The Choice Privileges commercial on TV caught my attention. The details tell the real story.

The Advertised Offer: Stay 3 nights at the same hotel with arrival between August 21 and November 19. Earn enough points to redeem for a free night at over 1,500 Choice Hotels. (Promotion link)

The limitations of this offer: The fine print states points will be added to your account after a qualifying 3-night or longer stay to reach the 8,000 point reward level. There are 1,500 hotels with reward nights at the 8,000 points level.

Only one award will be earned per hotel stay. In other words, a 6-night stay will only earn 8,000 points.

The 8,000 points bonus may be earned multiple times for separate eligible stays during the promotion period.

Choice Hotels is the second largest global hotel chain by number of hotels with about 5,900 hotels. This promotion allows a Choice Privileges member to earn sufficient points for a free night in the bottom 25% of properties in the hotel chain after staying at least three nights in a Choice brand hotel.  

Choice Hotel brands in order by number of hotels are Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Econolodge, Comfort Suites, Clarion, Sleep Inn, Rodeway Inn, Suburban, MainStay Suites, Ascend Collection, and Cambria Suites.

Loyalty Traveler analysis:

Points are normally earned at the rate of 10 points per $1 in hotel spending for most Choice brands. Only 5 points per $1 are earned for MainStay Suites, Suburban, Rodeway Inn, or EconoLodge.

Last month Loyalty Traveler posted a profile of the Choice Hotels chain. This post also referenced Choice Privileges summer promotion that ended last month for 14,000 points with 3 hotel stays. The previous Choice Privileges promotion allowed a member to earn 14,000 points with just 3 one-night separate hotel stays. The current offer may be easier to earn for some members, but is less valuable.

Comfort Inn had an average daily rate of $74 in the US according to 2009 first quarter financial data for Choice Hotels.

Assume a 3 night stay is $225 at a Comfort Inn. This stay would regularly earn 2,250 Choice Privileges points. The current promotion will result in an additional 5,750 points being added to your account to total 8,000 points for the stay.

Assume a 3-night stay at a Suburban brand with an average daily rate of $41. A 3-night stay would regularly earn just 615 points. This promotion adds 7,385 points to your account. That is one hefty bonus opportunity.

This looks to be a good offer on the surface.

The question is what can you do with 8,000 points?

The Choice Privileges promotion advertisement states 8,000 points can be used for a free night at over 1,500 hotels. What the ad does not mention is the points required for a Choice Privileges free night is variable depending on the season.

Example: Econolodge Inn & Suites, Novato, California (hotel link)

The Econolodge Novato is one of the 1,500 Choice hotels available for 8,000 points, however, a free night is only available for 8,000 points from September 16 to November 30. A free night from now through September 15 and from December 1 to January 31, 2010 will cost 10,000 points.

8,000 points is a bonus, albeit a severely limited bonus in a program where a free night will cost between 6,000 and 35,000 points (and up to 75,000 in Australia).

You can only book a free night up to 30 days in advance of your stay without being an elite Choice Privileges member.

This is a 2-key hotel loyalty promotion. Keep Choice Privileges in mind if you need a 3-night hotel stay and the property is an acceptable choice for your hotel stay.

Quality Inn Monterey

Quality Inn Monterey

1058 Munras Avenue

Monterey, California

 

Jul 1, 2009 – Sep 15, 2009:               20,000 points

Sep 16, 2009 – Nov 30, 2009           16,000 points

Dec 1, 2009 – Jan 31, 2010:              10,000 points

Hotels are too quick to boast about room size in public.

Are hotels like men?

 

He whimsically described himself as having 400 fabulous square feet of room. His boisterous and seductive claims resulted in us spending the night together.  Later, when it was just the two of us alone, I had to wonder.

You said your room was how large?  Whose measuring stick were you using?

 

Don’t misinterpret the message.  There are no regrets about spending the night with you in your corner room. Your room was more than spectacular.

As the saying goes, “It is not the size of the ship, but the motion of the ocean.”

Your room wowed me with wild waves of excitement.

 

Don’t be embarrassed to tell people your real size.

Your 300 square feet is truly a wonderful size in and of itself.

 

The Morning After

The Morning After

 

 W Hotel San Francisco Room Categories:

Wonderful Room, 300 square feet, Floors 5-12

Spectacular Room, 300 square feet, Floors 14-31

Cool Corner Room, 400 square feet, Floors 5-18

Fabulous Room, 400 square feet, Floors 14-28 

 

 

Loyalty Traveler spent a wacky and withering weekend (Fabulous Room 2609) in the uncommon 90 degree heat of downtown San Francisco.

I finally took the time to figure out how to upload photos in FlyerTalk threads. Considering I have used 93% of my allocated space on BoardingArea.com I am glad to have another outlet for sharing photos.

The Loyalty Traveler post yesterday for the Westin Verasa Napa included the most photos I have ever successfully uploaded in a blog post. Typically the program crashes after I upload more than 12 photos into a single blog post and weird things happen with the fonts.

I do not intentionally alter the fonts in my blog posts. When the fonts change size and style within Loyalty Traveler posts, it is almost always due to a technical glitch. Uploading photos compounds the issue.

Anyway, I am finding it so much easier to upload photos into FlyerTalk threads and I can actually do it without compressing the photos as I have to do to save space with BoardingArea.com.

This morning I added photos to hotel master threads for about a dozen hotels. I have about 20,000 hotel photos so many more will appear in the coming months on FlyerTalk and here at Loyalty Traveler.

And someday I will launch my Monterey Traveler and Carmel Traveler websites to focus on the hotels in my hometown area. I have thousands of photos, suggestions, and advice for Monterey Peninsula hotels and travel.

So many hotels, so little disk space and time.

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California

My first piece of advice is to avoid coming to Napa on a summer weekend if you have a choice. Hotels are $100 a night less on weeknights and the ability to navigate roads free of bumper to bumper traffic will allow you to travel much more quickly on the valley roads.

I jumped at the opportunity to book the Westin Verasa Napa last weekend using one of my free nights from Starwood Hotels “Stay Two Times, Earn One Free Night” promotion between May and July.

Driving over from UC Davis to drink wine all day for free at Napa County wineries was a regular field trip exercise as a fermentation science college student in the mid-1980s.

Those days are history – mine and Napa Valley’s. Free wine tasting is as rare as a $100,000 home in California these days.

While I haven’t located a $100,000 home lately, I did find my way to a free wine tasting at the Wine Train waiting room across the street from the Westin Verasa at 10:30am. To my dismay, I couldn’t even identify a Monterey Riesling from a Napa Chardonnay on a blind taste test, or a Napa Syrah from a Zinfandel. 22 years is long time removed from my A+ grade in the UC Davis course – Introduction to Enology.  I do still know what I like and I did not like the wine samples I tasted.

I’ll stick with the Birra Peroni, if you please. That’s drink value.

Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train

Westin Verasa Napa Hotel

The hotel uses valet parking only for the garage under the hotel. There were about 10 street side spaces, unmetered and no hour limit. I parked on the street in front. I appreciated my decision when I went to my car around 5 pm just as a conference group had arrived in the lobby. A half-dozen people wanted their cars simultaneously.

I had to avoid getting run over by the valet parking kid running down the narrow sidewalk at me when I returned to the lobby pulling my luggage.

Westin Verasa Napa - small circular carport in front of lobby

Westin Verasa Napa - small circular carport in front of lobby

The front desk receptionist offered platinum member amenity choices at check-in. Choices were $10 mini-bar credit, free movie, or points.

Westin Verasa Napa front desk

Westin Verasa Napa front desk

The hotel has three floors. The lobby has an open seating area, cafe and bar area with stools and tables, and a large open space around the hotel doorway entrance. The room was quite bright on a sunny day and from the lobby I could see the central pool courtyard.

Napa Westin Verasa lobby

Napa Westin Verasa lobby

The bar off to the right was active, not busy.

Westin Verasa Napa bar in open lobby

Westin Verasa Napa bar in open lobby

The elevators were behind a low level glass art divider and in the corner there was an architectural model of the entire property.

 

 

Room 2013 are windows just to left of large lobby windows

Room 2013 are windows just to left of large lobby windows

Elevator hallway has furnishings and seating. The elevator speaks with a British accent female voice. Being on the second floor I tended to take the stairs when going to the pool side of the hotel, but I missed my elevator Bond girl.

Westin Verasa Napa elevator foyer

Westin Verasa Napa elevator foyer

Room 2013 is near the main elevator and sits over the lobby/fitness center area on the main floor.

Westin Verasa Napa door decor

Westin Verasa Napa door decor

I opened the door to a luxury one bedroom apartment with a full size kitchen.

Westin Napa Verasa kitchen

Westin Napa Verasa kitchen

This room even has a full oven and all mod cons with a full size refrigerator, dishwasher, two sinks, pots, pans, cutlery, two built-in drawer cutting boards, and microwave. Four sets of utensils and dishes were provided in the cabinets.

Westin Verasa Napa Room 2013 dining table

Westin Verasa Napa Room 2013 dining table

The sitting room had two chairs and a bed couch, large ottoman, and a tray.

Westin Verasa Napa 2013 sitting room

Westin Verasa Napa 2013 sitting room

The entertainment center had an X-Box system, small clock radio pod, and 32 inch HDTV with some real HD channel choices. One complaint is the TV is wall mounted and there is no swivel feature to view the TV if you are at the dining table or kitchen.

Westin Verasa Napa room entertainment system

Westin Verasa Napa room entertainment system

Room 2013 has a full balcony looking over the pool courtyard.

Room 2013 balcony

Room 2013 balcony

The view of the trees and hills is great.

Westin Verasa Napa room 2013 view

Westin Verasa Napa room 2013 view

The bedroom has a Westin Heavenly bed, chair, bed bench, and another 32-inch TV.

Westin Verasa Napa bed and bench

Westin Verasa Napa bed and bench

Westin Verasa Napa bedroom TV and chair

Westin Verasa Napa bedroom TV and chair

The bathroom featured a glass shower stall and separate bathtub with stone walls.

Westin Napa Verasa 2013 shower

Westin Napa Verasa 2013 shower

Westin Verasa Napa bath tub

Westin Verasa Napa bath tub

I wandered the hallways and there is a laundry room just down the hall from 2013 with one washer and one dryer for guest use. The hall corridors are long with a hotel design of three wings extending towards the river. Art work is located in some locations.

Westin Verasa Napa guest rooms hallway art

Westin Verasa Napa guest rooms hallway art

A wonderful feature of the hotel design absent in too many upper upscale hotels is the ability to travel through the hotel hallways to reach the pool, pool changing rooms, fitness room, and bocce court without walking through the lobby.

Westin Verasa Napa fitness center is located on main floor to side of lobby

Westin Verasa Napa fitness center is located on main floor to side of lobby

The pool area features cabanas with lounge chairs (no charge) and a large rectangular spa pool adjacent to the main pool.

Westin Napa Verasa spa, pool, and cabana

Westin Napa Verasa spa, pool, and cabana

Just beyond the pool is the River Walkway. Third floor rooms at the end of the wings have best river views.

Westin Verasa Napa river view

Westin Verasa Napa river view

View from Bocce courtyard

View from Bocce courtyard

Westin Verasa Napa south courtyard at bocce courts

Westin Verasa Napa south courtyard at bocce courts

Westin Verasa Napa bocce courtyard palms

Westin Verasa Napa bocce courtyard palms

The central pool courtyard had table seating and a central fountain with firelight at night.

Westin Verasa Napa pool courtyard

Westin Verasa Napa pool courtyard

Westin Verasa Napa central courtyard fountain

Westin Verasa Napa central courtyard fountain

Westin Verasa Napa courtyard fountain firelight

Westin Verasa Napa courtyard fountain firelight

La Toque restaurant at the hotel has a prix-fixe menu of two, three, or four courses. Wine accompaniment is also prix-fixe menu. I searched my hotel room and I did not locate any information about the restaurant in the room.

A good estimate is $100 to $150 per person for fine dining.

Westin Verasa Napa Artwork in hallway to La Toque

Westin Verasa Napa Artwork in hallway to La Toque

Westin Verasa Napa spoon doors to La Toque Restaurant

Westin Verasa Napa spoon doors to La Toque Restaurant

I wandered down one stairway looking for the north end of the hotel courtyard and found myself in the staff employee area of the hotel. Eventually I wandered out into the meeting area courtyard on the north end.

Meeting Rooms courtyard at north end of Westin Verasa Napa

Meeting Rooms courtyard at north end of Westin Verasa Napa

The River Terrace Inn is adjacent to the Westin Verasa Napa. The smaller pool there was quiet and empty at a time when 25 or so guests were around the Westin pools. That is a plus and a minus for the River Terrace Inn I guess.

The pool area guests at the Westin cleared out when the sun went behind the building. Pool hours until 11pm allowed me to take a night swim. The pool area was empty of people all morning Monday until I left around 11am.

Westin Verasa Napa pools

Westin Verasa Napa pools

Westin Verasa Napa

Westin Verasa Napa

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I saw the Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show at the Mirage in Las Vegas last week. Good musical entertainment and visual imagery. I enjoyed hearing new mixes I had not heard before of the familiar Beatles songs.

Kelley and I missed John Lennon that night. I heard the news that day in 1980 standing in a corner market in Montpelier, Vermont.

The news was rather sad, …

John and Yoko Suite, Room 702, Amsterdam Hilton

John and Yoko Suite, Room 702, Amsterdam Hilton

 

While the Amsterdam Hilton John & Yoko room suite has specialty room decor and a balcony, the room view is better across the hall in 701, a junior suite on the canal side of the hotel.

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Hilton HHonors, City of Hope, Cancer Research, and Walk4Hope San Francisco are topics on my mind in this post.  This is a story of survival, hotels, and loyalty. Sorry if I meander through this blog post, but there is so much to say and I have to start getting the word(s) out.

The main point I want readers to remember is City of Hope has the 12th Annual Walk for Hope 5K Walk in San Francisco on Saturday, October 3, 2009. Link.

Registration is $30 for the San Francisco Walk for Hope. Participants who raise or contribute from $25 to $600 are eligible for up to 7,000 HHonors points. Participants who raise $1,000+ will receive a complimentary Hilton HHonors award night for up to a category 6 hotel.

Walk for Hope holds walks in cities around the USA each year as a fundraising effort to support breast cancer research.

HHonors, City of Hope, and Walk for Hope Incentive Prizes

There have only been two Walk for Hope events (San Diego and Edison, New Jersey) so far in 2009. Seven more Walk for Hope events will take place between September 27 and October 25.

Walk for Hope 2009 Events

Walk for Hope 2009 Events

 

Registration links are located on this page:

 

 

 

http://nationalevents.cityofhope.org/site/PageServer?pagename=WalkforHope_Main

HHonors Fundraising Incentive Prizes

Donate or raise:


- US$25–74.99: Get 500 HHonors bonus points.
- US$75–149.99: Get an additional 1,500 HHonors bonus points (2,000 total).
- US$150–299.99: Get an additional 1,500 HHonors bonus points (3,500 total).
- US$300–599.99: Get an additional 1,500 HHonors bonus points (5,000 total).
- US$600–999.99: Get an additional 2,000 HHonors bonus points (7,000 total).
   

- US$1,000 or more: Get a free one-night stay at a participating Hilton Family hotel in the US48 (Cat. O-6),* plus the 7,000 HHonors bonus points named above.

I posted on Twitter that I wanted to be a team captain for the San Francisco walk. I am not doing this for points or free nights. In fact, in the same way Tour de France winners like Lance Armstrong give their prize money to the team, I would like to raise $1,000 as a Loyalty Traveler team and somehow give the free Hilton award night to a member of the team.

I really don’t have this Walk for Hope event figured out. I haven’t even registered for the San Francisco Walk for Hope event yet.

What I do know is cancer is not waiting and if I sit around waiting to figure out how to start a team and organize Walk for Hope preparations before I start spreading the word, then time will have run out. So this is my first installment on promoting City of Hope, Walk for Hope events, and HHonors sponsorship and incentive program for fundraisers.

Email me if interested in joining Kelley and me in San Francisco on October 3 for the 5K Walk for Hope event.

ricgarrido@frequentguest.net  satori95@yahoo.com

Kelley isn’t sure she’ll have the stamina for walking 5K but with a little encouragement and lots of friends (several thousand cancer survivors creates quite a spark of life) she just might make the whole journey.

(Time to wake up Kelley for the drive to the oncology center in San Jose this afternoon. The rest of this post is personal reflection detailing some of our experiences living with cancer.)

 

Loyalty Traveler’s History with Walk for Hope

I probably would not even be aware of City of Hope if it weren’t for Hilton HHonors and FlyerTalk.

Back in 2004 the news spread on FlyerTalk that Hilton HHonors was giving 5,000 points for members who registered as a walker or even as a virtual walker for Walk for Hope  events around the country.

What a great deal many of us FlyerTalkers had with HHonors and City of Hope!  Pay $25 to register for an event that you didn’t even need to attend and earn 5,000 HHonors points.

I registered for walks all over the USA. Kelley and I walked the 7th annual Walk for Hope through downtown Oakland in 2004. Walking the streets of Oakland with thousands of women and a few hundred men was a memorable experience.  Kelley was actually quite ill during the walk and I had to drive her to the Kaiser hospital in Oakland after the walk. She was diagnosed with strep throat; an occupational hazard for a first grade teacher.

Five Years Later and Life with Cancer

Sunday night I was sitting in a beautiful suite at the Westin Verasa Napa – alone.  My wife, Kelley, said to me over the phone, “Of course you have the best room at the hotel. I’m not with you.” This is a long-standing joke between us and truthfully the joke evolved due to the occurrence of many incredible complimentary hotel room upgrades happening when I travel alone. My room was not actually the best room at the Westin Napa, but damn near the best.

Kelley missed this trip because she had just finished her 46-hour strong chemotherapy treatment on Friday afternoon and her energy level was too low to travel.  This has been her sixth strong chemotherapy treatment since April.

Kelley has Stage 2 rectal cancer. She had no idea she was even ill when she had a routine colonoscopy after turning 50. Her tumor was removed in February, about 6 weeks after her initial diagnosis. In four weeks she will go from cancer patient to cancer survivor. She has only two more strong chemotherapy treatments to go before she completes the 6 month chemotherapy and radiation treatment regime. She hasn’t worked since February at her job as a kindergarten-first grade teacher.

Right after we learned of Kelley’s cancer diagnosis in January we went through what appears to be the textbook steps of cancer shock. I looked up the survival statistics and saw a Stage 2 rectal cancer patient has a five-year 60% survival probability.

Subsequently I have come to believe, as many cancer survivors will tell you, a person diagnosed with cancer should not be overly concerned with these survival statistics. The primary focus to maintain after being diagnosed with cancer is the attitude and determination to beat cancer and become a survivor. Kelley’s prognosis is good. The doctor’s estimate her chances at 90-95% remaining cancer free.

LiveStrong.

I heard or read a doctor’s statement, “Ignoring cancer is not an option.”

My brilliant strategy for dealing with her cancer was to take us on a California “Bucket List” of hotel travel. Our” Bucket List” kept getting pared down as the effects of cancer treatment took their toll on Kelley’s health and stamina. If you have read many of my hotel reviews from stays over the past few months you may recall that Kelley has spent most of our hotel stays sleeping in bed as I booked hotel stays to rack up Starwood free nights in May.

St. Regis Aspen was dropped from the bucket list while in Colorado since Kelley wasn’t sure how she would handle the altitude. She was her sickest the week before after her fourth round of chemotherapy. A three night stay at the SLS Beverly Hills was dropped since Kelley didn’t want to be in the smoggy air of Los Angeles.

Kelley’s inability to stay awake and enjoy the lovely hotels in the way I anticipated we would if we just kept living for fun was a bit of a bummer. It seemed to me at times that she simply wanted to sleep eight months of her life away and wake up after treatment ends. I have to remind myself, and sometimes remind her, that this treatment is rough stuff.

Everyone who sees her remarks how well she looks. She hasn’t lost all the hair on her head and to her dismay she hasn’t lost much weight either, even though we eat so much healthier these days.

Hilton HHonors and Walk for Hope San Francisco

Sunday night I was reading through mail in my Napa hotel room and came across the Walk for Hope San Francisco brochure.

Satori spark of light.

Organize a Loyalty Traveler team for the Saturday, October 3, 2009 San Francisco Walk for Hope in celebration of the end of Kelley’s 8-month cancer treatment. She will be finished with cancer treatment just a few days before her 51st birthday in September and two weeks before the San Francisco Walk for Hope 5K event.

I posted the Loyalty Traveler Walk for Hope team idea on Twitter. Drinking alone in Napa and Twitter are not always a good combination, but I think this time there was some positive insight.

I typed in Walk4Hope on Twitter search. Nothing. Walk for Hope San Francisco. Nothing.

I came across a tweet with a link to an article about male breast cancer.

180,000 women in the US last year were diagnosed with breast cancer. 2,000 men were also diagnosed with breast cancer. News to me.

Kelley repeatedly commented during her six weeks of radiation treatment how awkward she felt sitting in a waiting room with a group of women, almost all waiting for breast irradiation while almost all the men in an adjacent waiting room were undergoing prostate irradiation.  She felt the groups, rather than being segregated by sex, should be segregated by “no underwear” crowd or “no bra” crowd to better share the common radiation irritation complaints.

I woke up Monday morning in the Westin Verasa Napa hotel room and found the USA Today newspaper outside my door. The “Life” section of USA Today had a photo of cyclist Lance Armstrong and an article about his 1.7 million Twitter followers. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-08-23-lance_N.htm

Armstrong, in addition to riding the Tour of Ireland, has just completed a global cancer summit on using social media to spread awareness of cancer and the need for research.

The USA Today article stated, “Cancer kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.  Next year it is projected to become the world’s leading cause of death.”

Another section of the article states:

“Armstrong says American breast cancer survivors got much of the credit for helping to end the stigma of cancer, as early as the 1970s. “Women said, ‘No, we aren’t going to be ashamed of this.’ They empowered a whole bunch of women. And that empowered guys to go out and talk about prostate cancer and testicular cancer and colon cancer.”

On my drive home from Napa Monday, I listened to an hour long radio show on Berkeley’s KPFA, “About Health” with Dr. Lenoir discussing cancer. Comedian Robert Schimmel was his guest and discussed his book, Cancer on $5 a Day* (*Chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life

Many of us know someone who has cancer. Do you really know what that means?

Kelley and I had no idea how consuming cancer treatment is for the cancer patient and those caregivers who are needed to assist the patient. I was dropped from one of Loyalty Traveler’s paid gigs during Kelley’s radiation treatment. I couldn’t keep up with the work tasks. I can work anywhere and I still struggled to stay up on my work due to the time involved dealing with Kelley’s cancer.

Cancer treatment doesn’t wait for you or your caregivers to be unbusy.

Health Care Reform

We have a health care reform debate going on in this country right now. My wife has good insurance with her teaching job and Kaiser has promptly addressed her treatment. I read last month that the average breast cancer treatment therapy is a $200,000 regime.

Could you afford that cost without insurance? Would your insurance cover that cost?

We had to drive 180 miles roundtrip for 28 days of Kelley’s 6-week cancer radiation treatment. I drove Kelley over 5,000 miles in June and July to the oncology center in Santa Clara. The loss of Loyalty Traveler income isn’t as bad as if we hadn’t switched to Kaiser insurance coverage five years ago. The Blue Cross plan alternative would have allowed us to use the hospital two miles up the road, but our out-of-pocket expenses would have probably been $50,000+ for the 9 months of cancer treatment.

This country needs real health care reform.

A couple of articles I read this month by Henry Harteveldt and Glenn Haussman discuss hotel website usability.  I’d love to read Harteveldt’s Forrester research report, “Using Digital Channels to Calm the Angry Traveler” but the $500 price tag is out of my usability range.  

This loyalty traveler notices room size is mentioned on many hotel websites, but too many websites do not present any information on the cost of parking, the prices and menu selection at the hotel restaurant, fitness room and pool hours, or the location and views from different sides of the hotel.

This week I have run into the issue three times where I struggled to match the website room category descriptions with the room I stayed in at the hotel.

Descriptions on the hotel website of room types are often generic, detailed on room amenities, but not specific to any particular room category. In addition, there are sometimes variations with the room type categorization used in the booking process to the room category descriptions used on the hotel website.  

The room descriptions and one or two photos do not provide sufficient detail for me to positively identify the web site’s category description to the specific room I stayed in for a night and I have 25+ photos to help me make the correct match.

How is a guest supposed to make a relatively informed decision when spending $200 on a hotel booking for a room that is barely shown and poorly described on the hotel’s own website?

I typically take more photos in the first five minutes in a hotel room than the total photos for the entire property on the hotel’s own website.

Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research published the blog piece August 5, “Angry Travelers Consider Abandoning the Web”.  A graph shows only 34% of leisure travelers feel travel websites clearly present choices and tradeoffs when describing booking options.

2 out of 3 leisure travelers feel travel websites do not adequately present choices.

Glenn Haussman added more detail to Harteveldt’s research with his August 11 piece. Here is an excerpt explaining why the hotel website contributes to the leisure traveler’s focus on price rather than value. Hotel websites do a poor job convincing potential guests there is good value in higher priced rooms and packages.

 

Glenn Haussman, “Hotel Websites Fail to Meet Consumer Expectations”

HotelInteractive.com http://www.hotelinteractive.com/article.aspx?articleid=14516

 

One of the problems is that too many hotel branded websites fail to fully explain what comes with a specific rate. The end result is people make decisions based on price and not value. Harteveldt says consumers don’t live in a vacuum. They’re on sites all the time in different industries and they’re downloading applications for their iPhones. In these other arenas they are getting the full taste of customer focused websites and they like it.

 

The hotel industry, however, is not giving customers valuable information they need to make wise choices.

 

“One of the big points is the industry is focused on booking. But they have failed to evolve this and ignored the other phases of travel planning such as sharing information about the hotel brand proposition and the destination. They don’t even tell you what a standard or deluxe room means. They leave the consumer thinking about price only and ultimately no one wins,” says Harteveldt, who authored the recent Forrester report “Using Digital Channels To Calm The Angry Traveler.” He also said there should be gas calculators and a method for customers to shop based on their overall budget.

 

Other information conspicuously missing is basic elements such as room sizes, and the differences between room categories. A consumer may find a more expensive room a better value but without being able to understand the differences they respond by booking on price only.

 

Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero, San Francisco

Here is my Loyalty Traveler example of insufficient information for a traveler searching for information on the Hyatt Regency San Francisco hotel website.

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco is a triangle-shaped downtown San Francisco hotel. There are three sides to the hotel with different views and at least three major room types of deluxe bath, balcony, or standard room city view. The hotel website shows 9 different room categories for the hotel.

1.       Business Plan  no photos and minimal room description. No room size given.

2.       Regency Club City View only one photo shows five bed pillows and the top of a dresser. No other photos of this room type.

3.       Deluxe Double only one photo showing the beds. My experience as a traveler who has taken thousands of hotel room photos is the bed photo is one of the least informative pictures in helping visualize a room. Unless the bed is an uncommon design, then there is little information in a bed photo for the potential guest. We all know the shape and sizes of the bed. The rest of the room is what matters.

4.       Embarcadero Suite only one photo, however this photo makes the point in my statement above. The photo shows the room layout and only a small corner of the bed. This is an informative photo.

5.       Deluxe King only one photo with limited useful information.

6.       Regency Club Balcony King has only one photo and the difference between this and City View Regency Club is the balcony and the view. The website does not give a clear picture of a balcony or the difference in the views from Regency Club City View room.

7.       Guestroom only one photo of what I assume is the primary room category for the hotel and the lowest priced room type.  This photo of pillows gives no significant visual information to the potential guest.

8.       Balcony Suite only one photo with a partial view of the room interior for what should be one of the highest profit margin room bookings at the hotel. Why isn’t the website selling this room with a dozen suite photos?

9.       Balcony King Room only one photo shows partial room view. Can the potential guest even recognize the ocean in this photo?

This photo of the Regency Suite is in a set of photos under the tag “Dining and Entertainment” yet there is no Regency Suite shown in the room types listed above.

There is a virtual tour of room types with a Standard Room description yet there is no Deluxe Room shown in the virtual tour when this is two of the room types shown in the category descriptions.

Is a Deluxe room a standard room? Is “Guestroom” the same as a “Standard Room”?

A search for room rates on the hotel website shows “Bay View King”.

Which room category above matches Bay View King?

My guess was #7 Guestroom, but this is another example of the poor usability in matching room type wording used on the booking engine to the room category list on the hotel website. Reading the hotel room description it was described as a “Balcony King” room.

Looking at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco hotel factsheet, the rooms are described this way:

802 guestrooms, including 45 suites / parlors, 513 kings / queens, 245 double /

doubles, 104 Hyatt Business Plan®, 176 Hyatt Gold Passport®, 21 accessible rooms,

144 with balconies / patios, and 670 non-smoking rooms.

Another room category not previously mentioned is described as “176 Hyatt Gold Passport” rooms. I assume these are the Regency Club room types but I have no direct evidence from the website to support that correlation.

 

Loyalty Traveler Hyatt Regency San Francisco Photos

The Regency Club City View room is described as having a “lavish granite bathroom with built-in TV”. What does that mean to you? A picture of the built-in TV would probably have a significant effect on bookings for this room type.

Have you been in a bathroom with this kind of TV before? Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo with the TV turned on.

Hyatt Regency built-in bathroom mirror TV (not turned on)

Hyatt Regency built-in bathroom mirror TV (not turned on)

The Balcony Rooms are primarily located on the Sacramento Alley north side of the hotel. Here is a balcony view of the Embarcadero Center and San Francisco Bay.

 

View of San Francisco Bay from Hyatt Regency King Balcony room

View of San Francisco Bay from Hyatt Regency King Balcony room

 

Some rooms were remodeled in 2008 with no bathtub and a glass shower stall. The website does not clearly identify which room types have this style of bathroom.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco glass shower stall

Hyatt Regency San Francisco glass shower stall

Balcony Suite rooms are longer balconies shown here on the east facing side of the hotel and a similar set are located on the west facing side of the Hyatt Regency.

Hyatt Regency Balcony Suites have 30 foot long balcony

Hyatt Regency Balcony Suites have 30 foot long balcony

The Market Street side of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco hotel has some great views of the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Market Street view of Bay Bridge

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Market Street view of Bay Bridge

Here is a sample city view room from the Drumm Street front entrance side of the hotel.

 

Drumm Street room view of TransAmerica pyramid

Drumm Street room view of TransAmerica pyramid

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco has one of the best locations in San Francisco and some aspects of the hotel rank it as a premier choice for a San Francisco hotel stay. The Hyatt Regency hotel’s website does an inadequate job of selling the many features of this iconic San Francisco Embarcadero waterfront hotel.

Eclipse Fountain in Hyatt Regency San Francisco lobby

Eclipse Fountain in Hyatt Regency San Francisco lobby

 

I generally get to Las Vegas one or more times a year. I rarely gamble.

Las Vegas for me is an opportunity to combine cheap hotel stays at the Planet Hollywood Sheraton Resort and the Westin Casuarina, along with seeing family relatives who have all moved away from the California Central Coast due to the high cost of living.  I occasionally see other hotels like the Wynn, Bellagio, Paris, Venetian, and Mandalay Bay through my sisters’ and friends’ rooms. They spend more money in Vegas on hotels.

November and December often provide a great opportunity to earn Starwood hotel stays during end-of-year lucrative SPG promotions. Getting the necessary 25 hotel stays, or less J, required for SPG Platinum status while earning a good promotion bonus on a sub-$100 rate is my idea of the Vegas trifecta.

Las Vegas is a sure bet for this Starwood Preferred Guest.

 
 
 

Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Casino view from Bellagio

Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Casino view from Bellagio

The past couple of years I typically stay at both the Westin Casuarina and the Planet Hollywood while in Las Vegas. These hotels are separated by just one long Las Vegas block. Planet Hollywood is on the Las Vegas Strip and the Westin Casuarina is to the rear diagonally on East Flamingo and Koval.

 

 
 
 

Las Vegas Westin Casuarina

Las Vegas Westin Casuarina

And now there is the Starwood-brand element hotel in the suburb of Summerlin (Loyalty Traveler review here). An aloft hotel is scheduled to open in 2011.

I have always been upgraded to a Resort Vista or Strip Suite at Planet Hollywood as a Platinum member upgrade on my $59 to $79 room rate. I have never been inside a Panorama Suite at Planet Hollywood.

 
 
 

Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Bellagio fountain view

Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Bellagio fountain view

Midweek nights are cheapest for the Las Vegas Strip hotels and the lowest rates can double or triple for Friday and Saturday nights.

Sample rates for Planet Hollywood for Wednesday, August 26 (and Saturday, August 29):

Hollywood Hip $79 ($189) 450 square feet

Hollywood Hip Bellagio Fountain View $129 ($239) 450 square feet

Resort Room $129 ($239) 560 square feet

Resort Vista $189 ($299)  570 square feet

Strip Suite $229 ($339) 850 square feet

Panorama Suite $579 ($689) 1,255 square feet

 

I had room 2339, a 23rd floor Resort Vista room on the top floor of the short south facing front tower all the way at the front end of the hallway looking over Las Vegas Boulevard.

 
 
 

Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Room 2339 view of Strip south

Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Room 2339 view of Strip south

There is always some gift package associated with the Planet Hollywood rate. Last week I received a free bottle of alcohol on the $71 “Drinks on Us” AAA rate. The room rate included one complimentary bottle for each night of your stay. The choice was vodka, whiskey, tequila, champagne, wine, and some others. I expected generic Planet Hollywood label bottles, but the Planet Hollywood store choices were actually name brands. I recall Skyy vodka, but not the others. I chose a Beringer Chardonnay, but I wish a 6-pack of Stella Artois had been one of the choices. 

Planet Hollywood was the Starwood Sheraton Aladdin Hotel and underwent its transformation in 2007. The rooms still have the Arabian features of the Aladdin Hotel present in the bathroom fixtures with genie lamp shaped faucets.

 
 
 

Genie faucet on Planet Hollywood round tub

Genie faucet on Planet Hollywood round tub

Wikipedia offers a good description of Planet Hollywood along with historical information.

 
 
 

Planet Hollywood Room 2339 bathtub and 42-inch TV

Planet Hollywood Room 2339 bathtub and 42-inch TV

Planet Hollywood attractions:

1.       Sizeable rooms and views

2.       excitement and location of being on the Las Vegas Strip

3.       entertainment options within the Planet Hollywood and Miracle Mile shopping complex

Planet Hollywood detractions:

1.       Self-park lot requires a half-mile walk through the Miracle Mile Shops from the parking garage to the casino and through the casino to the elevators. I am familiar enough with the property to be able to walk from the hotel to the garage without getting lost and I clocked my time at 25 minutes to go from my hotel room through the Miracle Mile shops to the car and back again for an item I needed to retrieve. Going to the garage by the street route outside the lobby doors and walking the pavement beneath Planet Hollywood can save five minutes, but is a more hazardous journey weaving through cars, taxis, and busses zipping around the garage area.

2.       Planet Hollywood has two large pools that have some of the shortest open pool hours of any casino in Las Vegas. Last November the posted pool hours were just 10am to 4pm. Last week the hours were posted as 9am to 7pm.

 
 

Planet Hollywood North Pool

Planet Hollywood North Pool

 Westin Casuarina Attractions:

1.       Self park garage has easy and quick access

2.       Pool is open nearly 24 hours.

 

 
 
 

Westin Casuarina Las Vegas pool is open nearly 24 hours

Westin Casuarina Las Vegas pool is open nearly 24 hours

3.       Compact hotel and while the hotel has a casino in the lobby, the hotel has a much quieter adult ambience.  There are no pole dancers around the slot machines at the Westin.

Westin Casuarina detractions:

1.       Rooms are mostly same Classic type and relatively small (370 square feet) compared to planet Hollywood. There are only six top floor Executive suites (750 square feet) and I have never been upgraded to a suite here. There are four top floor Deluxe Suites (1,100 to 1,500 square feet).

 

 
 
 

Westin Casuarina Las Vegas Traditional Classic room

Westin Casuarina Las Vegas Traditional Classic room

2.       Generally more expensive than Planet Hollywood.

3.       The view one block east of the Las Vegas Strip consists primarily of large empty lots and the backside parking garages of the Las Vegas Strip casinos. This will likely change in the coming years as more casinos and hotels are built off the Strip, but for now the better view is facing north looking across to the Wynn and Encore Casinos.

 

 
 
 

Westin Casuarina view to north November 2008

Westin Casuarina view to north November 2008

Westin Casuarina Sample Rates for Wednesday, August 26 (and Saturday, August 29):

Classic Room, Low Floor $130 ($140)

Classic City-View, High Floor $155 ($165)

Deluxe Room, cardio equipment in room $155 ($165)

 
 

Westin Casuarina view to south. Planet Hollywood is on left.

Westin Casuarina view to south. Planet Hollywood is on left.

I never turned on the 42-inch TV over the tub in Room 2339 at the Planet Hollywood. The view through the window kept me mesmerized.

Planet Hollywood TV Eye

Planet Hollywood TV Eye

 Westin Casuarina attractions:When comparing the hotel experience at the Planet Hollywood and Westin Casuarina I have mixed feelings.The Miracle Mile shopping and entertainment center still looks like Desert Passage when looking up at the disneyesque building façades.

 

August 25 update: I just looked at some YouTube videos of Planet Hollywood Suites and I was blown away by the upgraded rooms in some of those videos.

There is also a TravelZoo special rate for Panorama Suites for the rest of this year from $199 midweek, however, I just tried 10 sample dates and did not find rate availability for a Panorama Suite.

http://lasvegas.destinations.starwoodhotels.com/Planet_Hollywood/TZOO_08.htm

On a side note: I just read an article from the Las Vegas Sun this morning that ended with a statement that pissed me off. Economic class warfare has placed many hotels in the predicament they now face and is not the way to improve hotel occupancy in this dire economic time for the industry:

Hotels might be discounting more than is necessary while alienating regulars and people with higher expectations,  UNLV professor Erdem said.

“Not everyone staying at these hotels minds paying $300 for a room but may mind hanging out with the people who paid $120 at the pool,” he said. “Price isn’t a simple matter.”

 

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/aug/24/seduction-room-rate/

If you are not currently a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club member, then here is your chance to earn a quick and free 2,500 Hilton HHonors points by joining Flying Club. You also earn 2,500 Flying Club miles.

Hilton HHonors/Virgin Flying Club Promotion link: http://www.virginatlantic.com/corporate/micropage.view.do?id=16513

Virgin Atlantic is an airline with loads of loyal flyers, comfortable cabins, good image, and hey, Richard Branson just looks rock star cool.

Pim, my cat, loves his Flying Club membership.  Pim has never flown Virgin Atlantic, but just having access to Flying Club member web pages makes Pim a happy pet.

Pim signed up for Flying Club last year (no promotion bonus) when I was doing paid research on Virgin Atlantic and learned my dormant Flying Club frequent flyer account was frozen. A phone call to Virgin Atlantic to plead my case for needing access to the member’s only section of the website to do my job fell on unsympathetic ears.

“Your account will be reactivated when you take a Virgin Atlantic flight.”

My wife’s account was locked too.

Pim, knowing his supply of cat food was on the line if Loyalty Traveler did not rake in a little cash, volunteered to become a Flying Club member. Being a loyal cat to me, Pim lets me use his Flying Club account now and then when I need to do Virgin Atlantic Flying Club research to earn some cash.

Pim, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Member

Pim, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Member

 

A new Priority Club Rewards promotion is offering 10,000 points for 4 unique InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards partner activities between August 20 and October 31.

Registration online between August 20 and October 31 is required.

Registration Link: https://secure.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/pc/1/en/ep?secure=true&_promoCode=3558

Priority Club Rewards Offer:

 

First activity = 1,000 points

Second Activity = 2,000 points

Third Activity = 3,000 points

Fourth Activity = 4,000 points

 

Maximum bonus points from this promotion = 10,000 points.

 

One eligible activity is a purchase of Priority Club points. This will assist the new member to Priority Club hotel stays with points to add to the 10,000 bonus to reach the 15,000 to 25,000 required for a free room night at most InterContinental Hotels Group hotels like Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inns, and Hotel Indigo. An InterContinental Hotel will run 30,000 to 40,000 points. PointBreaks are hotel offers at just 5,000 points for a free night with participating hotels.

 

A partner points to points conversion through Points.com is also an eligible activity and a good way to get more value out of some frequent flyer miles sitting in an orphan account that is unlikely to grow since you have no plan to fly the airline again anytime soon.

 

If you have a Priority Club branded VISA card, then you can count a credit card purchase as one activity.

 

Exchanging American Express Membership Rewards points counts as an activity.

Diners Club points exchanged into Priority Club points counts as an activity.

 

A Hertz car rental; Priority Club Rewards Shopping purchase, Netflix rental, Priority Club Rewards Dining by Rewards Network restaurant meal purchase, floral purchase, OfficeMax and a variety of other options can easily generate activity without the need to spend much money.

 

Here is the list of Priority Club Rewards Shopping partners: https://pcrshopping.dbgloyalty.com/all.jsp

 

Personally I can do Points.com, Diners Club exchange, purchase Priority Club points, and make a Priority Club Rewards Shopping Purchase in less than one hour and earn the bonus while spending less than $20.

 

Many Priority Club Rewards members can likely generate four activities with less than $20 in spending and earn the 10,000 Priority Club Rewards points bonus.

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