Dec022010

Third Party Bookings and Elite Benefits with Hyatt and Marriott

Hyatt Gold Passport and Marriott Rewards elite members may find a surprise awaiting that discount hotel stay booked as part of a travel package or through an opaque site like Priceline or Hotwire.  Hyatt and Marriott elite members report recognition in terms of club lounge access and free breakfast even though the hotel was booked through Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline or some other online travel agency (OTA).

Hyatt Diamonds may not be getting a suite upgrade on a Priceline booking, but you may receive Welcome Amenity points and you may earn points on other charges to your room.

Marriott Rewards members state receiving access to the hotel Club Lounge and Club Level rooms and earning points on incidental spend.

I was upgraded to a suite and lounge access at a Hilton Hotel one time when I was HHonors Diamond on a Priceline stay.

Register Your Hotel Loyalty Membership Number to OTA Bookings

Add you hotel loyalty membership number to any third party hotel reservation after your booking is confirmed by the OTA. Call the hotel, email, or take time at the check-in desk to register your hotel membership number to the reservation.

There is nothing to lose and high potential for gain when your hotel stay receives some loyalty recognition during your stay like a room upgrade, breakfast and internet, even if no elite stay credit is earned for the third party OTA booking.

The End of the OTA Merchant Model

Most hotel loyalty programs do not recognize loyalty members who book through third-party online travel agencies (OTA) due to the high cost of distribution for the hotel owners with the OTA Merchant Model.

I read an article this morning by Max Starkov – “End of the OTA merchant model – this time for real” providing some numbers on the OTA Merchant Model.

The data cites 20% to 25% room rate as a typical fee for the hotel to sell a room via an OTA.

For example: Expedia sells a room for $100. The room is also selling for $100 on the hotel’s own websites. Expedia makes $25 when it sells the room. The hotel loses on a room it did not sell directly to the guest. The hotel loses about 90% of that $25 Expedia gained through an indirect sale.

Seems to me consumer logic would indicate more hotel guests would like the added value of hotel points, free breakfast, internet and other amenities provided when booking sufficient volume through a specific loyalty program to earn elite membership and its value-added perks.

Comparing straight room rates for any specific major brand hotel, the hotel websites sell the room for the same price as an OTA like Expedia and Travelocity.  Hotel websites offer Best Rate Guarantee terms to provide an additional discount or benefit if a lower rate than the hotel sites low rate is found on an OTA site elsewhere.

Yet, hotels have seen the OTA share of bookings for the top 30 hotel brands rise from 25.4% in Q3-2008 to 37.5% in Q3-2010. This has occurred in the past two years while hotel loyalty programs have been offering the most rewarding loyalty incentives in years.  The proportion of people booking hotel rooms outside the hotel’s own websites has risen despite offers for free nights and huge points bonuses through hotel loyalty programs.

So are consumers ignorant to the value of hotel loyalty programs as hotel guests or are they really getting incredible savings with OTA bookings?

Travel packages where the hotel is bundled with a car or flight and opaque sites like Priceline and Hotwire where the hotel is not known until booked are popular as other cheaper options than published room rates. Bidding database forum sites like BetterBidding.com and BiddingforTravel.com can assist you in narrowing the likely hotels you will book into when submitting a successful bid for a hotel room on an opaque site like Priceline.

OTA indirect booking  v. Hotel site direct booking

The tide of OTA popularity during the period of extraordinarily low hotel rates in 2009 and 2010 may keep rising and make trouble for hotels seeking to push rates higher and faster in 2011.

Enjoy elite benefits on your third-party bookings when you get them. The economics of hotel booking channels make this a highly generous practice as a common courtesy for their elite loyalty program members at Hyatt and Marriott hotels.

My only experience this year with an OTA booking for a major hotel brand was a Hyatt Place Orlando Airport booking that Gold Passport refused to recognize as a Best Rate Guarantee valid claim even though I booked the hotel for $90 less than the Hyatt website wanted. I was a bit grumpy on arrival at missing out on a hotel stay credit in what I still feel was a wrongfully denied BRG claim, but that feeling quickly dissipated when I entered the hotel lobby to find free food and beer in a hotel happy hour.

Please share your experiences with hotel loyalty elite status and third-party OTA bookings.

Did you receive elite recognition and benefits?

FlyerTalk – Marriott Benefits on OTA Stays

FlyerTalk – Hyatt Benefits on OTA Stays

Anarchy Loyalty in the U.K.

Cornell Panel talks distribution management, customer loyalty (Nov 16)

Expedia on how to grow your ADR without impacting occupancy (Nov 29)

About Ric Garrido

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

More articles by Ric Garrido »

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