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.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

International Travel Summer 2008 – Room Rate Trends

Amsterdam Hilton, canal view

Smith Travel Research provides weekly room rate data for the US, monthly US room rate reports, and Global Room Rate data in different currencies for US Dollars, Euros, and British Pounds. An interesting feature of the Smith Travel research room rate data is room rates are displayed in different currencies. Year-to-year changes in room rates allows a comparison of the impact of currency exchange on room rates. I have wondered how different currencies correlate with room rate increases and decreases over the past few years as I travel to international places.

Room rates for the American hotel traveler increased significantly higher in just about every region globally for Americans and Brits on the order of 13% to 28% for April 2008 compared to April 2007. The Smith Travel Research Global Report for April 2008 shows average room rates year-to-year to April 2008 and the increase/decrease in room rates for a variety of international regions.

The $200US hotel room of summer 2007 will cost on average around $225 to $255 in summer 2008. The US Dollar lost 15% value against the Euro and the British Pound lost almost the equivalent value against the Euro while holding fairly steady against the US Dollar. The net effect is travelers using Euros will not see anything like the annual increases in room rates for Americans and British travelers going into summer 2008.

Buenos Aires Hotel Rates as Example of Currency Exchange Effect

The impact of currency exchange is easily seen with the example of Buenos Aires. Average daily room rate in Buenos Aires in April 2007 was $131.52 USD, or 98.91EUR, or 66.67 GBP.
April 2008 saw Buenos Aires average room rate rise to $152.06 USD (up 15.6%), 76.64 GBP (up 15.0%), but rates saw no increase when priced in Euros (98.89 EUR in April 2008 is essentially no change from 98.91EUR in April 2007). Travelers with currency and credit cards based in US Dollars or British Pounds saw a 15% rise in Buenos Aires hotel room rates while Euro travelers saw unchanged rates from 2007 to 2008.

In Europe the room rate increases that were above average for Europeans in places like Paris and Berlin were astronomical increases for American and British travelers. Paris escalated rates more than 10% in Euros, but those room rate increases were equivalent to a 27% year-to-year rise in rates after currency devaluation for Americans and British travelers exchanging to euros.

The data I displayed the other day showed British travelers are the largest block of overseas travelers to the USA. The cost of travel in Euros is a year-to-year shock for British travelers just as it is for Americans going to Europe in Summer 2008. The USA may be a bargain destination in terms of the overall cost of hotel rooms in most places, however, for Europeans there are many regions of the world that are also a better value this summer than last summer.

For many Europeans, UK hotel rates have declined over the past year. London hotel rates actually increased 6% priced in British pounds and American travelers will have the full effect of the rate increase paying in US dollars. Europeans exchanging euros for pounds actually have an 8% decline in room rates over the past year due to the strength of the euro currency this past year.

Comparing April 2008 and year-to-year room rates in US Dollars, Euros, and British Pounds:

, up 27.5%, $207.23 to $264.28
(EUR +10.3%, 155.76€ to 171.88€)
(GBP +26.9%, £105.00 to £132.22)
Paris average room rates now surpass London, New York, and Rome. Finding a bargain for Paris is essential to make an affordable leisure vacation. Look to loyalty program specials for discount rates. Anticipate more hotel category increases for free night redemptions using points from Starwood, Hilton, and Marriott for hotels in Paris in 2009.

Berlin, up 24.4%, from $109.18 to $135.79 US
(EUR +7.6%, from 81.95€ to 88.17€)
(GBP +23.8%, from £55.32 to £68.46)
Germany has been one of the bargain hotel destinations in Europe with minimal room rate increases during the past few years. Even with the 24% rise for Berlin hotel rooms in the past year, this city is a bargain compared to Paris and Rome. Berlin is a great jumping off point for Eastern Europe. Beware that major hotel chains in cities like Prague and Warsaw may price rooms in Euros rather than their own national currency, and good value is often more difficult to find with the major hotel chains in Eastern European cities.

Madrid, up 20.5%, from $149.19 to $179.79
(EUR +4.3%, from 112.15€ to 116.96€)
(GBP +19.9%, from £75.62 to £90.65)
Moderate rate increases of 4.3% are not highly inflationary for Europeans. Most of the room rate increase for Americans and British is due to currency devaluation against the Euro.

Rome, up 17.6%, from $190.89 to $224.49,
(EUR +1.8%, from 143.05€ to 145.63€)
(GBP +17.2%, from £96.63 to £113.22)
Slight rise for Europeans is a significant rise for Americans due to currency exchange rate for US dollars to Euros over the past year.

London, up 6.6%, from $207.93 to $221.62
(EUR -7.7%, rates actually decreased from 156.37€ down to 144.26€ for April 2008)
(GBP +6.0%, from £105.38 to £111.72)

Average Room Rate Increases from April 2007 to April 2008
Unfortunately for the American traveler there are double digit increases in hotel rates around the world for summer 2008. Hotel average room rate increases top 20% for the past year in Sydney, Australia and Tokyo, Japan. Bargain destinations like eastern European countries, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America are seeing large hotel room rate increases. This data shows New York City average room rtes at $250 significantly lower than the $477 average rate cited from the newspaper at the end of my post last week.

, up 22.9%, from $150.10USD to $184.48 USD
(EUR +6.3%, 113.00€ to 120.14€)
(GBP +22.1%, £62.47 to £75.22).
No wonder British travelers are cutting back on Australia travel for 2008.

, up 21.5% from $146.99 to $178.61 (EUR +5.2%) (GBP +20.8%)
Beijing, up 14.4% from $107.06 to $122.43, (EUR - 1.1%) (GBP +13.9%)
Hong Kong, up 14.0% from $170.86 to $194.71 (EUR -1.4%) (GBP +13.4%)

Middle East/North Africa
, up 26.8% from $95.17 to $120.70, (EUR +9.7%) (GBP +26.1%) Egypt has been one of the cheapest bargain vacation spots for Americans for several years and hotel rates are now seeing dramatic rises. $65 per night for upscale resorts may become a thing of the past.

Dubai, up 13.0% from $311.44 to $351.94 (EUR -2.2%) (GBP +12.4%) Dubai has seen double digit increases in USD room rates for the past several years and is now one of the most expensive vacation destinations of the world.

, up 16.6% from $118.52 to $138.14 (EUR +1.0%) (GBP +16.0%)
Buenos Aires, up 15.6% from $131.52 to $152.06, (EUR 0%, no change) (GBP +15.0%)
New York, up 8.1% from $231.40 to $250.19 (EUR -6.4%) (GBP +7.7%)
Los Angeles, up 5.7% from $121.90 to $128.90 (EUR -8.5%) (GBP +5.2%)

data from Smith Travel Research

Another set of data from TRI Hospitality Consulting focuses on European cities year-to-year room rate changes. I believe this data is based on a subset of hotels used for Smith travel research with a focus on the upscale and major hotel chains. These numbers are probably more accurate for American loyalty program members seeking a Starwood, Hilton, Marriott, or InterContinental hotel in Europe.

Hotel travel trends show declines in room occupancy for most major European cities going into summer season 2008 compared to 2007 with the exception of Paris and Budapest. I read last year when planning a trip to Prague that Budapest had become the new Prague – a place to vacation cheaply in a major European city for hotel stay guests as well as backpackers seeking fun and cheap touring locations.

The TRI data support the commonly written travel advice for Americans going to Europe. Eastern Europe allows your dollar to go farther. Budapest and Warsaw showed minimal average room rate increases of around 3%, while Prague actually had an 8% drop in room rates in Euros. Factor in currency exchange and average room rates went up about 18% for Americans in Warsaw and Budapest, and about 8% for Prague from 2007 to 2008.

Eastern Europe Average Room Rates in April 2008
Budapest 98.33€
Prague 107.15€
Warsaw 106.92€

Berlin, Germany is significantly more expensive for hotels in 2008 at 151.11 €. The TRI data has a focus on major hotel chains, but when compared to Smith Travel Research showing average hotel rates for Berlin at 88.17€ , there is such a dramatic variation of average room rates for Berlin that I don’t know what to make of the data.

The more interesting feature of the TRI major European cities hotel room data is the decline in room occupancy in April 2008 compared to April 2007. A couple of cities showed greater than 5% decline in room occupancy over the past year, while most cities fell 1 to 2% in the past year.

Amsterdam dropped over 3% in hotel room occupancy from 86.0% in April 2007 to 82.9% in April 2008. Vienna dropped nearly 6% in room occupancy from 77.5% in April 2007 to 71.7% in April 2008.

Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, and Warsaw all saw room occupancy decline in the 4% to 5% range for a similar 4 month period from 2007 to 2008.

On the upside for hotels, Paris showed a slight increase in room occupancy despite the escalating average room rate. Budapest saw the greatest increase in occupancy with a 3% rise over 2007.

London 79.1%, Paris 78.0%, and Amsterdam 74.9% had the highest room occupancy rates of the European cities surveyed.

Berlin 59.9%, Budapest 62.5%, Vienna 62.5%, and Prague 63.3% had the lowest occupancy rates.

Priceline to the rescue

Amsterdam saw a year-to-year 5% decline in occupancy while room rates rose 10.49EUR to ADR of 168.94 EUR.

Checking Priceline rates on BiddingforTravel, I see the Hilton Amsterdam is going for around $141/night for July dates. The $141 Priceline rate is quite a savings on the 174 EUR nonrefundable rate for July 14, 2008 on the Hilton website. (174 EUR x $1.57 = $273 US).


European hotel travel on average is significantly more expensive in 2008. Hotel bargains are still out there and I regularly point out special European hotel rate special offers from the major hotel chains. Hotel special offers like IHG British hotel discounts and Priceline bids are the strategies for dealing with the high cost of hotels. Paris in 2008 might be a challenge due to the perfect storm of high hotel occupancy, high rate increases, and the poor exchange rate of the US Dollar.

European hotels may find rate discounts necessary to attract British and American travelers seeking better vacation bargains. As Europeans flex their currency muscle with expanded international travel to other regions of the globe the impact may be an additional factor on European room occupancy. While the Caribbean may be discounting their high rates to attract more Americans, the region is still one of the most expensive in the world for hotels. Europeans truly benefit from discounts in the Caribbean where the price of hotels has dropped on average over 20% in the past year, mostly due to currency exchange fluctuation.

The European vacation looks more out of reach for the average American traveler as airfares have increased in 2008 and are less likely to go back down in the current airline industry climate. Hotel rates are still increasing in almost all regions of the world and show few signs of backing down at the present time. Fortunately, the US Dollar has been holding at about the $1.55 = 1€ range for the past few months and we may have less fluctuation of exchange rates over the next year to impact room rate increases.

International travel for Americans in 2008 will likely be significantly more expensive than the past few years. Indicators are showing a decline in hotel occupancy in many regions of the world. The economic conditions in regions like the USA and the UK may place a damper on international travel.

83% of overseas travel by Americans is leisure travel. In my opinion, at some point in the next year, the global economic pressures will likely force hotels to begin bringing rates down. Apparently, the hotels do not see these economic pressures threatening their industry at the present time as rates continue to climb. Another year of occupancy declines in the 5% to 7% range for some tourist oriented locations may initiate a rethinking of the escalating room rates.

And for the loyalty traveler I see good news on the hotel loyalty promotions front line. Higher rates and declining occupancy, particularly among leisure travelers, is going to keep the hotel loyalty program strategists planning plenty of new incentives to get leisure travelers into their hotel brands. This Loyalty Traveler anticipates more lucrative promotions coming to frequent guests in 2008 and 2009.

USA Travel

There was a decline in room revenue from Memorial weekend 2007 to 2008. This indicates loyalty program promotions are needed to entice the leisure traveler. There were plenty of new promotions announced in June as part of the summer campaign. I anticipate plenty of mid-summer promotions if the hotel occupancy doesn't pick up and revenue shows more declines. The three weeks since Memorial weekend have seen room revenue declines overall in the USA. The high cost of travel in chilling travelers just at the start of the busy summer leisure travel season.

The past month has shown the average daily rate for hotel rooms on Friday and Saturday night have generally increased 3% to 4% year-to-year in May 2008 while occupancy has generally declined 3 to 4% for weekend hotel stays. The greatest room revenue declines are being posted for Friday and Saturday nights. Are hotels going to get the message that leisure travelers have reached their limit on higher prices? Summertime and the living ain't easy for vacations.
Commentary based on data from Smith Travel Research at

Room taxes in the USA average 13.4% for 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Choice Hotels Privileges Elite Fast-Track Offer

Choice Privileges has a special offer, “AGOLD” for new members to earn low level Gold elite membership with a nights count double promotion.

Join Choice Privileges by September 30, 2008 and all qualifying nights will count double through the end of the year. Gold elite normally requires 10 nights in a calendar year and with the “AGOLD” promotion will take only 5 nights. The primary benefit of Gold elite membership is 10% bonus points and special offers.

The Choice Privileges specialist I spoke with over the phone stated the double nights only count towards the 10 nights for earning Gold elite membership and will not fast-track a new member to Platinum (regularly 25+ nights) or Diamond (regularly 40+ nights) through nights count double qualification. Unfortunately, the high value benefits like an expanded rewards night booking window from 30 days to 60 days for platinum elites and 90 days for diamond elites and the significant points bonuses come with these higher elite levels.

While the offer specifically states Gold elite will be earned after 5 nights in 2008, there are no terms and conditions published that specifically prohibit the double nights from counting towards higher status of 13 nights for Platinum or 20 nights for Diamond.

It might be worth pursuing the clarification of the terms and try to get in writing whether this promotion will work for elite membership in Choice Privileges beyond the Gold elite level. Interested travelers may benefit from working this promotion for a higher status. The possibility of earning Choice Privileges Diamond elite with 20 nights in 2008 may be a high value loyalty scheme.

In any event, new members of Choice Privileges can at least earn Gold elite membership with just 5 nights before the end of 2008 and maintain Gold elite membership through 2009 with the Choice Privileges “AGOLD” promotion.

Choice Hotels - Overview

More than 5,500 hotel members and more than 450,000 rooms in Choice Privileges makes this program a benefit for travelers in smaller towns and cities across the USA. The program even offers international hotel properties in 40 countries and territories. USA hotel members are around 4,500 with about 355,000 rooms. Nearly 1,000 hotels are currently in development with additional room capacity approaching another 200,000 rooms for the USA in the coming few years.

Choice Hotels also have about 45,000 rooms in Europe and over 400 hotel members. There are over 330 hotels and 25,000 rooms in Asia/Pacific with Australia and New Zealand well represented. Choice hotels have a small market share in Latin America. There are only about 100 Choice hotel members in the western hemisphere outside the USA and Canada. There is one Choice hotel in the Middle East and none in Africa. Choice Privileges enrollment passed 5,000,000 in 2006.

There are 10 hotel brands in the Choice Hotels family [brand hotel data from (2007 report)].

1. Comfort Inn – Choice Hotels flagship brand, USA 1,434 hotels ; international 532 hotels; 2007 Average room rate in USA = $79.68 in 2007

2. Comfort Suites – USA 481 hotels; international 10 hotels. This brand will grow rapidly with almost 300 hotels currently in development. Room rate data combined with above.

3. Quality Inn – USA 828 hotels; international 382 hotels
Average room rate in USA = $70.30 in 2007

4. Sleep Inn - USA 346 hotels; international 24 hotels
Average room rate in USA = $69.67 in 2007

5. Clarion - USA 167 hotels; international 115 hotels
Average room rate in USA = $80.86 in 2007

6. Cambria Suites – 9 hotels in USA; brand opened in 2007 as an upscale hotel brand and rooms are larger with plasma TVs, refrigerator, CD stereo, microwave, upscale bath, and a sofa-bed, in addition to main bed. There are 60 more Cambria Suites in development. No Average room rate data for 2007. (Online check for Boise, ID on June 6, 2008 showed regular rate of $79-89 for one night.)

7. MainStay Suites – USA 30 hotels; average room rate in USA = $70.04 in 2007

8. Suburban Extended Stay – USA 54 hotels; average room rate in USA = $40.13 in 2007

9. EconoLodge - USA 825 hotels; international 45 hotels
Average room rate in USA = $54.40 in 2007

10. Rodeway Inn - USA 276 hotels; international 6 hotels; budget category hotel brand
Average room rate in USA = $53.24 in 2007

International properties are concentrated in Canada (273 hotels), Australia (224 hotels), France (103 hotels), UK (86 hotels), Norway (69 hotels), Sweden (60 hotels), Brazil (48 hotels), Germany (42 hotels), Japan (42 hotels), New Zealand (30 hotels) and a scattering of hotels in nearly 30 other countries.

[Note: Choice Privileges has a rule prohibiting points for stays in Norway, Sweden, and some other smaller Baltic countries].

Thursday, June 19, 2008

IHG Discount Room Rates Link - Summer 2008 in Britain

Rediscover the best of Britain this Summer” is an InterContinental Hotels Group special offer for summer travel in the British Isles available at over 125 IHG Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express hotels.

Terms of two special offers for United Kingdom hotels this summer:

Special Rates Offer 1: Room & Breakfast for two at IHG Hotels in the UK with rates as low as 39GBP (about $78USD) are listed in the link.

Special Rates Offer 2: Two Nights with Breakfast and One Dinner for two persons at IHG Hotels in the UK. Rates as low as 99GBP.

Rates are valid only for weekend nights of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from June 6th to September 7th, 2008, inclusive. Some hotels may offer the special rate on other days and Brighton specifically only has mid-week special rates.

While the advertisement is for rates as low as 49GBP (about $98USD), there are hotels listed in the promotion at 39 GBP for a room and breakfast.


Special offers are a key component to getting the best rate at some hotels at some times. A trip to the IHG websites does not prominently show a special offer rate for UK Hotels. The vast majority of web users simply go to an IHG website like Crowne Plaza Hotels or the Priority Club hotel loyalty program website to research and book a room in London. Perhaps you use a site like Kayak or Expedia to get an overall feel for room rates.

Regular Shopping for Hotel Rates (June 19, 2008) Hotel Reservations,
London St. James Crowne Plaza, July 11-13, 2008 (two night stay)
$762.29 nonrefundable rate for two nights in a standard room, no extras

Crowne Plaza website reservations: ($1.96 = 1 GBP 6-19-08)
London St. James Crowne Plaza, July 11-13, 2008 (two night stay)

439.46 GBP = $861.34 nonrefundable rate for two nights in a standard room, no extras
486.46 GBP = $953.46 with breakfast, nonrefundable rate

Special Offer Shopping for Hotel Rates

InterContinental Hotels Group Rediscover Britain Promotion Link:
London St. James Crowne Plaza, July 11-13, 2008 (two night stay)

280.00 GBP = $548.80 USD, nonrefundable rate
for two nights room, breakfast, and one dinner for 2 persons.

The IHG Summer in the UK special offer link cuts nearly 30% off the room rate for the Expedia special rate. Both rates are non-refundable.

Expedia in this case offered a lower rate than shown on the regular reservations system of InterContinental Hotels. And IHG reservations does not make it easy for you to find the special offer for the summer savings in the United Kingdom.

To give you an example of the generic value of this package.
London - St. James Crowne Plaza Hotel 280GBP ($550US) for
2 room nights + 2 breakfasts for 2 + 1 Dinner for 2 people

Assume a good hotel rate for downtown London is $200 per night, and the St. James Crowne Plaza is 1/2 block from Buckingham Palace. $400 value for two night stay.

Assume realistic meal rates to buy breakfasts and a dinner on your own and the meal inclusive package value added benefit is:
Breakfast = $15 per person x 2 persons x 2 days = $60 value
Dinner = $40 per person x 2 persons = $80 value

$540 real value at this hotel in terms of getting a fantastic rate of $200 per night on a two night stay and 3 meals in a restaurant in downtown London where shopping for food can be a pain.

The Room and Breakfast rate is available only for one night, July 11 at the St. James for 120 GBP or $235 USD.

I stayed at the St. James Court for a week in 1989 (before it was a Crowne Plaza) on a 50% off rate. This is a great deal for the location and in London near Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace for this summer travel season.

These special rate offers are announced in hotel loyalty programs and generally disappear, sometimes quickly into cyberspace links that can be quite difficult to find on the hotel program websites.

Two good sources for hotel special offer links are and

Savvy travelers see significant savings from special offer rates.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kimpton Hotels - Stay 3, Get 1 Night Free Summer Promotion

Kimpton Stay 3, Get 1 Night Free Summer Promotion

Kimpton InTouch members have a valuable incentive to hotel stay this summer. Kimpton’s InTouch hotel frequent guest program will give members staying 3 times at any of the 42 Kimpton Hotels in the USA and Canada by August 31, 2008 a free night at any Kimpton Hotel.

Free Night Summer Promotion Terms:
- Promotional Period: June 15 – August 31, 2008
- Must be a Kimpton Hotels InTouch member at time of stay for credit eligibility. As long as member enrolls before checkout, the stay is eligible.
- Any Kimpton Hotels website published rate or package rate is eligible.
- A stay is defined as one or more consecutive nights at a single property regardless of check-in/ check-out dates.
- Free Night credit will be applied the week of September 1, 2008
- This promotion is combinable with the regular InTouch frequent guest benefit of earning a free night after 7 eligible stays.
- One Bonus Night can be earned for stays during the promotional period.

By the Numbers:

The Kimpton InTouch frequent guest earns one free night after 3 stays with this summer promotion. I put the numbers at about $480 to $600 after taxes, for 3 paid hotel nights based on sample rates in San Francisco ($144, Sir Francis Drake Hotel July 3, 2008), Denver ($143, Hotel Monaco, July 11) and Washington, D.C. ($139, Hotel Madera, July 12).

One free night for a mid-week urban stay in the Kimpton Hotels of New York City or Washington, D.C. can regularly be in the $350 to $500 range for mid-week stays.

$449, The Muse Hotel, NYC, Wed. Nov 19

$500 to stay 3 nights in a Kimpton hotel this summer can have a 100% return on investment with one night free in a $500 per night room in New York City later in the year.

7 Stays Earns a Free Night, the regular benefit with Kimpton InTouch

The InTouch frequent guest normally earns a free night after 7 stays. There is a significant opportunity for high value when you combine the summer promotion with the regular loyalty benefit to earn 2 free hotel nights with as few as 7 paid nights (as 7 one-night stays). I put the numbers at about $1,000 to $1,400 for 7 paid hotel nights based on rates in San Francisco ($144, Sir Francis Drake Hotel July 3, 2008), Denver ($143, Hotel Monaco, July 11) and Washington, D.C. ($139, Hotel Madera, July 12). There is the potential for nearly $2,000 in hotel room value with 9 hotel nights for around a $1,100 pay-out.

A brand new member to Kimpton Hotels InTouch program can get nearly a 100% return on investment if you can plan your hotel stays to maximize the value of the free nights. At the low-end a member should be able to get at least $600 in free room value with two free nights after as few as 7 paid nights.

Kimpton InTouch Free Night Rewards Benefit Spans the Years

A feature of Kimpton’s InTouch frequent guest program is a running hotel stay history on the member’s account that carries eligibility for free night credit from one calendar year to later years. Normally a member earns a free Kimpton hotel night credit after every 7 hotel stays or 20 hotel nights. The stays and nights do not need to be in the same year. In theory, after earning a free night from the 2008 summer promotion with 3 stays, the member could stay 2 more times in 2009 and 2 more times in 2010 and earn a free night after the 7th stay two years from now.

Loyalty Traveler Commentary “Earn Them and Burn Them”

The rules as written now for Kimpton InTouch frequent guests grant a free night after every 7 stays. This rule can change at anytime and it is important for a loyalty traveler to realize frequent guest program rules are dynamic. The trend in hotel frequent guest programs across the industry is to make free nights more expensive to redeem. Since Kimpton’s InTouch does not work on a hotel points-based structure of earning and redemption, the logical adjustment in the future is to up the stays/nights ratio for a free night. The free night after 7 Kimpton stays will likely be adjusted as the program grows and might be adjusted to something like earn a free night after 10 stays or 25 nights.

Earn Them and Burn Them.

The point is the loyalty traveler should plan on earning and spending within six months to a year to accurately estimate the value of your hotel loyalty program promotions. In the current hotel industry environment there are not many instances where loyalty program benefits become significantly more generous for the member in terms of earning free nights and plenty of instances where value deteriorated significantly with frequent guest program adjustments.

About Kimpton Hotels
There are currently 41 boutique-style hotels open in the USA and most prominent in the key cities of San Francisco (9 hotels) and Washington, D.C. (7 hotels). There are not a lot of Kimpton Hotels, however, they are located in the major cities around the country. Several more hotels will be opening soon and industry news indicates Kimpton Hotels has money and plans to buy properties in key US and Canadian markets over the next couple of years.

Monday, June 16, 2008

International Travel - Summer 2008 Statistics

Castle District, Prague, Czech Republic

I periodically see travel industry claims for hotel prospects staying bright with all the international visitors to the USA taking advantage of the great exchange rate for US Dollars.

The Global Insight report for AAA from February 2008, along with government statistics for Jan-Feb 2008 indicates more Americans are traveling to Europe for 2008.

I have my doubts that the final data will show increased travel for summer 2008 to overseas destinations and I will be looking for the data to see what Summer 2008 travel ultimately turns out to be. The on-the-street reality I see and hear are more families being hurt financially and somewhat mentally by the increased pressures of rising costs and bills. These past two years have shown the resident consumer in the USA particularly acute expenditure rises in gasoline, utilities, and medical/auto/other insurances compounding the noticeable increase in food stuffs. Along with a decline in house prices and perceived wealth coinciding with increased travel costs for airline tickets, even tickets using miles, and hotel rooms, makes the cost of overseas travel an avoidable luxury in 2008 for many in the economic squeeze.

European travel should be a good indicator of the American economy. As the data comes in for European travel for 2008, we will see if travel abroad is truly resilient in the face of poor economic conditions. I hope Americans can still find their way to travel overseas in 2008 and 2009. I’m frightened to think that we were a privileged generation who enjoyed travel and seeing the world for leisure. Future years may find more meaning to the US military slogan “Join and See the World”.

6,000,000 Americans to travel to Europe this summer according to AAA. The increase in travel to Europe is about 300,000 travelers over 2007. We will see.

While I was gathering research on international travel, I uncovered some interesting data on the USA traveler going overseas. Overseas is defined as all international countries outside the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Fascinating to me is the statistic that only 7% of USA travelers who went overseas in 2005 were first-time overseas travelers. So, 13 of 14 US travelers who went overseas in 2005 had traveled overseas previously. People traveling for leisure vacations or to visit family and friends accounted for 83% of international trips overseas. The AAA 2008 report cites 82% of international travel is leisure so the proportion of leisure to business travel is steady over the past few years.

In 2005 28.8 million USA resident travelers went overseas.
24.0 million travelers went overseas for leisure or to visit family and friends (83%).

61% of US leisure travelers overseas stayed in hotels
Average number of hotel nights = 9
Median number = 7

[Ric's calculation: Among leisure travelers, half of people staying in hotels are spending a week or less and half a week or more while traveling Europe.
24 million travelers x 0.61 stay in hotels x 9 nights = 146,000,000 room nights.
Assume some travelers stay together, so perhaps 100 million room nights from US travelers. Assume $100/night and about 10 billion dollars in international room bookings from Americans traveling overseas.]

Where do Americans Travel?
(2005 based on US Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries government data)
80% visited just one country outside USA
13% visited two countries
7% visited three of more countries

42% of leisure travelers went to Europe or about 10 million travelers in 2005.
Fewer than 10% of these travelers ventured to Eastern Europe.

UK 12% (2,900,000 US travelers in 2005)

France 8% (2,000,000)

Italy 8% (2,000,000)

Germany 6% (1,500,000)

Spain 4% (1,000,000)

Netherlands 3% (750,000)

Ireland 3% (750,000)

Switzerland 2% (500,000)

Austria 2% (500,000)

Eastern Europe 4% (1,000,000)

19% Asia (4,500,000)

20% Caribbean (4,800,000)

14% Central and South America (3,400,000)

4% Middle East (1,000,000)

3% Oceania (750,000)

2% Africa (500,000)

Observations from the data: Fewer than 500,000 American visitors to Africa for 2005 and less than 750,000 US visitors to Oceania which includes Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands such as Tahiti and Fiji. For the first time in Australia, the country expects to see more of their residents travel out of the country than tourists coming in to Australia in 2008. Australians are being urged to take "staycations".

International Visitors from Overseas to the USA (excludes Canadians and Mexicans)

Ric's note: These are the visitors who are supposed to save our hotel industry as prices rise, occupancy drops, and American leisure and business travel declines over next year.

2000 26,000,000
2002 19,000,000
2003 18,000,000
2004 20,000,000
2005 21,700,000
2006 21,700,000
No increase in international travel arrivals from overseas for 2006 over 2005.
(16,000,000 Canadians and 13,000,000 Mexicans also visited the USA in 2006.)

Where do foreign visitors to the USA come from?
2004 data for Country of Residency for 20,000,000 visitors to the USA (countries with at least 200,000 visitors are listed and account for 80% of all overseas visitors to the USA (excludes Canadians and Mexicans).

8.5 million visitors came from 9 European countries.
42% of visitors to USA are from major European countries which is about the same percentage of Americans traveling to these countries overseas when traveling to Europe.

UK 4,300,000 (21.5% of all overseas visitors to USA in 2004)
The news I have read over the past couple years indicates the British are just as screwed as Americans in their finances with home prices and high debt.

Japan 3,750,000 (18.8%) Japanese tourism has been declining over past two years

Germany 1,320,000 (6.6%)

France 775,000 (3.9%)

S. Korea 625,000 (3.1%)

Australia 520,000 (2.6%)

Italy 470,000 (2.4%)

Netherlands 425,000 (2.1%)

Brazil 385,000 (1.9%)

Ireland 345,000 (1.7%)

Spain 335,000 (1.7%)

Venezuela 330,000 (1.6%)

China 325,000 (1.6%)
China, PRC 200,000
Hong Kong 125,000

India 310,000 (1.6%)

Taiwan 300,000 (1.5%)

Colombia 295,000 (1.5%)

Israel 275,000 (1.4%)

Bahamas 265,000 (1.3%)

Sweden 255,000 (1.3%)

Switzerland 245,000 (1.2 %)

79.3% of all US visitors from overseas in 2004 came from the countries listed above.

US Visitors to Overseas
2005 28,800,000 (leisure travelers are 83% of total travelers)
2006 30,150,000 (5% increase and appears mostly due to Caribbean travel increases for Jamaica and the Bahamas)

Ipsos Public Affairs Survey conducted on behalf of Access America Travel Insurance and Assistance in April 2008 shows a less optimistic summer 2008 travel season.
Only 33% of Americans surveyed planned to take a summer vacation in 2008.
Only 57% of Americans who took a summer vacation in 2007 planned to take one in 2008 and economic conditions are cited as primary factor for no vacation in summer 2008.

American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Summer Hot Spots research data (Feb 2008) shows Europe had 6 of top 10 “International Hot Cities” in 2007.
London (#1 = 12.3%),
Rome (#2 = 9.9%),
Paris (# 4 = 7.0%),
Florence (# 7 = 1.2%),
Venice (#9 = 1.1%),
Frankfurt (#10 = 0.8%)
These 6 European cities comprised 32.3% of travel Hot Spot Cities in 2007.

2008 Data
London (#1= 10.9%),
Rome (#2 = 9.0%),
Paris (#4 = 6.4%),
Venice (#7 = 1.4%),
Barcelona (#8 = 1.1%)
Five European cities in 2008 in Top 10 accounted for 28.8% of ASTA responses. This represented a 3.5% decline in major European cities in Top 10 from 2007.

Obviously there is interest in several other cities not in the Top 10 since the Top 10 Cities only add up to 43% of travel responses, but then again 43% of all responses from travel agents indicates nearly half of international travel from the USA focuses on just 10 of the world’s major cities.

The data from this ASTA report in February for advance bookings shows travel declining overall and Europe Hot Spots down nearly 10% over two years from 2006 to 2008.

Honolulu and NYC are way down in interest for this ASTA survey for 2008 compared to 2007. That tells me people were holding off and waiting to see how the economy played out in the spring of this year. And for most people it turned way down in the months between January and June 2008 as household inflation jumped with fuel prices and food increases.

Let the economically advantaged Europeans and international tourists have New York. Most Americans are looking for a bargain this summer. $477 room rates - Please.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hyatt Offers 25% discount for prepaid summer stays

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch
Scottsdale, Arizona

Hyatt Gold Passport members can receive a 25% discount on the prevailing rate for hotel stays this summer in North America at participating Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt Hotels. Reservation must be prepaid, made by June 26, 2008 for stays between June 26 and Aug 3, 2008.

Park Hyatt, Hyatt Place, Summerfield Suites, and Andaz hotels are not eligible for this offer.
Use Special Offer Code LTO104 or call 1-800-233-1234 for reservations.

This deal can be a significant savings depending on the specific hotel, however, check for other discount rates available during your stay dates.

Sample savings:

Sat July 19- Sun July 20
San Francisco Grand Hyatt $249 regular prevailing rate
LTO104 rate = $186.75 which is 25% off prevailing rate.

While this is a good rate discount, I found the same rate of $186.75 for this night with a AAA Hot Deals rate. The AAA Hotel Deals offer is a much better deal. Rather than full prepayment which is nonrefundable for the LTO104 offer, the AAA rate may be cancelled up to 3pm 48 hours before day of stay with no penalty. The AAA deal also includes a 25% discount on parking (which is regularly $50+ per day) and complimentary breakfast.

Mon July 21-Thur July 24, 3-night stay
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch
$193 per night; $579 prevailing rate for 3-night stay.

LTO104 rate = not available


I found the special offer rate was not available for dates I tried within the promotional period for Highlands Inn, Carmel, CA; Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort; Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch.

The 25% offer is a significant savings if you can find a participating hotel and there are no better discount offers for the stay dates.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Priority Club Increases Annual Purchase Points Limits and Prices

Priority Club increased the purchase limit for Priority Club points from 20,000 in a 12-month period to 40,000 points in a rolling 12-month period. Unfortunately, the price also increased from $10/1,000 points to $11.50 per 1,000 points, a 15% increase.

This still means a Priority Club member can just buy points for a PointsBreak room for about $57.50 per night. On the flip side, an InterContinental Hotel reward room for 40,000 points may sometimes be a better deal at $460 cash to purchase 40,000 points.

A side benefit of purchasing Priority Club points is the eligibility of purchased points to count towards elite status. Priority Club requires 50 nights or 60,000 points earned to qualify for platinum membership. Purchased points can take you two-thirds of the way to Priority Club Platinum Elite and a few well-planned stays with promotional bonus points can easily put a member over 60,000 points.

Priority Club Summer PointBreaks Hotels List

InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club PointBreaks are one of the best deals available in hotel lodging discounts. 5,000 Priority Club points will redeem a free room for a hotel on the PointBreaks list. Availability is limited and a hotel on the list today may not be there tomorrow if its room allocation is used up. Since this list was just updated this week there should be best availability for bookings made this week. As we move later into summer, the hotel list below will dwindle in size.

PointBreaks reservations are available at these select hotels through Spetember 30, 2008.

Priority Club members can purchase up to 40,000 points per calendar year for $11.50 per 1,000 points when purchasing 20,000 points or more. A PointsBreak reward will only cost about $58 per night to purchase a reward room. (The points purchase annual limit was increased from 20,000 to 40,000 points, but the price also increased 15% to purchase points in bulk.)

Participating Hotels:


Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites ENTERPRISE
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites ANNISTON/OXFORD

Crowne Plaza LITTLE ROCK
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites BENTONVILLE
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites HOT SPRINGS
Staybridge Suites FAYETTEVILLE
Staybridge Suites ROGERS - BENTONVILLE

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites GOODYEAR - WEST PHOENIX AREA

Holiday Inn AUBURN
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites BARSTOW
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites LINCOLN

Candlewood Suites DENVER/LAKEWOOD
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites ALAMOSA
Staybridge Suites DENVER TECH CENTER

Candlewood Suites HARTFORD/MERIDEN
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites HARTFORD CONVENTION CTR AREA

Candlewood Suites CHICAGO-WAUKEGAN
Candlewood Suites CHICAGO-WHEELING
Staybridge Suites LINCOLNSHIRE

Candlewood Suites WICHITA-AIRPORT

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites RICHMOND
Holiday Inn Express HARVEY-MARRERO
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites RUSTON

Holiday Inn Express FREDERICK-FSK MALL(I270/RT 85)

Holiday Inn Express SWANSEA
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites AMHERST-HADLEY
Staybridge Suites BOSTON-ANDOVER


Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites CONCORD
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites SNEADS FERRY (TOPSAIL BEACH)

Candlewood Suites SOMERSET
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites MT. HOLLY-NJ TNPK EXIT 5

Holiday Inn Express POUGHKEEPSIE
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites ROCHESTER-VICTOR
Staybridge Suites CORNING

Holiday Inn Express GRANTS PASS
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites EUGENE/SPRINGFIELD-EAST (I-5)
Staybridge Suites PORTLAND-AIRPORT

Holiday Inn Express LAVERGNE

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
Staybridge Suites AUSTIN-ROUND ROCK


Holiday Inn HINTON
Holiday Inn Express GRANDE PRAIRIE
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites LLOYDMINSTER

Holiday Inn VICTORIA
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites VANCOUVER-DWTN-TOWER & SUITES
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites RIVERPORT RICHMOND


Holiday Inn Express HALIFAX-BEDFORD

Holiday Inn Express WHITBY
Holiday Inn Express TORONTO-DOWNTOWN
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites MILTON
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites NORTH BAY
Staybridge Suites GUELPH


Holiday Inn Garden Court LEUVEN

Holiday Inn Garden Court TOULON CITY CENTRE


Crowne Plaza ROME-ST. PETER'S



Express By Holiday Inn SWINDON CITY CENTRE
Holiday Inn YORK


Express By Holiday Inn CAPE TOWN CITY CENTRE

Holiday Inn HARARE
Holiday Inn Bulawayo
Holiday Inn Express Beitbridge


Crowne Plaza HAIFA
Holiday Inn TIBERIAS

Holiday Inn AMMAN

Holiday Inn NAJRAN
Holiday Inn YANBU

Holiday Inn SHARJAH


Holiday Inn Suifenhe

Holiday Inn MANALI

Holiday Inn BANDUNG
Holiday Inn BATAM

Holiday Inn Express SHIN-KOBE

Holiday Inn CLARK


Holiday Inn CD. DEL CARMEN
Holiday Inn MERIDA
Holiday Inn IXTAPA
Holiday Inn Express GUANAJUATO
Holiday Inn Express CHIHUAHUA
Holiday Inn Express CIUDAD VICTORIA
Holiday Inn Express CIUDAD JUAREZ
Holiday Inn Express NUEVO LAREDO, TAMPS
Holiday Inn Express PUEBLA
Holiday Inn Express TAMPICO
Holiday Inn Express TORREON
Holiday Inn Express VILLAHERMOSA TABASCO 2000


Holiday Inn BRISBANE



Holiday Inn Express NATAL
Holiday Inn Express SUMARE AVE. - SAO PAULO
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites CURITIBA-AIRPORT

Holiday Inn Express MEDELLIN

Crowne Plaza ASUNCION