Update Wednesday 10-22-08.
On Monday, October 20, I contacted Fairmont Hotels marketing department asking for clarification of the 7-Day Winter Sale promotion and Free Night offer. I questioned the telephone customer service reply I had received regarding the free night being credited back to the guest’s account at checkout since this detail was not mentioned anywhere in the promotion terms and conditions.
This morning I received an email from David Doucette, Executive Director of Internet Marketing for Fairmont Raffles Hotels International. The website promotion pages have been updated to include the sentences:
“Advertised rates do not include price adjustment for the free night. Free night credit is applied at check-out.”
Loyalty Traveler gives this deal a big thumbs up in light of the explicit free night clarification now shown for this promotion.
There are still 5 1/2 days to take advantage of the great rates being offered for this 7-Day Winter sale promotion.
The offer was a good deal and now I consider it a great deal. So keep in mind as you read through this post that my analysis of the promotion was not based on being refunded one night’s stay. And that free night on top of the 10% to 20% nightly rate discount makes this sale up to a 40% discount on Fairmont Hotel rooms. This is exactly the kind of hotel deal travelers need in this economy.
Fairmont’s Free Night Winter Sale Offer Looks Good, But Looks May Be Deceiving
Fairmont Hotels 7-day Winter Sale One Free Night and 20% Off
Fairmont Hotels has a Winter Sale starting today and ending at 11:59pm EST, October 27. So, if you count today, the Fairmont Winter Sale is actually an 8-day sale.
The Fairmont Winter Sale offers Discount Rates AND one free night for stays between November 3, 2008 and April 15, 2009.
While the prices may be good rates for Fairmont Hotels there is a highly restrictive condition for this sale:
Hotel booking is entirely prepaid and nonrefundable. No cancellations.
Nonrefundable reservations make me cringe; especially when the rate is for a luxury hotel booking –possibly for several thousand dollars.
I’ve wanted to write about nonrefundable reservations for the past week since before reading Joe Sharkey’s New York Times article and the Fairmont special offer opens the way. The topic of nonrefundable hotel rooms has many facets from nonrefundable, nonchangeable prepaid hotel rates to using hotel loyalty points for a free room, but with a credit card room deposit than can turn into a very expensive no-show or last minute cancellation.
The Fairmont Hotels 7-Day Winter Sale provides me with the opportunity to discuss the booking option of Nonrefundable, PrePaid Hotel Stays compared to other more flexible hotel booking options.
Is the Savings Benefit of a Nonrefundable Hotel Reservation Really Worth the Risk?
My bias is for maintaining the most flexibility I can arrange and afford when making hotel reservations. I have to know there is almost no chance of me missing the stay before I go nonrefundable.
A Free Night Looks Good, But Looks May Be Deceiving
The Fairmont Hotels homepage ads look great – “Spectacular Winter Sale”
Fairmont Hotels 7-Day Winter Sale advertisement
“Save up to 20% and Receive a Free Night”
The advertisements caught my attention and my Loyalty Traveler eye for a good value hotel deal. I decided to analyze the claim a little more closely.
Running the numbers through sample bookings reveals a very different result than I expected when booking the 7-Day Winter Sale rate. The savings are not even close to being a free night in cost savings. The nonrefundable nature of this deal makes me wary.
You will save money with the special rate, however, for properties I checked the overall savings with Winter Sale rates was at most 20% less than a non-promotional, regular booking search with consumer-friendly no-penalty cancellation policies of arrival day to 7 nights before hotel arrival, depending on the specific hotel.
So much for the free night claim! A free night leads this frequent guest to expect at least a 25% discount on the normal hotel rate for a 4-night stay (most hotels in the Winter Sale offer a 4th night free). Imagine a $100 per night regular hotel rate:
· Night 1 = $100
· Night 2 = $100
· Night 3 = $100
· Night 4 = free
To me, 4th night free means I pay $300 when the regular room rate would have been $400 for a four night stay. Saving $100 on a $400 hotel stay is a 25% savings.
In addition to the free night, if I am saving 20% on the regular hotel rate, to me, this means I get the $100 hotel rate at $80 per night.
On a four night stay for a hotel normally $100 per night, a 20% savings on the normal rate and a free night makes me think I will get 4 nights for the price of 3 nights at $80 each. Paying $240 for 4 nights on a regularly $100/night room would be an overall 40% savings.
Now, that would be a “Spectacular Winter Sale”.
Unfortunately, for the potential Fairmont guest, my three sample searches showed only a 20% overall savings at best on a 4-night stay using the Winter Sale rate compared to the regular Best Available rate. I guess Fairmont has a different concept of 4th night free than Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler searches for Fairmont Hotels 7-day Winter Sale
Rate searches conducted on 10-20-08 for a 4-night hotel stay January 16-20, 2009 at three Fairmont Hotels:
1. San Jose Fairmont, San Jose California
2. Scottsdale Fairmont, Scottsdale, Arizona
3. Chateau Whistler, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Hotel rate search results show the Winter Sale overall hotel rate advertised as up to 20% off AND a free night is not based on the simple comparison of what any hotel guest booking the same dates through the default Best Available Rate on the Fairmont Hotels homepage would find.
Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, California
Hotel Stay: Jan 16-20, 2009
lowest priced room, Fairmont King, Main Building, 450sq.ft.
$119.20 per night Winter Sale Rate – nonrefundable, no cancellations allowed; $536.48 for 4-night stay
$149 per night regular Best Available Rate (BAR) – reservation may be canceled up to 6pm hotel time, January 16, 2009.
The hotel special offer saves approximately $33 per night after taxes. A guest booking a five-night stay at the Fairmont San Jose using the Winter Sale rate will pay the same as four nights booked through regular reservations. I call this a 5th night free offer.
Fairmont Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona
Hotel Stay: Jan 16-20, 2009
Upper Mid-range room, Casita Suite, Premium King, 850sq.ft.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale, Arizona
$688.50 per night Winter Sale Rate – nonrefundable, no cancellations allowed.
4-night total rate with taxes = $2,754 + tax = $3,082.28 prepaid nonrefundable deposit
$765 per night or $3,060 for 4-night stay, booking regular website Best Available Rate reservation
Fairmont’s Winter Sale saves $306 on a $3,060 regular rate for the four night hotel stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale. The real value of the Winter Sale in this hotel sample is just a 10% savings on a four night luxury hotel stay and comes up far short of the value expected in the advertisement for a discount AND a free night offer in the Fairmont Winter Sale.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, main pool
Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada (ski resort)
Mid-Range room, Deluxe Valley View King
$479 per night regular reservations, $2,203.40CAD payment due 3 days to arrival Jan 13, 2009
$383.20 per night Winter Sale, $1,762.72CAD nonrefundable prepaid October 20, 2008
Winter Sale special rate saves $440.68 on a 4-night stay.
440.68/2203.40 = 20% total savings on 4-night stay. The Winter Sale basically gives a 5th night free meaning 5 nights at the Winter Sale rate = 4 nights at Best Available non-promotional rate.
This 7-Day Winter Sale offers a Fairmont Hotel discount for the next six months of travel.
The risk of losing a couple of thousand dollars if you need to cancel your trip to save 10 to 20% on hotel rates combined with the fact that Loyalty Traveler finds the actual savings is of significantly lower value than I would have expected with the advertised offer of a free night AND up to 20% savings makes me wary to suggest this offer to travelers.
You should think twice before making the Winter Sale hotel commitment for any trip with much possibility of being cancelled. Remember winter’s wicked weather. Hotel flexible plans are often worth the extra cost.
Update to this post before actually posting on Loyalty Traveler blog 10-20-08.
Just off the phone with Fairmont Hotels to ask why they advertise up to 20% off AND a free night when my searches show only 20% off as the best offer I find.
Where is the free night deal of the Winter Sale?
Fairmont Hotels telephone agent comes back after having me on hold for several minutes to tell me the hotel rate for the 4th night on the four night stay is refunded at check-out.
That is a great deal if true! Why is it not written in the promotion terms?
As a consumer the refund detail is probably the most important detail I need to know next to the rate being prepaid and nonrefundable.
I would want the refund term in writing before committing to this deal. Fairmont Hotels needs to update the 7-Day Winter Sale Terms and Conditions if this is truly how the promotion is scheduled to operate.
Why keep the consumer in the dark about how the free night component of this hotel offer is implemented?
If the prepaid free night is refunded on check-out, then the Fairmont Winter Sale is a great deal. Too bad the Winter Sale promotion details are not clear on this aspect of how the Free Night offer works.