hardly short of high-end hotels, but the Radisson Blu boutique hotel will give the neighboring Fairmont and the Park Hyatt on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile a run for their money.
The differences at Radisson Blu are impressive, starting with the price. As the brand begins to establish itself in the U.S., room prices will be around $250 per night compared with similar ranking hotel rates of $425.
Radisson Blu hotels typically include resort-like amenities such as a jogging trail, billiards table, extra-large fitness room and half basketball court. Many basic rooms have a balcony with great views at no surcharge, and WiFi is included in the room rate. Even the public restrooms are out-of-the ordinary with mirrorball tiling and vessel sinks.
Guests can choose a room style to suit their mood and taste. Both designs are very hip and trendy, but “Mansion House” style is rather more “W” with sparkly black granite counters and black lacquer minibars to tone down the electric blue carpet. For a more understated elegance, opt for a “Naturally Cool” room style and enjoy Scandinavian light wood flooring, muted wall colors and white leather seating beside a minimalist block wood table.
If your curiosity is piqued, keep an eye open for the unveiling of the second Radisson Blu boutique hotel, currently under construction at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
An interesting new formula has been created by a travel advisory company, called TripIndex. Basically it is the travelers’ equivalent of the standard shopping basket where the price of identical goods is compared from different sources. TripIndex adds together the cost of one night in a four star luxury hotel, a large cheese pizza from a global pizza chain, a dry martini in the bar of a top-ranking hotel and a five mile taxi ride in various international cities. It looks something like this:
4*Night + Pizza + Martini + Taxi = ?
They ranged widely across the globe from Bangkok at $85.71 to Paris at $362.28.
There is no surprise in the fact that there is a wide difference between costs in an Asian city and the pinnacle of European class, Paris. However, the index was applied to cities in the U.S. which also showed almost as wide a difference. Las Vegas produced all four items for $121.30 while the same four items in New York City cost $324.38 – over $200 more!
Those looking for a good value location to host their next business conference or family reunion should look at Dallas ($173.37), New Orleans ($177.23), Atlanta ($177.34), Minneapolis ($189.69) or Orlando ($200.89).
The most expensive U.S. cities for a weekend away, besides New York, would be Boston ($301.32), Washington D.C. ($291.12), Chicago ($257.82), San Francisco ($254.69) or Honolulu ($238.78).
It certainly pays to do your homework, although hotel booking companies that specialize in luxury hotels, such as Luxique.com will always offer the best deals wherever in the world you choose to visit.
According to a recent USA Today report, some luxury hotels in the USA are offering incentives for guests who decline daily housekeeping services. One example is Starwood’s “Make a Green Choice” which launched in their Westin and Sheraton hotels and is likely to be expanded to their W, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft luxury hotels later this year.
Basically, guests opting to skip daily maid service get a $5 food and beverage credit or 500 loyalty points for each day, excluding checkout day, when the service is, thankfully, compulsory.
This new approach raises a few thoughts. Is it really in the interests of the planet to cut down on maid service? Making the bed and emptying the waste bin are hardly affecting ecology, but they are very much affecting the hours of employment and wages of staff. Changing sheets and washing towels daily certainly involves an unnecessary use of resources but a little tidying surely does not.
Are guests paying three figure sums per night really prepared to return to a room with an unmade bed and a grubby bathroom in order to get a tad off their meal or token loyalty points?
And won’t this affect the tips as well as the wages of the housekeeping staff, who will suddenly have to undergo a major clean of rooms at the end of each stay, rather than keeping on top of the basics throughout the week?
We have all seen how airlines have reduced their former all-inclusive food and drinks service to an optional extra for a fee. Do we really want to reach the stage where we get an itemized hotel bill showing basic room price and daily add-ons for housekeeping?
Guests have been known to go to great lengths to get a free upgrade, a particular favorite being to pretend you are on honeymoon. However, a chain of luxury hotels in California have decided to make up their own rules for the game. Joie de Vivre are offering one upgrade per day in five of their luxury hotels in California for those with the talent and/or bravery to take the challenge.
The freebie is offered to the first guest to arrive at check-in and sing a particular song. Appropriate songs have been chosen to reflect the personality of the hotels and include Kate Perry’s “California Gurls” to the equally predictable “Hotel California,” first recorded by the Eagles.
If you think singing tunelessly in public is OK as no-one knows you, think again. The hotels will be recording those early morning performances and uploading them to YouTube and Facebook. Worse still, viewers worldwide can log on to the Joie de Vivre hotel website and actually vote for their favorite singer, with the winner getting an additional prize.
This offers seems more likely to appeal to wannabe singers who will do anything to get in the limelight, rather than guests wanting to save a few $$ on an upgrade. But it does beg the question, how low would you go for a free room upgrade?
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
Whatever your private thoughts may be about Twitter, the fact is that you are missing out on some exclusive deals if you do not join the club. Luxury hotel chains are realizing Twitter is a source of free, effective advertising and hot deals are literally spread like a virus throughout the network.
Complimentary upgrade offers, secret passwords and exclusive deals are all passed like Chinese whispers through Twitter, reaching both loyal followers and potential guests. What luxury hotel can afford not to be part of this pervasive form of 21st century communication?
Marriott was one of the first luxury hotel chains to see the significance of dropping the odd Tweet in cozy confidence. They use it to offer heart-warming stories along with resort credit offers or limited offers of free breakfast deals when business is a little slow in a particular area.
Fairmont Hotels frequently uses Twitter to connect with its guests, sharing guest comments and photos as well as slipping in the odd nugget of sales info about hotel happenings and great deals. They recently offered a free giveaway of concert tickets to their 14,000 followers – not bad odds for the lucky winners.
The renowned Kimpton Hotel Group has a similar number of followers who are regularly emailed the secret password which, when whispered at check-in, earns them a special surprise treat such as a free amenity or upgrade. Who can possibly resist joining in?
Joie de Vivre Hotels in California recently ran a Twitter competition to name their new hotel restaurant – with a $50 prize to the winner. On a more practical note they also send out event announcements, job postings and special deals to their loyal Twitter followers.
Whether you like it or not, the new generation VIPS are not those brandishing loyalty cards and accumulating points, they are those who take the time to sign up for a Twitter account and follow all the tweets from their favorite brands.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
How would you feel if you returned to your hotel room and found a 14K gold pendant necklace featuring a half carat of brilliant round-cut diamonds under your pillow? This is what the Ritz-Carlton has in store for 10 lucky guests staying at the luxury hotel in Miami Key Biscayne Resort as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations in July.
Realizing that many other guests may also like to enjoy the fun, this Five Diamond Resort has planned some other neat deals too. Throughout the month of July there will be ten resort-view guest rooms for just $10 on selected nights. The small print stipulates that reservations for this deal can only be made on June 10 between 10 and 2pm EST by calling 305-365-4582, so better set the alarm on your PDA now.
Every Wednesday through July at this luxury resort there will be a selection of $10 spa treatments including the Key Lime Body Treatment (50 minutes) or the renowned Deluxe Sundae Pedicure (45 minutes). There will also be the chance to purchase $10 mango candles – that’s half-price.
If you’re around on July 14, glasses of Moet Chandon Ice Imperial Champagne, made exclusively for upscale resorts, will be just $10, as will the accompanying Kobe Beef Sliders.
Those who enjoy champagne by the bottle should take the opportunity to dine at the resort between July 10-15 and 17-22. As well as the chance to enjoy three-course meals for $10 at the in-house restaurant Cioppino, one menu will hold a voucher for a complimentary bottle of champagne.
Not forgetting those ten diamond necklaces beneath the pillows of ten lucky overnight guests. Better start making your travel plans for July right now!
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
Fairmont Hotels continue to come up with some innovative new luxury hotel packages for food and drink lovers. How about the aptly named “Keep the Catch” Boston Harbor Lobster Packages at the Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel?
Guests accompany the chef on a private lobster boat to learn the secrets of baiting, dropping and hauling in lobster traps around historic Boston Harbor. At the end of the trip, guests return with their catch, which is then prepared in the kitchen to their liking. The cost includes a night’s stay in a deluxe waterfront room, a boat tour, a souvenir lobster book and a place at the Chef’s Counter in the Aragosta Restaurant. It’s the perfect stay for lobster aficionados and guests are sure to learn plenty of tips for catching and preparing this gourmet dish.
Cheese-lovers may prefer the Grand Fromage Package offered by the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver. Described as a farm-to-fork tour, this artisan adventure offers a cheese-making course at a cheese farm in Agassiz. The luxury hotel stay also includes a three-course tasting menu paired with wines at the hotel’s Griffins Restaurant, dinner for two at Au Petit Chavignol (one of Vancouver’s best restaurants for artisan cheese), and a surprise welcome with local wine and cheese.
Still in Canada, Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York offers a more down-to-earth experience for food buffs. Chef-led experiences include a trip to the St Lawrence market with secrets on how to choose the best cuts of meat and produce. The rest of the two-night stay is pleasantly taken up with coffee for two at Pasta Mia, sample tasting at Golden Orchard Fine Foods, pea meal bacon sandwiches for two at the Carousel Bakery, a walking tour with a local historian and a six-course menu in EPIC, the hotel’s signature restaurant.
These great short packages in luxury hotels are ideal for those wanting to enjoy more than just a spa package. Fully organized themed trips can be a great way to experience luxury hotels around the world and memorable vacations for little more than the price of a hotel room.
by Gillain at Luxique Luxury Hotels
In the final countdown to the wedding of the year, many luxury hotels in London report they still have plenty of space for last-minute visitors. Prince William, second in line to the throne, will be marrying his student sweetheart Kate Middleton on Friday April 29th , but unless you’re a hermit I guess I’m not telling you anything new. What is a surprise is that luxury hotels in London are not fully booked for the event.
As always for travelers, this is good news as the hotels are now throwing in all manner of extras to fill their rooms. Many London hotels have resisted the urge to hike the prices, although London is never a cheap place to stay. What guests will find is that staying two nights or more will net them all sorts of goodies.
Champagne is a popular freebie, but a Champagne Flight on the London Eye looking out over the rooftops of the city is even better. Those staying in the Cadogan Hotel junior suite get afternoon tea and a Royal Wedding dinner thrown in. One Aldwych, a cool boutique hotel in London, still has rooms available along with the classy Bermondsey Square Hotel and the Lancaster London. The May Fair is reportedly dishing out souvenir crystal champagne flutes to its guests. Even the well-located Athenaeum which is just a stroll across St James Park from Buckingham Palace still has availability, as do various Hilton hotels.
The spokesperson for the British Hospitality Association put out an upbeat message saying that London hotels still expect many visitors to arrive at the last minute to celebrate. He explained away the disappointing bookings as being because people are taking long Easter breaks which means they may find themselves at other destinations rather than London for the celebrations.
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels