Feb162008

The Super-Affluent Don’t Do Super-WalMart

Laurence Geller listed some interesting data points in a blog from Jan 18, 2008. His piece discusses the widening divide between Generations X and Y mass consumers and the truly “super-affluent”. In 2006, the affluent spent on average $2,400 on hotels and resorts, while the super-affluent spent $61,200. He argues new brands will proliferate as today’s luxury brands become commonplace.

St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, California

St. Regis Hotels are luxury brand of Starwood Hotels and Resorts

Friday morning on CNBC, a news crew reported from the St. Regis Fort Lauderdale, Florida from a CEO conference. The studio reporters were asking about the age of the hotel and the reporter stated it had been open 9 months. I haven’t looked into those facts.

The report got me to thinking about the super-affluent and the merely affluent. For the Loyalty Traveler the travel is reduced to the numbers. I wondered what the rates are at the Fort Lauderdale St. Regis.

Here are the search results for St. Regis, FLL room rates for Monday, 2-18-08

OceanView
$476.10 (AAA rate)
$479 (Best Available on StarwoodHotels.com)
$509 Special Offer Page “SRSPG”
$529 (Best Available on SPG.com)
$549 Special Offer AAA rate “XRF”

Ocean Front
$566.10 (AAA)
$579 (Best Available on StarwoodHotels.com and SPG.com)
$609 Special Offer “SRSPG”
$649 Special Offer AAA rate “XRF”

Pool Terrace
$607 Florida Resident rate
$669 Best Benefits Package special offer “SRSPG”
$689 (Best Available on StarwoodHotels.com and SPG.com)
$709 Pool Terrace Special Offer AAA rate

[special offers accessed from St. Regis Fort Lauderdale ]  [Loyalty Traveler note:  St. Regis converted to a Ritz-Carlton in summer 2008 a few months after this post]

XRF rate includes complimentary valet parking, two Bloody Mary’s, and complimentary room upgrade to next available room type. In this case, contact hotel and find out a good night for booking with a good upgrade potential.

SRSPG rate includes two Bloody Mary’s, triple Starpoints and complimentary internet access.

The super-affluent spender could be looking at about 2 to 3 months of Pool Terrace living over the course of a year at this hotel and comparable properties. The affluent spender on $2,400 is looking at a long President’s weekend holiday and sitting home the rest of the year.

Starwood Cash & Points Award Savings

While checking St. Regis Fort Lauderdale, I came across an example of where loyalty program membership leads you to a much better booking option than a regular search on the hotel chain primary web site.

Westin Colonnade, Coral Gables, FL
Saturday, Feb 16, 2007
Rate = $429/night

www.starwoodhotels.com web site hotel rate for the Westin Colonnade through a regular search as a hotel guest not participating in Starwood Preferred Guest and not looking for the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel loyalty program site.

Checking http://www.spg.com/ – I have the option of getting a Cash & Points award at the Westin Colonnade, a Category 4 SPG Hotel for $60 and 4,000 Starpoints.

The ability to buy up to 20,000 Starpoints online from SPG at the rate of $35/1,000 points is a strategy to keep in mind if you do not have 4,000 Starpoints. Adding the cost to buy 4,000 Starpoints for $140 and the $60 Cash portion of a Cash & Points award makes a $200 room rate booking possible. The website states purchased Starpoints will be posted to your account within 24 hours.

The corporate-branded hotel websites generally have the lowest rates for their own hotel rooms compared to third-party online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity.

The difficulty for the DIY online hotel reservationist, is the time needed to sift through thousands of pages on the corporate-branded websites to find the lowest rate page. Finding the lowest rate is a matter of knowledge and luck at the time you search.

$485 through Starwood Hotels corporate web site compared to $200 for the SPG member using Cash & Points booking option for a one-night rate at the Westin Colonnade is the differential cost for the guest with a lack of knowledge and time. The Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program gives the member a hotel rate option that is nearly $300 less.

An additional benefit of a Cash & Points stay is the award stay usually does not incur tax. The minor detraction of a Cash & Points award is the hotel stay does not count for elite qualification or promotional offer credit. A Cash & Points award stay also does not earn points for the Cash portion of the award.

Priceline Hotel Bookings

CNBC reported Friday morning Priceline has experienced a surge in bookings. The TV commentator asked, “Does the growth in Priceline indicate a weak economy?”

Priceline is a great resource when hotel room rates are threatening to make your credit card bleed. Last June, I booked the Marriott Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia for a Sunday night before a Monday afternoon flight to Buenos Aires. I wanted to be in DC, but the major loyalty program hotel rates ranged from $250 to $350/night. I considered renting a car and driving to the Virginia outer suburbs for a $100/night Sheraton rate.

Marriott Key Bridge Hotel Arlington Virginia

Marriott Key Bridge Hotel, Arlington, Virginia (Priceline.com booking $115)

Instead I paid $115 total for the Marriott and I was a ten minute walk across the bridge into Georgetown. I had an interior pool view room on the third floor while the preferred rooms look out over DC from 6 to 10 stories up.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »