Monday, July 21, 2008

Check out the new blog location

You can keep reading Loyalty Traveler posts by linking here: Loyalty Traveler blog

Ric Garrido

Friday, July 11, 2008

Online Hotel Reviews - website comparison

Online Hotel Reviews

Travelers place a lot of faith in consumer-generated hotel reviews. I trust content because there is a large community of travelers who provide opinions and feedback on each other’s comments. Most major upscale hotels around the world have user comments and reviews from the 100,000+ members of the community. I believe the self-monitoring independent community of provides more accurate hotel reviews than what is typically found on, particularly when it comes to the experience for elite frequent guests in the major hotel loyalty programs.

Social Media Co-Opted by Corporate Media

The best social media websites with consumer generated comments and hotel reviews have been co-opted by corporate media. Social media websites where users generate the content for free has been a successful marketing partnership for major travel industry players. What in many cases started out as independent, organically developed networks of people creating content for free to help other travelers has developed into the current condition of the major global travel reservations corporations like, owning social network sites like and as corporate subsidiaries. Meta-search engines like who own, and bulletin boards like and are not sellers of travel, but make money on an advertising model based on travelers frequently interacting as a community creating new content.

Major Online Hotel Reviews and Their Parent Corporations hotel reviews and hotel rate meta-search engine = (Parent Company) for hotel reviews and hotel rate meta-search = (Parent company) has a large database for hotel reviews. is also an Expedia company. Hotel guests must have booked stay with to post a review and most of the reviews do not have any written comments. A point scale survey on Hotel Service, Hotel Condition, Room Comfort, and Room Cleanliness are used to give the hotel a rating on a 5 point scale. This website offers a quick snapshot of customer satisfaction for hotel. for hotel reviews and Kayak is a meta-search = (Parent Company) generates its own database of user-generated hotel reviews based on hotel guests booking through and responding via e-mail to a post-stay request for a hotel review.

Yahoo! Travel uses a couple of different hotel review databases. When conducting hotel searches through the Yahoo Travel homepage the results use Travelocity and the hotel reviews are the same as Travelocity. When using Yahoo Travel Guides or FareChase for hotel searches the hotel reviews are a different set.

“I Want to Believe” TripAdvisor

A recent article TripAdvisor Staying Ahead of the Pack from, the web traffic analysis site, and a blog post by the same writer Ryan Carrigg “TripAdvisor Poised for Success”, shows the dominance of for user-generated content in the online travel research sector. The data given shows an average of 6.6 million unique monthly visitors to for 2008. The traffic on has seen 34% growth from May 2007. A finding in this report states that 1.08% of users of had written review content over the past year.

The absolute number of user generated reviews on TripAdvisor wasn’t stated in the articles. My elementary math calculation estimates that if 1.33% of 7,000,000 visitors to in May 2008 wrote a review as stated in the article, then about 90,000 hotel reviews were added for the month of May 2008.

This TripAdvisor data had me wondering about the hotel review content on other popular websites. I have made a simple analysis of online hotel reviews from several common websites by counting the actual number of hotel reviews for a small sample of hotels in San Francisco.

TripAdvisor Hotel Reviews – What Percentage of Guests Write TripAdvisor Reviews?

Le Meridien San Francisco TripAdvisor popularity index #14/238 hotels;

197 total hotel reviews; 38 reviews from 2008; 79 reviews in past 12 months;
oldest review from April 26, 2002 when hotel was a Park Hyatt.

360 rooms at Le Meridien San Francisco
Assume a rather low 50% average nightly occupancy or 180 rooms booked per night.
180 rooms x 365 nights = 65,700 room-nights or 65,700 guests for past year.

65,700 room-nights / 79 hotel reviews = 832 or
1 hotel review for every 832 guests at Le Meridien Hotel San Francisco wrote a review if the hotel averaged 50% occupancy over past year.

If room occupancy averaged 65% for the year, then the proportion of guests writing a review decreases. It seems that the average is probably about 1 out of every 1,000 to 2,000 guests posts a hotel review for most major hotels.

360 rooms x .65 occupancy = 234 rooms/night.
234 rooms/night x 365 nights = 85,410 room-nights (guests)
85,410 guests/ 79 hotel reviews = 1,081 guests for every hotel review posted on

1 hotel review is posted for every 1,081 guests at Le Meridien Hotel San Francisco if the hotel averaged 65% occupancy over past year.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco is a larger hotel with 805 rooms. Assume 50% occupancy for past year.

TripAdvisor has 37 reviews in 2008 and 66 reviews from past year.

Several floors of this hotel were remodeled in past six months and a newly remodeled Regency Club lounge opened in March.

805 rooms x .50 occupancy = 403 rooms/night occupied.
403 rooms/night x 365 nights = 147,095 room nights (guests) in past year.
147,095 / 66 hotel reviews = 2,229 guests at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco for every 1 review posted on

Hotel reviews are one strategy for choosing a hotel. I typically look at TripAdvisor to get opinions when I have a couple of hotels to choose from in the same price range. Unfortunately, my elementary analysis of the data indicates that even with the high number of hotel reviews on there is still only about 1 guest review for every 1,000 guests in the good cases and may be as few as 1 review for every 2,000 guests for other hotels.

When I read a review I wonder what the other 1,999 guests thought of their hotel stay experience for that same property? This is why a site like with the ability to respond to other people’s hotel comments or ask questions provides more consumer-user-friendly content than many of the reviews on the major sites like Hotel corporate representatives even respond at times on threads about hotels.

Online Hotel Reviews By the Numbers

Hotel Reviews for 8 hotels in San Francisco were searched on 6 leading websites including,,,,, and Yahoo!Travel .com

1. The total number of hotel reviews for a hotel is given on each of the hotel review sites.

2. I counted the number of reviews posted in 2008 since recent reviews are generally most valid for a reader. For example, listed the Crowne Plaza Union Square San Francisco as one of their top 5 hotels. The Crowne Plaza changed to Hotel 480 six months ago and is no longer part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotel brands.

3. The number of reviews posted since July 1, 2007 was counted. This also shows the number of reviews older than one year. A popular site for submitting hotel reviews several years ago may have a high number of total hotel reviews, but a low number of recent reviews for hotel stays in the past year. This observation can be seen with Yahoo Travel Guides.

Consumer Written Hotel Reviews on Popular Websites
for a Selection of San Francisco Hotels

Le Meridien San Francisco, 360 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 38
Past year = 79
Total = 197

2008 = 2
Past year = 5
Total = 9

2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 18
2008 = 6
Past year = 8
Total = 11

Yahoo Travel Guides
2008 = 1
Past year = 4
Total = 12
Past Year = 191
Total = 223

Palace Hotel - The Luxury Collection (Starwood Hotels), 552 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)

2008 = 47
Past year = 83
Total = 211

Hotels .com (Expedia)

2008 = 85; 127 reviews in past year; 161 total reviews;

94% recommend; 4.5 average rating


2008 = 4
Past year = 9
Total = 17


2008 = 0
Past year = 0
Total = 13

2008 = 4
Past year = 4
Total = 4

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 3
Total = 33

Westin St. Francis; 1,195 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 67
Past year = 128
Total = 463


2008 = 13
Past year = 23
Total = 43


2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 95

2008 = 18
Past year = 31
Total = 61

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 4
Total = 163 = 14 reviews in 2008; 28 reviews in past 12 months; 68 total reviews

Hilton San Francisco; 1,896 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 48
Past year = 110
Total = 232 (Expedia)

85 reviews in 2008; 200 reviews in past 12 months; 373 total reviews; 86% recommend; 4.2 average rating


2008 = 11
Past year = 41
Total = 75


2008 = 1
Past year = 1
Total = 82

2008 = 7
Past year = 18
Total = 39

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 4
Total = 93

Hyatt Regency San Francisco; 805 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 37
Past year = 66
Total = 203 (Expedia)

39 reviews in 2008; 63 reviews in past 12 months; 91 total reviews;

93% recommend hotel; 4.3 average rating out of 5


2008 = 2
Past year = 6
Total = 11


2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 93

2008 = 0
Past year = 8
Total = 20

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 4
Past year = 7
Total = 63

Grand Hyatt San Francisco, 685 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 44
Past year = 82
Total = 238 (Expedia)

26 reviews 2008; 54 reviews in past 12 months; 120 total reviews; 84% recommend, 4.2 average rating


2008 = 3
Past year = 18
Total = 45


2008 = 2
Past year = 2
Total = 17

2008 = 4
Past year = 21
Total = 44

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 3
Total = 15

J.W. Marriott San Francisco, 337 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 19
Past year = 44
Total = 214

2008 = 3
Past year = 10
Total = 16


2008 = 1
Past year = 2
Total = 24

2008 = 2
Past year = 2
Total = 2

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 44

5 reviews in 2008; 12 reviews in past year; 78 total reviews; 88% recommend; 4.2 average rating

Marriott San Francisco; 1,498 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 34
Past year = 75
Total = 206


2008 = 2
Past year = 13
Total = 30


2008 = 0
Past year = 0
Total = 10

2008 = 5
Past year = 6
Total = 17

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 0
Past year = 2
Total = 36 (Expedia)

50 reviews in 2008; 97 reviews in past year; 138 total reviews; 90% recommend; 4.4 average rating

The advantage of is the large number of recent reviews and the display provides a quick snapshot of guest satisfaction. Expedia is definitely the leader in the hotel review market as owner of the two largest databases in and

Write and leave a comment if you know a hotel review site to recommend.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Research in Progress

Le Meridien San Francisco, Corner Room Business Suite
Rate Paid: $139
Best Available Rate for this room $650
Complimentary upgrade as SPG Platinum = $500 added value

After a wonderful weekend in San Francisco I returned to the very unhealthy air quality in Monterey. Weeks of fire has had its impact.

Currently I am working on a couple of different research projects. One has been to evaluate hotel review sites and it keeps expanding day to day.

Also, I am working to get my blog moved over to and that will hopefully be completed in the next couple of weeks. My posts have been moved over there and the final stages are underway. I've actually been formatting my posts and posting to two sites for the past month.

It has been a hectic past three weeks and next week things should calm down and I'll be posting more frequently.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Best Rate Guarantee - Starwood and Kimpton Hotels

On Monday this week I came across two hotels with significant rate differences on their hotel websites compared to rates returned through a Travelocity search for downtown San Francisco hotels for July stays.

Hotel Triton, a Kimpton Hotel, San Francisco - $189 best available rate on Kimpton site ($161 AAA rate);
$99 to $104 on Travelocity and Expedia. This rate was gone as of today. Kimpton Hotels has a Best Rate Guarantee to match any lower rate for a comparable room found on a third-party site with a phone call to Kimpton.

Westin St. Francis, San Francisco
$179 best available for standard double room on Starwood websites (Standard room at St. Francis is quite small room size with no view);
$136.58 Travelocity. Rate still there today.

Starwood has a Best Rate Guarantee offering a 10% discount on the lower rate found on a third-party travel site or the lower rate and 2,000 Starpoints.

Market Share Battle between Online Travel Agencies and Hotel Corporate-Branded Websites

After the 9-11 travel downturn there was tremendous discounting in hotel rates around the US and in many parts of the world. had a huge inventory of rooms that were going at fire sale rates. I stayed for weeks in Europe at major hotels like Marriott in major cities like Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Singapore for rates averaging under $70 per night.

The hotel industry struggled with raising rates in 2002 and 2003. A fundamental shift occurred in hotel loyalty programs that differentiated them from airline frequent flyer programs during this period. Hotels began requiring hotel bookings to be made through the hotel’s own websites as a condition for earning frequent guest hotel points and elite membership qualifying stay credit, and hotel stay benefits like upgrades, or complimentary lounge access for elites.

An online reservation for a Hilton Hotel only earns HHonors credit and privileges when booked through any Hilton hotel family reservations website. Third party online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz will not generate hotel loyalty program benefits for the hotel guest even if the guest is a high level hotel loyalty program member. This means a Hilton Diamond elite member should not receive upgrades or complimentary breakfast or lounge access when making a reservation through a third party site. (In actual practice the treatment of an elite member can be better for guests with past stays at a hotel as an elite frequent guest member. I have received full suite upgrades at some Hilton hotels on Priceline stays where the hotel staff knew me by name and prior stay history as Hilton HHonors diamond elite.)

Currently, a hotel guest loyalty program member can only expect hotel loyalty program benefits when reservations are made through a hotel corporate-branded website. Using Starwood Hotels as an example, the corporate-branded websites are listed as:

Starwood-branded websites include,,,,,,,,,, and (collectively, "Starwood-branded Websites").”

Hotel reservations booked online are at a ratio of about 60% rooms booked through the hotel corporate-branded websites and about 40% through third-party online agencies like Expedia and others.


The Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) is an interesting marketing concept for hotel corporations to control their own booking and guest reservation data.

Third-party online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz have a large share of the hotel reservations market. Hotel guests who are not hotel loyalty program members are primarily looking for low rates. An online travel agency provides an immediate search return for rates at dozens of hotels, perhaps hundreds of hotels for a location and date and makes a small profit on each booking with a fee.

A search for San Francisco hotels on Travelocity returns 295 hotels in the “Greater San Francisco Area”. From the point of view of the hotel operator or for a hotel corporation like Hyatt, a potential guest having 295 hotel choices means the few Hyatt corporate-branded hotels are just a small fraction of the overall search returns. Too many choices means potential guests are lured away by offers and rates from one of the other 285+ non-Hyatt hotels. The metasearch travel site searches 342 hotels for San Francisco.

The corporate-pledged “Best Rate Guarantee” tells a potential guest that the absolute lowest rate is to be found on the corporate-branded hotel website. If you want to find the best Hyatt rate for San Francisco, then you need not worry about missing a better rate on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, or any other third party online travel agency. The best rate guarantee assures you the best rates will be found through Hyatt’s own websites.

Loyalty Traveler research supports the claim that the best hotel rates are almost always found through the hotel chain corporate-branded websites.

Finding two major corporate hotels in downtown San Francisco at the same time with lower rates on Travelocity than the hotel corporate websites was a surprise.

All the major hotel corporations have Best Rate Guarantees for hotel bookings through their corporate-branded websites. The hotel corporations have different policies for their own version of the Best Rate Guarantee.

I wrote about Best Rate Guarantees in this post from March 2008 after successfully claiming a Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee. The interesting feature of that claim was the lower rate was pulled immediately from Expedia. In the case of the Westin St. Francis, the lower hotel rate is still on Travelocity almost 72 hours after I filed a successful BRG claim with Starwood for a rate $42 less than the Starwood sites and an additional 2,000 Starpoints.

There is another Blogspot website called The Best Rate Guarantee Blog dedicated to BRG claims for Wyndham-brand hotels. A good concept that will likely create havoc with BRG claims if it spreads to other major hotel chains. I looked over the tutorial for making BRG claims. The BRG blog favors for hotel rate searches.

One word of caution is not to rely too heavily on a single search engine like, although its metasearch function for checking,,, and is a time-saving feature. I regularly find significantly lower special offer rates through hotel corporate-brand websites than available on The challenge to the consumer and a primary writing topic for the Loyalty Traveler is navigating the hotel corporate-branded websites for special offer links to rate discounts. Even a simple rate like a AAA group rate that may be 20% lower will not show up on a search. And remember that Best Rate Guarantee does not apply to special group rates like AAA members or senior rates which are the most common lower rates for hotel rooms.

The Westin St. Francis $138 hotel rate was not visible on unless you also did a search of Travelocity in a separate window.,, and had the same $179 rate on the Starwood Hotels websites. I read a research report a couple of years ago from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research concluding Travelocity was the most likely site to have the lowest hotel rates among major online travel agencies (I will have to search out the report link and of course the data may not bear the same results favoring if the study were repeated today). In this case the Travelocity lowest rate factor came into play for the Westin St. Francis rate.

Another benefit of the Starwood Best Rate Guarantee provided for 2,000 bonus Starpoints or a 10% discount of the lower rate found on a third-party website.

I took the 2,000 Starpoints. has a table showing the Best Rate Guarantee terms and links for different hotel programs.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Diners Club Comparison of Redemption Value Across Hotel Points Programs

Loyalty Traveler Original Research –
Diners Club Comparison of Redemption Value Across Hotel Points Programs

Hotel Points can be earned through credit card points exchanges with Diners Club/MasterCard Club Rewards points. Club Rewards points can be a valuable asset when planning the hotel component of a trip.

Loyalty Traveler is always seeking good hotel value. An analysis of Diners Club shows value is relative to the hotel program partner and the particular time and place of points redemption for a free hotel night.Diners Club Rewards points can be exchanged into hotel points for 7 major hotel loyalty programs at the following exchange rates for 1,250 points (transfers must be multiples of 1,250 Club Rewards points):

Best Western Gold Crown Club = 3,300 points
Choice Privileges = 2,400 points
Hilton HHonors = 2,000 points
Hyatt Gold Passport points = 750 points
Marriott Rewards = 1,500 points
Priority Club Rewards = 1,500 points
Starwood Preferred Guest = 750 points

In addition to point exchanges, Diners Club Rewards points can be used for free night redemption offers with Fairmont Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, and various luxury villa properties in Europe and hotels in Hawaii.

By the Numbers

Points Redemption Value
Summary of results based on an extrapolation of value for 50,000 Diners Club Rewards points exchanged into hotel points and redeemed for a free night in a particular location (San Francisco) and date (Tuesday, July 15, 2008) for a hotel stay using points.

Best Western = $1,399 for 4.7 room nights
Starwood = $1,197 for 3.0 room nights
Hyatt = $1,080 for 2.5 room nights
Choice = $905 for 6.0 nights
Priority Club = $811 for 2.4 nights
Hilton = $660 for 2.0 nights
Marriott = $270 for 1.0 nights
(Marriott Redemption Value affected by Stay Anytime reward as only available option for July 15, 2008 San Francisco).

Assume a Diners Club member has 50,000 Club Rewards points and wants to exchange these for a good hotel value. $50,000 in purchases earns 50,000 Club Rewards points under normal earning rules.

50,000 Club Rewards points exchanged into hotel points for:

Best Western Gold Crown Club = 132,000 points
Choice Privileges = 96,000 points
Hilton HHonors = 80,000 points
Hyatt Gold Passport points = 30,000 points
Marriott Rewards = 60,000 points
Priority Club Rewards = 60,000 points
Starwood Preferred Guest = 30,000 points

Calculating Hotel Points Redemption Value

Calculating the value of hotel points across programs is a complex analysis. There are too many variables: specific hotel program terms, hotel location, time of year, weekday vs. weekend nights, promotions, and redemption special offers for free nights using hotel points. That being said, the reality is -

hotel points have no value until redeemed.

Ultimately, the final decision for hotel travelers becomes whether to pay cash or use points for your all or part of your stay. Therefore, it is a valuable exercise to see real numbers for hotel free nights in a sample scenario. There will likely be hotels around the globe and the USA offering better value and hotels offering lesser value than the hotel points redemption sample.

Methodology for hotel program comparisons and the value of 50,000 Diners Club Club Rewards points.

Hotel points redemption value is based on using the same city and same dates for comparison across programs. I use San Francisco as a model for comparing hotel programs due to the large number of hotel members in a large number of hotel corporations in a highly concentrated area of downtown San Francisco. I frequently use international locations for redemption value options due to the high cost of hotels in most major international cities around the globe.

The limitation of the analysis that follows is I only look at one sample date for hotel rates and all data is extrapolated based on hotel rates for Tuesday, July 15, 2008 in downtown San Francisco. This analysis gives a snapshot of the comparative value in a real-time analysis of what kind of reservation could be booked with hotel points on July 1, 2008.

The points redemption values for the one night San Francisco stay are extrapolated to provide a common relative value across hotel programs. This allows a comparison of the relative redemption value for total hotel points earned through an exchange of 50,000 Diners Club Rewards points.

Obviously, a person cannot book 2.4 nights using points and I did not actually try to book 2 or 3 night stays using points. The total points redemption value found for San Francisco for Tuesday July 15 is extrapolated at the same rate to determine an overall points value for an exchange of 50,000 Club Rewards points.

Marriott is the only program that has skewed data because in this real time situation using July 15, the Marriott Rewards program was the only program requiring extra points for a free night (double points for a Marriott Rewards Stay AnyTime reward).

In real travel the probability that one program will be less favorable than another is common. The real value of Diners Club points is the ability to transfer your points into a variety of hotel programs and take advantage of the best opportunity for points redemption for the particular trip and hotel stay.

Example of Calculating Points Redemption Value for Free Rooms Using Points:

JW Marriott San Francisco is a Category 7 hotel in the Marriott Rewards program. Your points redemption value is determined by how many points you actually save when you redeem points for a free night.A free night for a Category 7 hotel costs 35,000 points using Marriott Rewards points. This next Friday night, July 4th, the lowest available room rate for this hotel is $199. After 14% hotel tax, your 35,000 points save you $227 for a free night in San Francisco.

The value of 1,000 Marriott Rewards points is about $6.50/1,000 points if used for a free room night to save $227 at JW Marriott San Francisco, July 4th Friday night.

A weekday Tuesday free night on July 8th is an entirely different value for 35,000 points. The midweek rate for the JW Marriott San Francisco is $319 per night and the value of your points redemption increases to $364 after 14% hotel tax. Your points redemption value is 60% higher at $10.40/1,000 points when redeeming 35,000 points for a $364 savings.

A good rule of thumb is to try and redeem your points at a value higher than the purchase rate of points through the hotel program.

Caveat and analytical limitation:
The analysis shown here does not take into account the value of points not earned by not paying for a room.

For example, a paid room at $199 base rate will earn 1,990 Marriott Rewards points plus promotional and elite bonuses. The points not earned will likely be 2,000 to 4,000 points that need to be included in a calculation of the value of your points when redeeming for a free night.
A more precise valuation for a $227 JW Marriott room savings would be 35,000 + 1,990 (points you would have earned if $199 base rate paid instead of hotel points reward).

$227 hotel savings / 36,990 points = $6.14/1,000 points redemption value for July 4.
$364 hotel savings / 38,190 points = $9.53/1,000 points redemption value for July 8.

Actual points redemption values will also be dependent on the date, location, current promotions, and elite status within the hotel loyalty program, so the points not earned will be higher than these basic calculations and result in points redemption values slightly lower than these given above. As you can see it is complex to calculate the value of points with a single hotel program and comparisons across programs are more complex.

The value* of 50,000 Club Rewards points exchanged for hotel points:
*calculations for redemption value do not consider points not earned for a paid stay.

Points Redemption Value = money saved/points for free night x 1,000

Best Western Gold Crown = 132,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $1,399.20 for 4.7 free nights

Best Western Hotel California, San Francisco
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Best Western, The Hotel California
28,000 points or $260.10 + 14% hotel tax = $297/night
or $10.60 redemption value/1,000 points.

Best Western members must be Platinum (15 nights) or Diamond (30 nights) elite to purchase points at rate of $10/1,000 points. ($1,320 points purchase value)

Choice Privileges = 96,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $905.28 for 6 free nights at Rodeway Inn Downtown San Francisco

Choice points purchase value ($10/1,000 points with 10,000 points annual limit)

Rodeway Inn Downtown San Francisco
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 16,000 points or $131.99 AAA rate or $151 after tax
$151/16,000 = $9.43/1,000 points

Hilton HHonors = 80,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $660 redemption value for 2 nights at Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Purchase Value: $800 for 80,000 HHonors points

All 3 San Francisco Hilton properties are Category 6 hotels costing 40,000 points for a free night.

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Tuesday July 15
$289 base rate. $330 after hotel tax.
$330/40,000 points = $8.25/1,000 points

Hyatt Gold Passport = 30,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $1,080 redemption value for 2.5 nights at Grand Hyatt San Francisco

Grand Hyatt San Francisco, A Hyatt Gold Passport Category 3 hotel = 12,000 points for a free night.

Tuesday July 15
$379/night or $432/night after tax
$432/12,000 points = $36/1,000 points x 30,000 = $1,080 redemption value

Marriott Rewards = 60,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $270 redemption value for 1 night at San Francisco Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf

1 night Stay Anytime Category 6 hotel reward for San Francisco Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf = $270 value.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
San Francisco Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf
Category 6 Stay Anytime award = 60,000 points

$237 internet only 14-day advance nonrefundable rate = $270 after tax.
$270/60,000 points = $4.50/1,000 points

This would be a quite poor redemption value for 60,000 Marriott Rewards points.

Priority Club Rewards = 60,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $811 redemption value for 2.4 nights at Holiday Inn San Francisco Golden Gateway

$811.12 redemption value for 2.4 nights at Holiday Inn San Francisco Golden Gateway
San Francisco charges 40,000 points for the Mark Hopkins and the new InterContinental San Francisco adjacent to Moscone Convention Center. The InterContinental hotels are not available for the July 15 date, however there is availability for the Holiday Inn San Francisco Golden Gateway on Van Ness Street for 25,000 points per night.

$296.65 + tax = $338/night
July 15, 2008
$338/25,000 points = $13.52/1,000 points

Priority Club PointBreaks

Priority Club has a special redemption offer called PointBreak for a 5,000 points free night award. There is a revolving list of participating hotels around the globe that is updated with new hotels every couple of months. There is potential to get 12 nights on PointBreaks awards at 5,000 points per night.

Example night: PointBreaks Reward for France at the Holiday Inn Toulouse Centre for July 15, 2008 where the regular rate is 99€ per night and a 5.5% tax is included in rate. The value of this PointBreaks redemption is about $160/5,000 points or $32.00/1,000 Priority Club points. With 60,000 Priority Club points from 50,000 Diners Club Rewards points the redemption value in the range of $1,920 value is possible. This is nearly a 4% return on the Diners Club credit card purchases of $50,000.

Purchase Value: $690 value for 60,000 Priority Club Rewards points.

Priority Club points purchase limit is 40,000 points per 12 months at rate of $11.50/1,000 points for purchases of 20,000 points or more.

Starwood Preferred Guest = 30,000 points

Diners Club Exchange Value = $1,092 redemption value for 3 nights at Westin Market Street
$1,197.00 redemption value for Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf

Purchase Value: 30,000 Starpoints x $35/1,000 = $1,050 value

This type of comparison for the relative value of using points compared to booking a paid reservation is facilitated by the simple design of the Starwood hotel rate search returns that also show availability of free nights using points or the even more valuable Cash & Points option.

The best value for July 15, 2008 is the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, a Category 4 hotel available for 10,000 points or a paid rate of $350 + tax/night.
The Westin Market Street is also available for points at $319 + tax/night or 10,000 points.

Westin Market Street
$364/10,000 points = $36.40/1,000 points

Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf
$399/10,000 points = $39.90/1,000 points

Starwood 1,000 bonus points for summer stays

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
“Far Away is Closer than You Think”

The picture of the white sand beach and palm tree caught my eye. 1,000 bonus Starpoints definitely captured my attention.

Registration is required online or by telephone at 888-625-4988 and mention code M7A.
Key Terms:
- Valid on new reservations only.
- Not valid on group rates like AAA, senior rates, but may be available on some corporate rates
- Only one bonus per stay that includes a Sunday through Thursday night.
- Four Points hotel brand stays only earn 500 Starpoints
- Participating hotels are only in North America and specific months of participation varies from hotel to hotel.

- Participating hotels in USA
- Participating hotels in Hawaii
- Participating hotels in Canada
- Participating hotels in Caribbean

I understand the W Retreat and Spa Maldives is Starwood’s trophy travel luxury property in Central Asia, but mentioning the Maldives in a North American promotion for 1,000 Starpoints is a drop in the bucket – or sand in the face- for the 60,000 Starpoints per night requirement for an award stay at the W Maldives Indian Ocean island location.

Wouldn’t “From the beaches of the Caribbean to Hawaii” be more appropriate ad copy for this North American promotion?

Regardless, I just booked a mid-week stay and the 1,000 Starpoints is a welcome bonus promotion for summer travel in the USA.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monterey County is Burning

Pebble Beach, California Lightning Strikes
June 22, 2008

No Woman No Cry
"gonna make the fire light
a-log-a-wood burning through the night"

A week ago in Monterey it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a lightning storm crossed the Central Coast. This is a photo of the lightning over Pebble Beach area. A storm front with lightning strikes lasting less than 30 minutes only dropped about five minutes of heavy rain here in Monterey. The lightning strikes set off fires along the Central Coast.

The Los Padres National Forest southeast of the town of Big Sur has burned over 30,000 acres in the past week. Some of the oldest existing buildings on the coast ridges around Big Sur burned. The Henry Miller library was almost lost to the fire. Ventana Inn and Post Ranch Inn were evacuated. 20 miles of coast Highway 1 have been closed for the week.

San Jose Mercury news article on Big Sur fires Friday, June 27, 2008

The fire was originally called the "Gallery" fire due to the proximity of the burning forest to an art gallery on Highway 1 and just south of the Nepenthe cliff top restaurant and store. There is a web camera mounted on the deck of Nepenthe's and the fire area could be seen in the webcam images last Sunday.

Nepenthe Webcam, Big Sur, California

Big Sur Fire Map from KSBW Monterey local TV news

The town of Big Sur is actually open and accessible. Big Sur is hurting at the start of this tourism season, but the air quality is so bad here that I would not recommend anyone coming to this area at the present time. The wind has blown the fires' smoke over Monterey Bay and all the way up the Salinas and Santa Clara Valleys and it is a week of sore lungs and officially "unhealthy" air.

The "Indians" fire in southern Monterey County on the eastern side of the Los Padres National Forest has been burning for several weeks and so far has scorched over 100 square miles of mountainous land. Together with the Big Sur Basin Complex fires, the Monterey County fires are just about to go over 100,000 acres in burn area. Conditions seem like 1977 when the Los Padres forest fires burned for several months and over 250,000 acres in Monterey County's mountains and hill country.

California is facing a long hot summer.

A website has been established to coordinate news and resources for those affected by the Big Sur fires:

July 3 update: The fire has burned over 55,000 acres. Big Sur was under mandatory evacuation yesterday as the order affects Highway 1 on both sides of road and the road has been closed for a 30 mile stretch. The road looked like the fire line as the flames fanned the ridge above the reporter at Andrew Molera State Park, just north of Big Sur village on last night's report. The fire is spreading in all directions. Fire still only 3% contained. No more buildings lost yet, but I read the fire is getting closer to Ventana Inn and Resort location. The air has not been too bad in Monterey the past few days with an onshore breeze.