Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Super-Affluent Don’t Do Super-WalMart

Laurence Geller listed some interesting data points in a blog from Jan 18, 2008. His piece discusses the widening divide between Generations X and Y mass consumers and the truly “super-affluent”. In 2006, the affluent spent on average $2,400 on hotels and resorts, while the super-affluent spent $61,200. He argues new brands will proliferate as today’s luxury brands become commonplace.

Friday morning on CNBC, a news crew reported from the St. Regis Fort Lauderdale, Florida from a CEO conference. The studio reporters were asking about the age of the hotel and the reporter stated it had been open 9 months. I haven’t looked into those facts.

The report got me to thinking about the super-affluent and the merely affluent. For the Loyalty Traveler the travel is reduced to the numbers. I wondered what the rates are at the Fort Lauderdale St. Regis.

Here are the search results for St. Regis, FLL room rates for Monday, 2-18-08

$476.10 (AAA rate)
$479 (Best Available on
$509 Special Offer Page “SRSPG”
$529 (Best Available on
$549 Special Offer AAA rate “XRF”

Ocean Front
$566.10 (AAA)
$579 (Best Available on and
$609 Special Offer “SRSPG”
$649 Special Offer AAA rate “XRF”

Pool Terrace
$607 Florida Resident rate
$669 Best Benefits Package special offer “SRSPG”
$689 (Best Available on and
$709 Pool Terrace Special Offer AAA rate

[special offers accessed from St. Regis Fort Lauderdale hotel web site homepage]

XRF rate includes complimentary valet parking, two Bloody Mary’s, and complimentary room upgrade to next available room type. In this case, contact hotel and find out a good night for booking with a good upgrade potential.

SRSPG rate includes two Bloody Mary’s, triple Starpoints and complimentary internet access.

The super-affluent spender could be looking at about 2 to 3 months of Pool Terrace living over the course of a year at this hotel and comparable properties. The affluent spender on $2,400 is looking at a long President’s weekend holiday and sitting home the rest of the year.

Starwood Cash & Points Award Savings

While checking St. Regis Fort Lauderdale, I came across an example of where loyalty program membership leads you to a much better booking option than a regular search on the hotel chain primary web site.

Westin Colonnade, Coral Gables, FL
Saturday, Feb 16, 2007
Rate = $429/night web site found through a regular search engine search as a hotel guest not participating in Starwood Preferred Guest and not looking for the loyalty program site. Checking - I have the option of getting a Cash & Points award at this Category 4 Hotel for $60 and 4,000 Starpoints.

The ability to buy up to 20,000 Starpoints online from SPG at the rate of $35/1,000 points is a strategy to keep in mind if you do not have 4,000 Starpoints. Adding the cost to buy 4,000 Starpoints for $140 and the $60 Cash portion of a Cash & Points award makes a $200 room rate booking possible. The website states purchased Starpoints will be posted to your account within 24 hours.

The corporate-branded hotel websites generally have the lowest rates for their own hotel rooms compared to third-party online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity.

The difficulty for the DIY online hotel reservationist, is the time needed to sift through thousands of pages on the corporate-branded websites to find the lowest rate page. Finding the lowest rate is a matter of knowledge and luck at the time you search.

$485 through Starwood Hotels corporate web site compared to $200 for the SPG member using Cash & Points booking option for a one-night rate at the Westin Colonnade is the differential cost for the guest with a lack of knowledge and time. The Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program gives the member a hotel rate option that is nearly $300 less.

An additional benefit of a Cash & Points stay is the award stay usually does not incur tax. The minor detraction of a Cash & Points award is the hotel stay does not count for elite qualification or promotional offer credit. A Cash & Points award stay also does not earn points for the Cash portion of the award.

Priceline Hotel Bookings

CNBC reported Friday morning Priceline has experienced a surge in bookings. The TV commentator asked, "Does the growth in Priceline indicate a weak economy?"

Priceline is a great resource when hotel room rates are threatening to make your credit card bleed. Last June, I booked the Marriott Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia for a Sunday night before a Monday afternoon flight to Buenos Aires. I wanted to be in DC, but the major loyalty program hotel rates ranged from $250 to $350/night. I considered renting a car and driving to the Virginia outer suburbs for a $100/night Sheraton rate. Instead I paid $115 total for the Marriott and I was a ten minute walk across the bridge into Georgetown. I had an interior pool view room on the third floor while the preferred rooms look out over DC from 6 to 10 stories up.

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