United Airlines Mileage Plus now allows the use of airline miles for a large selection of hotel awards.

The number of miles needed for a free night is related to the actual room rate, yet there is a wide range of redemption values depending on the hotel you choose. While many hotel free night redemptions will only have a value of about $7 to $9 per 1,000 miles, there are hotels with a redemption value in the $10 to $14 range per 1,000 miles. Loyalty traveler compared room rates with Mileage Plus redemption rates for some 4 and 5 star hotels in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Mileage Plus Hotel Awards link.

Mileage Plus Hotel Awards

San Francisco Hotels,  Monday October 5, 2009

Hotel

Room Rate

Mileage Plus Award

Redemption Value

per 1,000 miles

InterContinental

Mark Hopkins

$173

42,000

$4.12

Hyatt Regency

$206

27,200

$7.57

Grand Hyatt

$191

21,200

$9.01

Westin St. Francis

$310

26,400

$11.74

Hilton San Francisco

$205

17,450

$11.75

InterContinental

San Francisco (10-5)

$304

22,250

$13.66

 

Las Vegas Hotels,  Friday October 16

 

 

 

 

Paris Las Vegas

$201

27,250

$7.37

Mandalay Bay

$235

31,500

$7.46

Caesar’s Palace

$269

34,600

$7.75

Trump Hotel

$175

21,900

$7.99

Planet Hollywood

$235

29,000

$8.10

Hilton Grand Vacations on Strip

$127

15,550

$8.17

Palms

$291

34,700

$8.39

JW Marriott

$246

28,550

$8.62

Hard Rock Casino

$139

14,950

$9.30

Hotel at Mandalay Bay

$394

40,550

$9.72

Venetian

$336

31,850

$10.55

Ritz Carlton

Lake Las Vegas

$339

29,500

$11.49

Palazzo Resort

$370

31,850

$11.62

Westin Casuarina

$158

12,550

$12.59

Four Seasons

$461

31,850

$14.47

         

 

The redemption values in the table above show a wide range between hotels, from a low value of $4.12 per 1,000 miles to a high value of $14.47 per 1,000 miles. The good news is these hotels listed in the table above are just a small portion of the high end hotels available. Hotels in the 2 star and 3 star category are under 10,000 miles per night in many locations.

Careful comparison shopping of Mileage Plus miles to prevailing rates for the dates of your stay is vital for getting the best value from a hotel award.

 

Airline and Hotel Comparative Redemption Value

A typical domestic economy class airline award of 25,000 miles redeemed for a San Francisco SFO – New York JFK with a retail price of $304 has a redemption value of $12.16 per 1,000 miles.

First Class SFO –JFK priced out at $5,489 or 70,000 miles. This is a high redemption value of $78/1,000 miles.

But seriously, would you ever spend $5,500 to fly first class in a 3-cabin aircraft domestically?

Frequent flyer experts will generally advise you to save up your miles for Business Class or First Class international travel to get the best value. For example, San Francisco, SFO – London, LHR in First Class can easily be a $10,000 ticket or 135,000 Miles. This ticket will have a redemption value in the range of $75 per 1,000 miles.

Airline Ticket

Nov 10-Nov 17, 2009

Class of Service

Ticket Cost = Redemption Value

US$ per 1,000 miles

San Francisco – New York

Economy Class = 25,000 miles

$304 = $12.16/1,000 miles

 

First Class = 70,000 miles (3-Class)

$5,500 = $78.41/1,000 miles

San Francisco – Miami

Economy Class = 25,000 miles

$270 = $10.80/1,000 miles

 

First Class = 50,000 miles (2-class)

$1,376 = $27.52/1,000 miles

San Francisco – London

Economy Class = 55,000 miles

$720 = $13.10/1,000 miles

 

Business Class = 105,000 miles

$3,593 = $34.22/1,000 miles

 

First Class = 135,000 miles

$8,995 = $66.63/1,000 miles

 

The value of your miles increases greatly when redeeming for domestic or international Business Class or First Class tickets.

However, if you typically redeem your miles for economy class tickets, then you may find similar value using miles for hotel free night redemptions.

Previously Mileage Plus miles could be redeemed for a hotel certificate free night. This option is still available but hotel certificates are valid at only a select few hotel brands including Hyatt, Marriott, and Radisson.

Mileage Plus Hotel Certificates link:

http://www.united.com/page/article/0,5046,51237,00.html

Hotel Brand

Free Night Certificate

Hyatt Premier Certificate

21,000 miles

Hyatt Inspire Certificate

40,000 miles

Hyatt Participating Properties and Certificate Level

Marriott Premier Certificate

40,500 miles

Marriott Worldwide Elite Certificate

45,500 miles

Marriott Participating Properties for Premier Certificate

Marriott Participating Properties for Worldwide Elite Certificate

Radisson 1 Free Night

28,000 miles

 

Getting the best value from your Mileage Plus account miles requires selective use of awards for hotel rooms.

Spending 21,000 miles for a $300 per night hotel room is a decent redemption value on par with an economy class ticket.

Spending 40,000 miles for a $200 per night room is like spending 25,000 miles for a $125 economy class ticket and not a good value for your miles.

Your Mileage Plus miles can be redeemed for good value with hotels. Just be sure to compare your hotel options carefully and compare hotel rates in miles with cash rates to find good value.

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Finding a good email hotel rate offer is hard work. I want to rant about the crap offers that regularly come into my email inbox. Most of the hotel special rate offers I analyze are offers I never write about since they are such blatantly poor value for money. Today I will share the latest offers I found in my email inbox from the major hotel chains.

Marketing sales is a science I have not studied from a seller’s perspective. From a consumer perspective as a traveler who will stay in hotels several days over the next month I have to ask the question. Why do hotels regularly send me emails promoting poor value room rate special offers?

The email special rate offers are generally so bad that I tend to go no deeper than skim my hotel email. After many years of email offers from Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG –  I still think I can count the good value offers I’ve received in the past five years in low double digit numbers. My general evaluation of emails from hotel chains is 95% of the time the rate is not a good value compared to what you would find by a simple search for better rates on the hotel’s website.

AAA rates are the first place to start for better value. Special offers on a specific hotel’s website will usually find a better special offer rate than the national or regional rate offers sent from the hotel corporate office to your email box.

I actually just pulled that 95% estimate out of the air. A systematic approach to hotel email analysis would have more consumer validation. So, here are recent package offers I have received from Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, and Starwood in emails this past month.

Hotel Deals for Stupid People

Hilton Hotels Doubletree is first on the rate analysis block since their Doubletree promotion email for the Fall Getaway Package $50 Food & Beverage Credit put me on this rant today.

Hilton's Doubletree Fall Weekend Package

Hilton's Doubletree Fall Weekend Package

 

First – the fine print, that tiny font at the bottom of the promotion ad states this offer is only valid with a two-night stay.

Why not put that detail in the clearly visible print?

This promotion made me recall fond memories of a stay at the Doubletree Sonoma in Rohnert Park back in 2001. The hotel upgraded me to a suite with a Jacuzzi tub that took 90 minutes to fill. I paid a $75 room rate. And I was only Hilton HHonors Gold. I wouldn’t mind staying there again.

Rate check: Doubletree Sonoma in Rohnert Park

December 4-6, Friday-Sunday

 

Fall Weekend Getaway Rate = $154 per night (cancellation policy 24 hours before arrival)

Best Available Unrestricted rate (BAR) = $129 per night (cancellation policy 24 hours before arrival)

Internet nonrefundable rate = $74 per night.

 

Are you kidding me?

 

Doubletree is actually running a promotion for a $50 food and beverage credit on a two night stay that has a room rate exactly $50 more than the rate otherwise available for the same room type and same cancellation policy.

Actually the Fall Weekend Getaway rate is even slightly higher since the 14% hotel tax on the $50 Food & Beverage credit is higher than the 9% state sales tax if you just go to the restaurant and pay for the meal.

 

Better yet for me as a consumer is my option to book a nonrefundable rate and have $150 for dining and beverages anywhere I please over the weekend, including alcohol which is excluded from the $50 F&B credit in the special offer rate.

 

Hyatt’s Balance Spa Credit Package

 

Hyatt Spa Package includes breakfast daily, $100 spa credit and 5,000 Gold Passport points. Since Hilton has me thinking about Sonoma County I decided to check this offer for the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa. I checked hotel rates for Monday and Tuesday, November 16-18 since these tend to be the lower rate nights for Sonoma County hotels where Bay Area getaways drive rates up on weekends.

Hyatt Hotels Spa Balance Package

Hyatt Hotels Spa Balance Package

 

Hyatt’s Balance Spa Package costs $598 for 2 nights and I get $100 spa credit and 5,000 Gold Passport points.

 

$376 all-in is the Best Available Rate (BAR) for the same room with the same cancellation policy of 24 hours before arrival.

 

The spa package is an additional $222 for the weekend for a $100 spa credit, breakfast for two, and 5,000 points. Since the spa credit has a $100 value for a guest using the spa, the package differential is the extra $122 for 5,000 points and breakfast for the two mornings. Points are generally worth between 1.5 and 2.5 cents per point when redeeming for a free night meaning the 5,000 points have a potential value in most hotel redemption cases of $75 to $125.

 

Hyatt’s Balance spa package is a decent value compared to a comparable best available rate (BAR) since it essentially provides complimentary breakfast for the hotel stay considering the equivalent value of the Spa credit and bonus points in this one example.

 

$320 all in for the same room on the same weekend is for risk takers who are willing to accept the terms of a nonrefundable rate.

 

In this comparison the difference in rates at $280 less for a two night stay is nearly half-off if you just buy the room and forget the package concept of a $100 spa credit, free breakfast, and 5,000 points.

 

The question becomes, “Is breakfast for two mornings and 5,000 points worth $180?”

 

In my opinion the answer is no.

 

Priority Club Points & Cash for Flights

 

This was actually a Priority Club marketing person who read this blog and sent me an email to check out the Points & Cash option for flights.

 

I haven’t evaluated many flights yet.

 

Priority Club Points & Cash Flight Sample

 

Monterey, CA – Denver, CO

Fri, Oct 23- Mon, Oct 26

1 Adult Coach Class ticket

 

83,000 Priority Club Points

Delta/Northwest (2-stops)

Fare on Kayak.com = $289

 

131,000 Priority Club points

American Airlines (1-stop)

 

174,000 Priority Club points

United Airlines nonstop

Priority Club Cash & Points rate reduces to $600.60 + 20,000 points.

United.com rate = $590.00 all-in

 

Redemption rate for Priority Club points is $3.39 per 1,000 points just using points for a United Airlines nonstop flight. Only a stupid person would pay use Priority Club for this ticket and spend 20,000 points + $10 more than a ticket purchased directly from United Airlines.

 

I like to get a minimum of $10.00 per 1,000 points with my redemptions. My last Priority Club free night redemption was worth over $20 per 1,000 points when I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express on a 5,000 points Points Break free night.

 

Delta Airlines is a $289 fare or 83,000 PC points. The redemption value for the Priority Club member is only $3.48 per 1,000 Priority Club points. This is a poor use of points. You can easily get a redemption value of $15 per 1,000 Priority Club points using your points for hotel redemptions by waiting for better opportunities to spend your points.

Priority Club Points for Flights

Priority Club Points for Flights

 

Starwood Hotels sent a W Hotels 40% discount offer using promotion code “Daily21”. I checked Scottsdale and the code wasn’t valid for a 4-night stay I tried using November dates.

 

$203 per night was the lowest rate I saw for the four nights. That is a nonrefundable, no changes rate. AAA quickly lowered the rate to $179 per night. In fact the next higher category room was only $202, one dollar less than the nonrefundable discount rate. And I didn’t even delve into the multi-night discount codes to look for free night rates which would likely take at least another $100 to $200 off a 4-night stay.

W Hotels 40% Discount with DAILY21 code

W Hotels 40% Discount with DAILY21 code

 

Marriott Free Night in the Caribbean or Mexico

 

Sep 7-Dec 12, 2009 Marriott Sand Dollars package (promotion code M11)

-Free night (stay requirements vary by resort)

-Breakfast for two daily

-$100 resort credit per stay

 

First, I checked Aruba and I didn’t see any information regarding the minimum stay requirement since I couldn’t find this special rate using the link from the email.

 

I did find a similar rate on the Marriott Aruba special offers page.

Dates checked: Sun, Nov 22 – Fri, Nov 27

Special rate “S29” with free night, breakfast, and $100 per stay resort credit

Lowest S29 special offer rate: $289 per night. With free night this would mean pay 4 nights = $1,156 (before tax).

 

AAA rate for same room type is $145 per night. 5 nights = $725.

 

The Free Night + $100 Credit Rate is $431 more (before tax) for a $100 credit and five days of breakfast. $331 is some expensive breakfast tabs over 5 days.

 

My preference is to book the ocean view room at $220 per night for my stay. $1,100 for five nights. Checking out the ocean view while staying at a resort hotel in Aruba holds a lot more value to me than free breakfast with the S29 rate.

Aruba Marriott Free Night Special Offer Rates

Aruba Marriott Free Night Special Offer Rates

 

The best hotel email in my inbox lately is from Accor A-Club. I registered Kelley as a new member a couple of weeks ago and she received a 2,000 points registration bonus. Last week Accor A-Club sent Kelley a Happy Birthday email with another 500 points birthday gift. After earning 2,500 loyalty points in September 2009, Kelley is now an A-Club Silver elite member eligible for a 50% elite bonus on her Accor hotel stays.

 

Happy Birthday from your A|Club team!

This is the ideal opportunity for us to thank you for your loyalty by offering you a birthday bonus of 500 A|Club points !

Maybe you’ll be able to use this exceptional bonus to order an A|Club rewards gift voucher to pay for all or part of your next stay at one of the 2,000 Accor hotels participating in the program, or to convert your points into airline miles to get your free ticket and head off to your dream destination even sooner!

To earn even more points, take advantage of the many promotional A|Club offers listed on
www.a-club.com.

See you soon on www.a-club.com and at the 2,000 participating Accor hotels around the world!

Your A|Club team

 

Now that is an email with value.

If you think being underwater $100,000 on your home mortgage is bad, imagine trying to sleep at night thinking about how your $400 million hotel investment has lost $100 million in value with the real estate crisis of the past two years.

The western playground of Scottsdale, Arizona has newly opened hotel properties like the InterContinental Montelucia and Starwood’s W Hotel Scottsdale sitting around waiting for foreclosure auctions.

So why are hotel loyalty programs being so generous?

And why are loyalty travelers so happy?

Hotel loyalty program bonus promotions have offered some of the most generous bonus incentives for frequent guests in years. Free night offers and bonus point offers are hard, fast, and repetitive, yet hotel occupancy and hotel room rates are still declining after a full year of unprecedented declines for the lodging industry.

Hotel loyalty programs are increasing the value of hotel points by offering repeated discounts on the cost of a free night using points. IHG Points & Cash; Marriott Rewards discount on PointSaver nights; Starwood Preferred Guest eliminating higher point peak season rates for 2009 on free nights using points at its high-end hotel Category 5, 6, and 7 properties.

Ironically, in the face of increased value for hotel points, Hilton HHonors has cut back on availability using Point Stretcher discount nights with HHonors points for 2009. A rumor spread on FlyerTalk in July stating HHonors Point Stretcher nights, free nights using points at a 40% discount, would be discontinued for 2009. In August, a Hilton HHonors posted a statement on its website stating Point Stretcher awards would be posted in September. It is now September 28 and there have been no hotels posted.

The message now simple states: Point Stretcher Dates are currently unavailable.

http://hhonors1.hilton.com/en_US/hh/rewards/pointstretcher.do

And occupancy levels are still declining and hotel rates continue to fall every month for the past year.

Hotel loyalty programs are repeatedly lowering the qualification requirements for hotel loyalty program elite status in 2009. Starwood, Marriott, and Hyatt offered double elite credit in 2009 promotions and Hilton will give most anyone a shot at Gold for 4 stays. IHG sells InterContinental Ambassador status and purchasing your way to Priority Club Platinum is a fairly easy task.

And occupancy levels are still declining around the US.

Hotel rates in the US have dropped nearly 10% in the past 12 months and some locations have posted 15% to 20% declines in room rates.

And occupancy levels are still declining around the US.

Why the next two months are important to watch for hotel industry indicator data.

A year has passed since the economic bubble burst bringing lower rates to the hotel industry. The industry is only projecting profitability to start improving in the latter part of 2010. The next two months may still show declines in occupancy and room rates and these will be based on the large declines in occupancy and rates from October and November 2008.

 

2009 snapshot of US hotel industry room rate and occupancy data.

 

December 2008

The occupancy and room rate declines were quite apparent a year ago in late 2008 when in the first week of December 2008 New York City occupancy had declined 9.2% from the same week in 2007 as room rates had fallen 14.9% over the year to average $348 per night. Rates had pushed $380 average by 2007.

 

In December 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted a 2% decline in US hotel demand for 2009 and a RevPAR decline of 5.8%. http://www.hotelmarketing.com/index.php/content/article/hotel_giants_seek_refuge_in_niches/

 

February 2009

February is the peak travel month of the year for Hawaii. In February 2009 the numbers showed a 12.4% room rate decline from 2008 with room rates dropping from $213.62 to $187.21. The room occupancy rate fell to 74.7%, its lowest level since the 1991 Gulf War. http://www.usatoday.com/travel/hotels/2009-04-06-hawaii-hotel-occupancy_N.htm

 

March 2009

Hotel Marketing published hotels.com findings in late March 2009 indicating New York City real room rates had dropped to $255, a 22% drop for the final quarter of 2008 compared to 2007. The data also stated real room rates were only 1% higher than January 2004.

http://www.hotelmarketing.com/index.php/content/print/global_hotel_prices_down_by_12_percent/

 

By mid-March 2009 the hotel industry forecast by PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR) called for hotel occupancy to drop 7.8% in 2009 across the US. The 6.4% predicted drop in average daily rate would designate 2009 as the greatest hotel rate decline since data was first tracked in 1932 by PKF-HR. Remember the forecast made in December 2008 by PwC was 2% occupancy decline for the year. The biggest plunge in hotel profits since the 1930s was predicted.

PKF predicts the greatest hotel rate discounting will occur in Summer 2009.

“In 2010, the vast majority of cities are still forecast to experience a decline in RevPAR for the year.  However, emerging signs of economic recovery are expected in many markets, and 14 cities across the U.S. will enjoy RevPAR increases over 2009.  Joining Anaheim and Minneapolis as the markets expected to lead the lodging industry recovery are the cities of Atlanta, Austin, Detroit, Oahu, Fort Worth, Raleigh, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, Columbus, Albuquerque, and Houston.”

 

U.S. Lodging Markets

Greatest and Least 2009 Forecast Decline in RevPAR*

Market

Decline

Pittsburgh

-6.8%

Houston

-6.9%

Raleigh

-7.5%

New Orleans

-7.9%

National Average

-13.7%

Charlotte

-18.7%

Miami

-19.1%

Phoenix

-20.5%

New York

-26.1%

Source: PKF Hospitality Research

 

* March 2009 Hotel Horizons Report

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles.aspx?ArticleId=859&ArticleType=0&print=true

 

RevPAR is an indicator of hotel profitability. So did we seen signs of RevPAR declines in line with this forecast in the 6 months since the table was published?

New York RevPAR decreased 31.8% for August 2009. Nationally RevPAR decreased 19% for August 2009. Phoenix RevPar had decreased 25.8% by July 2009 according to STR compared to the PKF forecast of 20.5% for the year. These three indicators show more than a 5% negative variance on the figures in the table. The hotel industry is worse off than the March 2009 forecast.

 

April 2009

Smith Travel Research data for the first week of April  2009 showed Anaheim average room rates had dropped 17% to $107 per night. Chicago also listed above as a market recovery leader saw a 22% year-to-year drop in occupancy from April 2008 and a 24% average room rate decline to $111 per night.

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles.aspx?ArticleId=980&ArticleType=0&PageType=SameAuthor&print=true

 

At the end of April STR released a revised 2009 hotel industry forecast calling the first two quarters of 2009 to be the trough and relief emerging in the latter part of 2009. Year-end occupancy in US hotels was projected to decline 6.5% to 56.5%. The average daily room rate was projected to be down 3.6% to $102.89.

May 2009

Luxury Hotels Room Rates Drop

In late May 2009 STR’s Luxury Chain Scale, a composite of about 30 luxury and high-end hotel brands showed occupancy had declined 14.5% to 63.1% by April 2009 compared to April 2008. Room rates had fallen 16% to $249 per night across these hotel brands.

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/articles.aspx?ArticleId=1259&PageType=Featured&ArticleType=1&print=true

 

June 2009

By June PKF revised its forecast to project falling room rates for the remainder of 2009, however, the rate declines would slow later in the year. Occupancy declines were still projected at 8.1% and room rate declines for the year were posted at 10.2% for 2009. Room rates were also predicted to fall another 3.3% in 2010.

http://www.btnonline.com/businesstravelnews/headlines/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003983721

 

STR released May 2009 data showing all 25 major hotel markets in the US saw year-over-year declines in average daily rates and occupancy. Oahu, Hawaii had the lowest occupancy decline of any major market at 4.9% drop.

Detroit, predicted by PKF to be a leading indicator of hotel market recovery in 2009, led the US in occupancy decline at -20% from May 2008. Houston and Dallas also cited by PKF as hotel recovery indicator markets had greater than 15% occupancy declines.

Nashville had the lowest decline in average room rate at just 4.1% to $91 per night.

STR June monthly data showed Minneapolis, Houston, Phoenix, and Detroit had seen the largest occupancy declines in the nation, each city with more than a 15% drop in guests. Three of these cities were cited as leading indicators for hotel market recovery by PKF in March 2009. New Orleans was the only major market to show slight gains in rates, yet still showed a slight decline in occupancy.

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles.aspx?ArticleId=1577

 

July 2009

In July STR came out with a summer 2009 forecast of the hotel industry indicating some stabilization may be in sight. STR’s revised forecast called for 2009 year-end occupancy to decline 8.4% and Average Daily Rate by 9.7% to $96.43. In the three months since the STR April forecast the ADR decline had jumped from 3.6% to 9.7% for 2009.

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles.aspx?ArticleId=1487&ArticleType=1&PageType=Todays&print=true

 

The STR data in July showed New York average room rates had dropped 26.6% to $180 per night. San Francisco (ADR $118), Oahu (ADR $180), Houston (ADR $86), and San Diego (ADR $124) had all seen room rates drop more than 15% over the course of the previous year.

September 2009 – The Current Situation in the US Hotel Industry

In September 2009 STR released a hotel industry forecast stating transient leisure growth was the recognizable trend. STR looks cautiously to leisure travelers continuing to spend in hotels and bring the hotel industry indicators into positive territory in November 2009.

Why are hotel loyalty programs being so generous? The leisure traveler is leading the recovery of the industry and hotel chains have a desire and an interest to retain leisure travelers.

STR monthly hotel data numbers for August 2009 shows occupancy declined 9.9% to 60.7% across the US. ADR has dropped 10.1% to $96.58 per night.

The US lodging markets with the lowest decreases in occupancy are Washington,D.C. (65.5%), Boston (74.1%), San Francisco (84.7%), Oahu (78.3%), and Tampa (48.2%). The other 20 major hotel markets had occupancy decreases in excess of 5% from August 2008 led by Detroit and Houston.

The average daily rate declined the most in Denver with a rate drop in excess of 30% to an ADR of $90 per night. New York (ADR $186), San Francisco (ADR $128), San Diego (ADR $131), and Minneapolis (ADR $92), all saw rates drop more than 15% in the past year.

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles.aspx?ArticleId=1914&ArticleType=38&PageType=STRPressRelease

 

Hotels and the Loyalty Traveler

Now in late 2009 we are looking at any further decline being weaker demand and rates on top of the steep hotel indicator drops from a year ago.

Loyalty travelers are loyal.

Hotels who offer a bargain to the loyalty traveler will see more frequent guests and those frequent guests will likely still be around when the group meetings resume and the general economy improves.

Happy loyalty travelers skimping to travel on the cheap in 2009 will find the way to hotels in hard times. Many of those same happy travelers will be high spending at hotels when times are better for the economics of hotels and the wallets of travelers.

That is why hotel loyalty programs are being so generous in 2009.

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Country Inn & Suites is the most prevalent hotel brand of Carlson Hotels in the USA. Carlson Hotels is the chain behind Goldpoints Plus, the hotel loyalty program for the hotel brands of Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Suites. The Carlson Hotels chain has around 1,000 properties globally with Radisson Hotels being the chain’s upscale brand in many major US cities and cities around the world.

The Offer: Complete a two night stay at a Country Inn & Suites using the “FREESTAY” promotional rate between October 1 and November 30, 2009.

Promotion link and terms:

http://www.countryinns.com/Fall2009

 

The promotion actually works out to require a minimum of three non-discounted paid nights over two stays at Country Inn & Suites to receive one free night.

1.       Complete a two-night or longer stay at a Country Inn & Suites hotel using “FREESTAY” promotional rate between October 1 and November 30.

2.       Register your completed stay by December 9, 2009 at website link: www.freenightregistration.com

 

3.       Country Inn & Suites will send a free night voucher valid for one free night at a Country Inn & Suites on a future stay of two nights or longer hotel stay between December 15 and February 28, 2010.

4.       Redeem free night voucher at www.countryinns.com/freenightreward or by phone at 1-800-596-2375. Minimum 3-day advance reservation required.

 

Compared to other free night offers like Hyatt Gold Passport’s “The Next Big Thing” or Starwood Hotels’ Free Weekend Nights offer last summer, this is a cumbersome offer from Carlson Hotels requiring an unnecessary middle step.

Why isn’t the voucher automatically sent to the person who books a stay using the “FREESTAY” promotional code?

Requiring after-the-stay registration to receive the free night voucher is so retro – and not in a good sense.

This Country Inn & Suites Free Night promotion is a decent offer if you have travel plans that fit with two 2-night or longer stays at a Country Inn & Suites  hotel within the dates of this promotion. This promotion does not provide sufficient  incentive to go out of your way for this offer.

If you have the option of a Hyatt brand hotel during this time period, the terms are much more lucrative for the hotel frequent guest with a free night at any Hyatt worldwide after two stays (no 2-night minimum required) between October 1 and Jan 31, 2010. Link: http://goldpassport.hyatt.com/gp/en/index.jsp

Loyalty Traveler Hotel Loyalty Promotion Key Ranking = 2 Keys out of 5 for Country Inn & Suites free night offer.

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Restaurant.com has dining certificates on sale today until 11:59pm Pacific time. Restaurant.com sells certificates for dining discounts, mostly at $10, $25, or $50 face value. Several of the participating restaurants in the program are located in major hotels or near major hotels.

This sale has been going on for several days and I have been planning to write an article about the opportunities for hotel dining discounts, but I just noticed this morning that the sale is time-limited and ends tonight.

Restaurant.com 70% Savings link: http://www.restaurant.com/consumer-promotion/lp_5a.asp

 

Here is the Restaurant.com deal:

1.       Sign up at Restaurant.com for an account if you are not a member.

2.       Look for hotel restaurants in places you plan to visit in the next couple of months.

3.       Buy a certificate at 70% savings in the value amount you can reasonably use for your dining. Restaurant menus can be accessed through links on the Restaurant.com website to help plan your certificate value.

4.       $25 dining certificate is regularly $10, but only $3 with this special offer. Usage rules are variable and posted on the site, but generally require either a $35 or $50 minimum tab, or two entrée order. $22 savings on a $35 to $50 tab.

5.       $50 dining certificate usually requires minimum $100 spending, but the cost for a $50 certificate is only $6 with today’s special offer. $44 savings on a $100+ tab.

6. Use Discount Code TREAT when ordering to receive 70% discount on certificate.

Some Gift Certificate Terms & Conditions:

  • limit of one certificate redemption per party, per month, per restaurant. (You can’t use a restaurant.com certificate for every meal of your week-long stay!)
  • Only one gift certifcate can be used per party even if seated at separate tables. (You can’t hang out with your FlyerTalk buddies eating dinner and then both of you whip out a restaurant.com certificate even though you asked for separate checks.)
  • No cash back on redemption value of certificate.
  • Valid for parties of two or more unless otherwise stated.
  • Valid for dine-in only unless otherwise stated.
  • Use of gift certificate for alcoholic beverages is at sole discretion of restaurant. (Always wise to ask first before finding out that $80 bottle of wine doesn’t get you to the $150 minimum purchase for your $75 certificate.)
  • Gift certificates can be exchanged for Restaurant.com Gift Certificates within 90 days of purchase date.
  • Gift certificate expires 1 year from date of issue, except in California. (Where I assume consumer protection regulations mean the expiration is a longer date??)

Loyalty Traveler analysis:

When I search 93940 using my Monterey, California zip code I see there are certificates for the two restaurants at the Hyatt Highlands Inn in Carmel: Pacific’s Edge and California Market.

I anticipate staying at the Highlands Inn using some of the Faster Free Nights I will earn over the next few months. As a Gold Passport Diamond member I will likely get complimentary breakfast, but with the dining certificate I can go all out on the menu order or get a dinner dining discount.

The Highlands Inn restaurants only come in $25 certificates for $10. This is unfortunate since a $100 dining tab at Pacific’s Edge is fairly easy to rack up and most upscale restaurants offer a $50 certificate for $20.

California Market certificate at Hyatt Highlands Inn

California Market certificate at Hyatt Highlands Inn

 

 

 

Pacific’s Edge requires a two entrée order. Assume the meal is $60 all-in. Your $25 Restaurant.com certificate only cost $3 so your net cost for a $60 tab is $38.

California Market is the breakfast restaurant at the Highlands Inn. In the past my tab has run about $45 for breakfast. The certificate requires a minimum of $35 in dining spend which is fairly easy to do with two diners. Assume you have a $45 breakfast tab all-in. The purchase of a $3 restaurant.com certificate for California Market will reduce your hefty breakfast tab from $45 to $23 for a hearty breakfast without leaving the Highlands Inn property.  

Restaurant.com 70% off dining certificates make extravagantly priced hotel restaurants merely high-priced.

Restaurant.com 70% Savings on Dining Certificates

Restaurant.com 70% Savings on Dining Certificates

 

 

 

Other Hotel (or near hotel) restaurants I saw available on Restaurant.com:

Scottsdale, AZ

Starwood Hotels The Phoenician – Il Terrazzo (This property offers up to $100 certificates)

 

San Francisco, CA

Elephant & Castle Pub is across the street from Le Meridien San Francisco.

 

San Francisco Airport (SFO)

Hyatt Regency SFO – Scalini Italian Restaurant

 

View from California Market restaurant patio, Hyatt Highlands Inn, Carmel, CA

View from California Market restaurant patio, Hyatt Highlands Inn, Carmel, CA

 

 

 

Starwood Hotels reached a statistical milestone in 2009 of 500 hotels in North America with the opening of the St. Regis Atlanta. An article last week in HotelsMag.com provided some interesting growth patterns for Starwood Hotels achieved in 2009.

                W Ft. Lauderdale is the 30th W Hotel worldwide.

                Element Denver Park Meadows is the 5th Element Hotel in North America (and worldwide).

Aloft Tallahassee Downtown is the 30th Aloft Hotel worldwide. While nearly all Aloft Hotels currently open are located in the US, there is already an Aloft Hotel open in Beijing and the Aloft Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open in about six weeks. India is scheduled to open several Aloft brand hotels in the next two years and Brussels will be the first Europe location scheduled for opening September 2010. Aloft Hotels directory link.

Four Points, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada is the 100th Four Points hotel in North America.

Starwood Hotels is poised to reach 1,000 hotels open worldwide in 2009.

Paul Sacco, Senior Vice President of Development for Starwood’s North America Division, points to hotel conversion as a major growth opportunity for Starwood Hotels. In this tough economic climate for hotel owners there will be plenty of hotel rebranding over the next couple of years.

 

 

The future holds plenty of potential for loyalty travelers as the major hotel chains grow and absorb more independent hotels and hotels organized in smaller associations.

 

Le Méridien Panama, the newest hotel in the brand, is Starwood’s first Le Méridien property in Central America. http://www.hotelsmag.com/article/CA6698826.html

 

element by Westin, Summerlin, NV (Las Vegas)

element by Westin, Summerlin, NV (Las Vegas)

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Best Western Rewards in conjunction with MasterCard is offering double, triple, or quadruple points for 2, 3, or 4 nights from September 13 through November 22, 2009. Like many Best Western promotions this one is capped at bonus points for a maximum of four eligible nights during the promotion.

The nights do not need to be consecutive nights at same hotel. The hotel nights do need to be paid with MasterCard.

Registration is required before nights will count for promotion.

Promotion is valid for residents of North America, South America, Asia, and South Africa.

(Is there a different offer for Europeans or is Best Western Rewards mad at Europe?)

Promotion registration link: https://goldcrownclub.bestwestern.com/offers/seasonal.asp?cm_mmc=Email-_-August+09-_-Newsletter-_-Links&season=FALL&ptype=email

 

Loyalty Traveler Promotion Analysis

Here is the way I understand the terms for points earning with this promotion assuming a room rate of $80 per night for a maximum four eligible nights paid with a MasterCard.

Best Western Rewards will determine the eligible nights stayed during the promotion period. The member will earn at the normal rate of 10 points per dollar for the first eligible night.  The second night earns bonus points equal to 20 points per dollar and the bonus applies back to the first eligible night whether it is part of the same stay or a different hotel stay. Stay a 3rd night during the promotion period and all three nights will be adjusted to earn 30 points per dollar. Four nights will earn 40 points per dollar.

Sample Earning:

October 10, Night 1

$80 rate = 800 Best Western Rewards points (10 points per $1)

Total points earned for $80 = 800 points

 

October 17, Night 2

$80 rate = 1,600 points

Total points earned for both nights 1 and 2 is based on $160 total spend = 3,200 points

 

October 24, Night 3

$80 rate = 2,400 points

Total points earned for $240 x 30 points per dollar (3 cumulative nights) = 7,200 points

 

October 31, Night 4

$80 rate = 3,200 points

Total points earned for $320 (4 cumulative nights) x 40 points per $1 = 12,800 points

 

The total promotional value of 4 nights is 12,800 points in this example using an average room rate of $80 per night. This is not a particularly valuable offer unless you already have Best Western points or you are willing to spend more per eligible night.

 

Best Western Rewards free nights start at 8,000 points and the next lowest level is 12,000 points per free night.  There are probably fewer than 15% of Best Western Hotels in the 8,000 or 12,000 points free night range. One website limitation of Best Western Rewards is the inability to look up hotels within each category point level for a free night. Each hotel must be checked individually.

 

Hotel free nights are based on categories starting at 8,000 points and increasing by incremental levels of 4,000 points. The highest category Best Western hotels located in most major cities and resort areas are 24,000 points, 28,000 points, 32,000 points, or 36,000 points for a free hotel night.

 

Another  example using a four night hotel stay at a higher cost Best Western hotel:

Assume you are in a major city (New York) with a Best Western rate of $150 per night for four consecutive nights from October 15-19.

The points earned will be based on $600 in base hotel spend x 40 points per $1.

24,000 points earned with just one hotel stay and four nights.

 

Conclusion: This is a promotion that is more valuable if you have high cost room nights. Since the promotion is maxed at only four nights worth of bonus points, the more you spend on the first four nights after registering for this promotion will give better promotion value.

Also, you could alternate your payment method and only pay your highest spend hotel nights with a MasterCard. This would allow you to use a different credit card brand to pay for lower spend nights and avoid these low spend nights being tabulated for this promotion.

 

At the 24,000 points level there are a number of hotel choices for a Best Western free night using points at a higher category hotel. The number of hotels in the 4,000 hotel Best Western chain available for 24,000 points is in the thousands, whereas 12,800 points will severely limit the hotels available for a free night to several hundred hotels at the lower end properties in the chain.

Best Western Monterey Inn

Best Western Monterey Inn

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InterContinental  Hotels Group has a recurring 2-for-1 offer at Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express properties in the UK and Europe. The current offer is valid for hotel stays through February 12, 2010.

2-for-1 Discount Link http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/6c/1/en/c/1/content/dec/teaser/6c/1/en/lp/emea/twofor.html?rateCode=IDEX1

 

The primary consideration to keep in mind when booking these two nights for the price of one rates is the reservation is nonrefundable and may not be changed.

 

Sample rates for Cologne, Germany

October 18-20, 2009

 

Holiday Inn Express Muelheim 27.50 EUR per night (US$40.35 per night)

Holiday Inn Cologne Am Stadtwald 50.00 EUR per night (US$73.35 per night)

 

One of the better features of this IHG 2-for-1 rate discount is the ability to book higher category rooms, including suites, at significant discounts.

 

Crowne Plaza London – The City

October 18-20, 2009

Standard Room = 112.50GBP per night (US$180.16 per night)

One Bedroom Suite with City Views = 207.50GBP per night (US$332.30 per night)

 

These discount rates earn Priority Club Rewards points.

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Free Night Easy as 1-2-3. New members who join Marriott Rewards and complete two stays at any Marriott brand hotel worldwide from August 15 through November 15, 2009 will earn a free night certificate.

Free night electronic certificate is valid for up to a Marriott Rewards Category 4 property. Certificate is valid for free room night and related taxes. Certificate will post to account four weeks after promotion ends according to terms (around December 15). Limit of one free night certificate per new member.

Free night certificate must be redeemed within six months of issue.

The free night certificate is equivalent to 20,000 Marriott Rewards points if used for a Category 4 hotel.

Promotion link: http://www.marriott.com/marriott.mi?page=freenight

 

 

Marriott Rewards Hotels in each category can be viewed through selecting the Hotel Category from the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of this webpage:

 

http://www.marriott.com/rewards/pointsGridPopUp.mi?awardType=Standard

 

Marriott San Mateo, California - Marriott Rewards Category 4 Hotel

Marriott San Mateo, California - Marriott Rewards Category 4 Hotel

 

Marriott Hotel Brands:

  • Marriott,
  • JW Marriott,
  • Renaissance Hotels,
  • Courtyard by Marriott,
  • Residence Inn,
  • TownePlace Suites,
  • Fairfield Inn,
  • SpringHill Suites, and
  • Marriott Vacation Club International

 

Promotion Terms: http://www.marriott.com/File%20Blocks/US/MarriottRewards/Marketing/PromotionTracker/TermsConditions/reservationsdata_terms.html

 

There are three swimming pools at the St. Regis Monarch Beach. Across the Grand Lawn from the hotel is the main Ocean Pool. The name implies it might be a seawater pool, but it is actually a heated freshwater pool with views of the ocean from the pool area. The Lagoon Pool was primarily occupied by children along with the shallow wading pool for young kids. An outdoor adults-only Lap Pool is located at Spa Gaucin.

The Ocean Pool at St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, California

The Ocean Pool at St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, California

 

The Ocean Pool was primarily in use during day light hours with attendants assisting guests with towels, pool chairs, and drinks. Poolside cabanas can be rented complete with TV, CD and DVD system, phone, fax, fan, and wireless internet for the guests who desire these services while at the pool. Drinks and food service are provided poolside from the Pool Bar & Grill across the Grand Lawn.

Ocean Pool at night view of St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel

Ocean Pool at night view of St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel

 

The Lagoon Pool and a 1.5 ft deep wading pool for young children are located just south of the Ocean Pool in the same fenced and gated enclosure. The Lagoon Pool was primarily occupied by the child guests at the resort. There was a surprisingly large number of children in tow during our stay. While some children also swam at the Ocean Pool, the majority remained at the Lagoon Pool. A large Jacuzzi pool is located between the Lagoon Pool and the Ocean Pool.

Lagoon pool at St. Regis Monarch Beach

Lagoon pool at St. Regis Monarch Beach

 

Both the Ocean Pool and Lagoon Pool are a uniform depth of 4.0 ft. Music plays from speakers in the potted bushes.

Children's wading pool, St. Regis Monarch Beach

Children's wading pool, St. Regis Monarch Beach

 

Kelley was told the pools are accessible 24 hours although there is an impediment to 24 hour access. The pool crew hoses down the Ocean Pool area and all the pool lounge chairs sometime around sunset. When Kelley and I returned from the beach around 7:45pm the three gates around the Ocean Pool were deactivated for key card access.

Only the pool gate leading to the Lagoon Pool worked for key card access. On both nights of our stay there were guests trying to access the Ocean Pool gates for night swimming only to return to their room disappointed.

Ocean Pool fountain view

Ocean Pool fountain view

 

A simple sign directing guests to use the south end gate for pool access at night would have been helpful. I checked every pool area gate to find just one of four gates allowed access to the Lagoon Pool and Jacuzzi area. Crossing the dark walkways between the Lagoon Pool, spa, and cabanas allowed Ocean Pool swimming at night.

Ocean view Jacuzzi in main pool area enclosure

Ocean view Jacuzzi in main pool area enclosure

 

One observation I made while swimming is the symmetrical perspective of the resort one sees when situated in the center of the Ocean Pool. The Ocean Pool is a great location for gazing out around the Monarch Beach resort. The view at night looking from the pool to the main fountains at the hotel and the reciprocal view from the hotel seems to be what the designers had in mind when laying out the grounds.

Ocean Pool reflects resort symmetry

Ocean Pool reflects resort symmetry

 

Adults Only Lap Pool at Spa Gaucin

Spa Gaucin (pronounced gow-seen on the TV hotel channel) has an adults only lap pool. The adults only pool was the most appreciated feature of the resort for me. Located on the northeast side of the resort outside Spa Gaucin, the lap pool and Jacuzzi provided an adults only resort location within the Monarch Beach resort. There were lots of children at the hotel and Spa Gaucin provides a pool environment where the upbeat techno music and golf cart brakes are the loudest sounds.

Spa Gaucin lap pool and jacuzzi

Spa Gaucin lap pool and jacuzzi

 

Music plays through speakers in the pool. I have experienced this a couple of times before at Westin resorts and it is an interesting sensation to listen to music underwater. The beat kind of revs up a workout pace.

Spa Gaucin lap pool under early morning foggy sky

Spa Gaucin lap pool under early morning foggy sky

 

The fitness room at Spa Gaucin was always in use by multiple exercisers, yet few guests ventured out to the pool area and even fewer actually used the lap pool during our stay.

Spa Gaucin lap pool

Spa Gaucin lap pool

 

Monarch Beach

Several reviews of the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort describe the beach as being a private beach. That is not accurate. The resort’s own website describes the beach as “one of the most exclusive and beautiful beaches in Southern California”. That statement is accurate.

California has a beach public access law enacted in the 1970s under Governor Jerry Brown. The purpose of the law was to prohibit development along the coast of California that would impede access to the coast and beaches by the public. Any beach resort development must maintain a public access thoroughfare through the private property.

View from beach public access path

View from beach public access path

 

The beach is beautifully compact yet sizeable. The exclusivity is due more to the beach geography of cliff borders on the south and north. The beach is located between two luxury hotel resorts and surrounded by oceanfront high-end residences on the coastal bluffs. The beach is a relatively uncrowded stretch of sand about 3/4 mile long and one hundred yards wide and populated predominantly by hotel guests and local residents.

North end of beach near St. Regis Monarch Bay beach club

North end of beach near St. Regis Monarch Bay beach club

 

A small stream runs off the golf course through the sand to the sea adjacent to the Monarch Bay Club. The north end of the beach turns rocky past the St. Regis Monarch Bay Beach Club and the cliffs meet the sea.

Looking south on beach with Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel on cliff

Looking south on beach with Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel on cliff

 

The south end of the beach is below the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Resort Hotel on the cliff top.

Monarch Bay Beach Club is the only building right on the beach. 

St. Regis Monarch Bay Beach Club

St. Regis Monarch Bay Beach Club

 

The public is welcome to walk through the public access path across the Monarch Beach Golf Course, but our day on the beach in what was perfect beach weather of sun and 85 degrees suggested few people take advantage of the privilege due to the distance from the streets in Dana Point to this beach.

View from Monarch Bay beach club

View from Monarch Bay beach club

 

St. Regis Beach Shuttle

Large open-air golf carts with 3 sets of seats sufficient for 10 passengers take hotel guests to the Beach Club about every 15 minutes. There was a waiting line when we were ready to depart for the beach and the hotel brought a second shuttle cart over within a couple of minutes. This was an example of the service level that truly worked for guests from observations during my stay.

The shuttle travels from the entry drive of the resort, past the Golf Clubhouse, and along the golf course, through a tunnel under Pacific Coast Highway 1 (PCH).  The west end of the tunnel the tram goes right and enters a private electronic gate to the Beach Club parking lot. Pedestrians go left after the tunnel and the pedestrian path leads to a more southerly beach entrance at a location a couple hundred yards south of the Monarch Bay Club.

beach view from Monarch Bay beach club parking lot

beach view from Monarch Bay beach club parking lot

 

The Beach Club has an outdoor deck, bar and restaurant, outdoor showers, and a couple of restrooms. There are lockers on the north end of the building.

Outdoor dining and bar deck at Monarch Bay beach club.

Outdoor dining and bar deck at Monarch Bay beach club.

 

On the south end of the building is a lawn with tables and an outdoor bar tent was set-up with a full bar and complimentary water and water with fruit slice flavor.

Lawn tables near patio bar at Monarch Bay beach club

Lawn tables near patio bar at Monarch Bay beach club

 

There were attendants with motorized carts to assist guests with setting up chairs and umbrellas. There looked to be between 50 and 100 hotel guests at the beach with St. Regis chairs and umbrellas.

Beach Exclusivity

Beach Exclusivity

 

There were perhaps another 100 persons for around 200 people total on the beach, mostly south towards the Ritz Carlton hotel.

On a perfect beach weather Sunday in Orange County, California we truly felt an exclusive experience of the beautiful beach. There were surprisingly few people on this 7 acre stretch of beach. A great omen for the day was seeing several porpoises swimming north just a few hundred yards off the coast. While Monterey has abundant marine life, porpoises are a rare sighting so close to the shore in my experience.

Beach Sunset

Beach Sunset

 

There is a bit of seaweed in the water here, particularly pieces churning up in the waves. The seaweed was mostly small stuff just one to two feet long. The beach sand was clear of seaweed during the day and I don’t know if the responsibility for the absence of seaweed was the staff or the tide. Here on the Monterey Peninsula our bull kelp seaweed is often 10 to 20 feet long and can really pile up thick on the beach at times.

We walked to the beach for sunset. The path was easy to follow with sign directions and only took 15 to 20 minutes. There were a few dozen people on the entire beach as we watched the sun drop into the Pacific water from our solitary location on the sand.

Dana Point Pacific Ocean beach sunset

Dana Point Pacific Ocean beach sunset

 

Side note: There is a flashlight in the TV cabinet of the hotel room which is a good idea to take if you head out at night to the beach.

The Walk Home

The Walk Home

 

Suggestion for sign improvement: The St. Regis beach tram only picks up passengers in front of the hotel or at the Beach Club. There are several Tram Stop signs in different locations on the resort property. Perhaps in better days the tram did peruse the grounds picking up passengers, but that is not currently the case.

I know a French family waited with an infant at the Tram Stop sign near the Botanical Garden for 20 minutes in the 90 degree heat. The sign clearly states trams run 8 times per hour to the beach.

The hotel needs to place a notice on these tram stop signs to inform guests they are not currently in use.

Along with the Ocean pool locked gates, signage was the major issue I saw for improvement at the resort.

St. Regis service:

All in all, service levels from the variety of staff around the resort were cordial, helpful, friendly, and accommodating. The hotel provided the best service I have seen in quite some time of hotel travel. Just don’t discuss Starwood Preferred Guest. Cash receives more recognition.

Beach Walk

Beach Walk

St. Regis Monarch Beach – Part 1 – The Room

St. Regis Monarch Beach – Part 2 – The Hotel

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