So you want to stay for free at that fancy five star hotel? Or just want to pay the cheapest room rate and get upgraded to a suite? Travel industry fact: Be loyal, get rewarded.
To enjoy free nights, you’ll have to collect points…lot’s of loyalty points. To enjoy free upgrades and benefits, you will need to obtain an elite level. Different elite levels can be achieved by staying a certain number of nights/stays, by collecting a certain number of points or simply by buying yourself an elite level. The more precious the metal, the higher your elite level. (Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc..)
Before you can start collecting points, you’ll need to make-up your mind on which hotel chain you like the most. You’ll need to make an assessment on which brand matches your budget, travel frequency, destinations and personal preferences. Once you have selected a particular hotel chain (or two), stick to it. Sign-up for the loyalty program, enroll for all promotions and stay at their properties as much as possible.
Here’s an overview of 7 hotel loyalty programs with a global property network:
- InterContinental PriorityClub (InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, …)
- Accor A-Club (Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis, …)
- Starwood Preferred Guest (Le Meridien, A-Loft, The Luxury Collection, Westin, Four Points, Sheraton, St-Regis, W Hotels, …)
- Marriott Rewards (Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, The Ritz-Carlton, …)
- Hilton HHonors (Hilton, Conrad, Double Tree, …) Instant HHonors Silver Elite Status
- Hyatt Gold Passport (Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, …)
- Club Carlson (replaces goldpoints plus on 31/03/11 – Radisson Blu, Park Inn, Park Plaza, …) Instant GoldPoints Plus Silver Elite
I included links to fast-track elite status offers for HHonors and Club Carlson. These will allow you to enjoy elite benefits from your first stay onwards.
Once you’ve signed up for the program it’s time to review the bonus offers of your favorite hotel chain. FrequentFlyerBonuses.com has an excellent overview of all point promotions per hotel program. Sign-up on as much promo’s as possible for your hotel loyalty program. Instead of those 2000 base points at your first stay, you might cash in 10.000 points! Yes, it requires some effort tracking all those offers, but it’s very rewarding. Soon you’ll find yourself addicted, checking your points balance on a weekly basis.
Not convinced? Here are some examples of point rewards I cashed in via my favorite loyalty program PriorityClub
- Two free nights at the brand new InterContinental Kiev for just 10.000 points using PointBreaks (value: 400 euro) Effort: used points of two previous stays (on which I spent 150 euro)
- Two free nights at Holiday Inn Munich City Centre during the opening weekend of OktoberFest 2009. (value: 500 euro) Cost: 30.000 points + $120. PriorityClub has no blackout dates, so even during festivals, new year, etc.. you can still get that free night! You can also combine points with cash to get rewards faster.
Aside from point promotions, hotel loyalty programs also frequently run “Stay X nights/times, get one night free” promotions. Last quarter of 2010, InterContinental’s PriorityClub had a promo called ‘Sweet Dillema’. For every two stays (a stay is defined as any number of consecutive nights at one hotel) you received one free night with a limit of 5 free nights. If you use this kind of promotions in a creative way, it can result in some great opportunities. In my case I stayed 10 times 1 night at cheap Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza’s. This resulted in 5 free nights which I could use at any IHG property from Nov 1,2010 until May 2011. Here’s what I received in return for spending 10 nights at IHG properties. (cost: +- 700 euro)
- Two free nights at Crowne Plaza Times Square, New York during the New Year 2011 weekend. (value: 800 euro)
- One free night at an amazing suite at InterContinental Paris Le Grand, March 2011. (value: 1500 euro)
- Two free nights at InterContinental London Park Lane for the 2011 Gumball 3000 kick-off. (value: 1300 euro)
Convinced? You bet! Be loyal, be creative!