San Francisco Hotels Ripping Off Stranded Travelers?

san francisco golden gate bridge
Jeff Gunn, Flickr

Hotels in the San Francisco area have come under scrutiny for price gouging following the Asiana Airlines plane crash on Saturday.

Thousands of flights were postponed or cancelled following the tragedy, leaving many travelers stranded in the city. Apparently, the sudden surge in demand for hotels led many establishments to up their prices – in some instances, dramatically so.

According to an NBC News report, mid-range hotels in San Francisco (which typically charge around $100-200 per night) were listing their rooms for ten times the usual rate. One example included a Best Western hotel, which had bumped its sticker price from $149 to a whopping $999 for a one-night stay.When later probed about the sky-high room rate, Best Western claimed that the advertised rate was a “mistake” and told Hotelchatter that no guests were actually charged the $999 rate. Instead, they were charging $309 versus the usual $149 rate.

NBC found many other hotels in the city were also charging significantly above the usual tariff.

We want to know, have you seen or been asked to pay an exorbitant price for a San Francisco hotel room following the plane crash?

What Would You Do With One Million Loyalty Points?

Loyalty
the Italian voice/Flickr

That’s the question 10 lucky winners will need to decide in Best Western International’s Loyalty Millionaires promotion, a part of their 25th anniversary celebration. Two randomly selected winners will be chosen each week through July 14, each winning one million bonus points to redeem in any way they like, and not just on hotel rooms either.

“Whether it’s a trip with the family or that special something you’ve been saving for, we hope our 10 lucky loyalty millionaires get their summer off to a great start,” said Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western International in a Broadway World article.
With more than 60 redemption options starting at 8,000 points, including free hotel nights, retail gift cards like Starbucks, Target, Home Depot and Amazon, BWR members have countless options to redeem their rewards points. One BWR member recently redeemed their points for retail partner gift cards and used them to buy a tractor.
Redemption options include free hotel nights as well as retail gift cards like Apple, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Busch Gardens.

But what, exactly, might one million Best Western points get you? We did some calculations for a variety of stuff Gadling readers might want to have or do.For starters, a million points will get you about four months in a Best Western Hotel. But it will also enable buying 200,000 air miles on American, Delta, US Airways or Alaska Airlines. You could also get $3,846 in gift cards from Starbucks, Disney, Outback Restaurants or Dunkin Donuts. Want to spend those million points on gear? You could walk away with a Canon PowerShot A2600, some Beats by Dre Studio High-Definition Headphones, a Samsung 8GB Galaxy 2 Tablet 7″ Screen and tickets to see 400 movies at an AMC Theater with some change leftover.

Read more about Best Western Re
To enter, sign up for the free Best Western Loyalty program then register on the Loyalty Millionaire tab on their Facebook page.

New Loyalty Perks for Smartphone Shoppers

Hotel News We Noted: June 14, 2013

rancho las palmas
Rancho Las Palmas Image Courtesy of Omni Hotels

Happy Friday, “Hotel News We Noted” readers. Summer is heating up, and that means that the hotel world is in full swing, promoting summer travel, touting new resort openings and even launching new initiatives. This column brings you the best, the weirdest and the most interesting news of note from the hospitality world each week. Have a tip, comment or question? Leave your note below or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you!

News of Note: Omni Gets Five
Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts has gotten even grander as of July 1 with the acquisition of five of the country’s best-known resorts. The five properties are Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, TX; La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA; Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, CA; The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC; and The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA. We’re excited for the addition of these new properties to the brand’s portfolio – it gives us an even better way to use our loyalty points!

Wellness World: Trump Launches New Wellness Endeavor
We all know that Donald Trump doesn’t do anything halfway. It’s all in or “you’re fired,” as the catchphrase goes. So now, the brand has launched a comprehensive wellness program that blends healthy menus (Trump’s “Nourish”) with a healthy kids menu and super-fast-delivery menus (“Quick Bites”), plus has a fitness component (“Travel Fit”) that includes delivery of equipment to the room plus apparel, footwear and an iPod. In addition to working with two of the best brands in the biz (Technogym and Under Armour), Trump has done a brand-wide sweep of all in-room dining, quick dining and minibar options to make them all healthier and locally focused wherever possible. Kudos to Trump for going over the top – in a very good way.
Sad Hotel News: Carbon Monoxide Kills Young Boy At North Carolina Best Western
It was reported this week that a young boy was killed by carbon monoxide at a North Carolina Best Western hotel. The room, which was directly above the hotel’s pool heating equipment, also had caused the death of an elderly couple earlier in the year. While the incident is certainly unfortunate, it illustrates a scary fact – hotels are not often required to have in-room carbon monoxide detectors. If you feel faint, dizzy, or develop severe headaches in your hotel room, alert a member of the staff immediately.

Cool Promo: Marriott’s Autograph Collection Develops A Limited Edition Cocktail Book With Jim Beam Bourbon
Capitalizing on the small-batch cocktail trend (and just in time for National Bourbon Day, today!) the Autograph Collection of Marriott, a portfolio of fun independent hotels, has launched a special limited edition cocktail book with special drinks inspired by 12 of the hotels. Sample a drink that reminds you of Scrub Island in the BVIs or the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront. Scrub Island did a “Scrub Island Dream,” a mix on a Dark and Stormy with bourbon, passion fruit puree and ginger beer, while the Bohemian reinvented a classic gin martini with a mix of Bourbon, amaretto, bitters and orange juice dubbed the Maritime Martini.

Best Strategies for Hotel and Airline Loyalty Programs

LoyaltyWorking loyalty programs for airlines, cruise lines, hotels or rental car agencies can be tricky business. Core benefits of one program are often overshadowed by promotional offers from another. Navigating our way around them in an organized manner to get the most benefit, then keeping track of what we earn can take a lot of time that few are willing to invest. Those who do not travel all that much often find themselves belonging to a bunch of programs with little value racked up on any of them. Still, the benefits of being a member can be worth our time, even for an occasional traveler, armed with the right strategy.

“To make sure you get more benefits, either in free flights or elite traveler perks, consolidate your miles into as few airlines as possible,” recommends iFly. “The more miles that you can build on one card, by using that airline or its partners, the faster you get your rewards.”

That strategy works for hotel chains as well and focusing on programs that offer more can help. Third-party web sites like FindTheBest rank airlines, hotels and others for us, consolidating benefits, perk thresholds and more to easily see which programs are a good fit for an individual’s travel profile.

“At FindTheBest, we present you with the facts – stripped of any marketing influence – so that you can make quick and informed decisions. We present the facts in easy-to-use tables with smart filters, so that you can decide what is best,”says FindTheBest on its web site.

Once points start coming in, another helpful website, AwardWallet, can make keeping track of them easy. AwardWallet is a free service that helps us manage reward balances, supporting over 400 loyalty programs. AwardWallet is also used by businesses to manage their corporate reward balances.

Loyalty pays off, but as new offers come along, getting in on them can be to our advantage as well. Another site, BoardingArea, features the latest offers for airlines, hotels and more.

Occasional travelers can also benefit from being a part of a loyalty program at work. Hotels are going after businesses with bonus programs that give top-tier benefits, normally reserved for heavy users to occasional travelers signed on under the company program.

Best Western, for example, has a new Business Advantage program where members get an across-the-board 10 percent discount off the hotel’s lowest rate, automatic elite-level membership benefits and a 10 percent bonus of all the points earned. When these programs initially roll out, expect extra value too.

A special bonus offer through April 8 gives Best Western Business Advantage participants who stay with the chain just one night during its Spring Promotion a free membership to Trip It Pro (normally $49), a personal program that helps business travelers keep track of their trips and their rewards.

Frequent traveler programs are a hot topic and relationships with hotel loyalty programs run deep, often causing members to lie, cheat or pose as someone else to get ahead said a survey Gadling reported on earlier this month.

In a survey by Starwood Preferred Guest respondents said they would try subterfuge to get upgrades and were not above telling little white lies to get a better hotel room or a hotel/airline travel upgrade,” Starwood said in TravelAgent. Nearly half of respondents claimed they would pretend it was their honeymoon to get an upgrade. 25 percent would pretend they had a family emergency and 20 percent would pretend to be someone important.

All they really had to do was have a strategy for their loyalty program participation that included joining the right program, keeping track of awards and taking advantage of other offers that may come along.



How to Get Travel Perks with Loyalty Club Membership

Flickr photo by Larry Johnson

Best Western produces indie film series

Best Western just commissioned a series of indie films telling the story of some of their properties and the people who run them. While not the most altruistic of stories (of course they’re going to paint a good portrait of the brand), it’s an interesting experiment in indie film making for a large scale hotel chain, and the stories seem well thought out and composed. Now all they need is the momentum that the BMW Films gained (and perhaps the employ of Clive Owen) and they’ll be hits. You can see the rest of the series over on their site.