Today is a major day in the world of hotel loyalty and Las Vegas. In short, 12 properties – all part of the MGM portfolio – have essentially become Hyatt affiliates for the purposes of earning and redeeming points. Las Vegas is historically one of the last markets where earning hotel loyalty credit for stays at the more popular hotels is somewhere between difficult and impossible. Starting on 20 June 2013 guests at any of the 12 MGM hotels in Las Vegas, including Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, will be eligible to earn Hyatt Gold Passport points and stay credits. Later this summer there will also be reciprocity between the MGM M life program and the Gold Passport program, with elite status matching between the two.
In a statement, Hyatt Gold Passport SVP Jeff Zidell notes, "We know The Las Vegas Strip is an important destination for our members, and now they will have the chance to earn points and redeem award nights at 12 outstanding resorts from Bellagio to MGM Grand to Mandalay Bay."
Hyatt Gold Passport members will earn 5 points per dollar spent on both the room rate and incidental spending (only up to the first $5,000 per stay) at M life resort properties. Platinum and Diamond elites will earn 15% and 30% bonus, respectively, on top of the base earning. Oh, and the earning is additive with the M life program; you can earn in both programs at the same time. Stays at Hyatt Gold Passport properties will also count towards earning in the M life program at a rate of 8 tier points for every eligible dollar spent at a Hyatt hotel or resort. Stays at the MGM properties will not receive elite benefits such as room upgrades, late check-out or free breakfast. They will also not have the resort fee waived for elites. Lots more details in the FAQ/fine print here.
On the redemption side the same 12 hotels are participating there, too. For the properties which are category 1-4 hotels the free night certificates from the credit card will be valid. It will not be possible to redeem Gold Passport points for upgrades to suites at the MGM hotels.
Here is the breakdown of the 12 participating properties and which reward category they are in:
Category 6 – 22,000 points/night
- Mandalay Bay®
Category 5 – 18,000 points/night
- MGM Grand®
- The Signature at MGM Grand®
- The Mirage®
Category 4 – 15,000 points/night
- Monte Carlo™
- New York New York™
Category 3 – 12,000 points/night
Category 2 – 8,000 points/night
This is the second significant announcement from MGM’s M life program in the past week. The other was a partnership with Southwest Airlines regarding reciprocal earning for flights. Between these two new partners M life is stepping up their game quite significantly. And a lot of travelers can benefit as a result.
Best Western has become the first US hotel chain to plant their flag in Myanmar. The company is planning to take over management of the Green Hill Hotel in Yangon, the largest city and hub of nearly all commerce and tourism activity. The property has 189 rooms and is located outside of the old city portion of town, though it is reasonably close to the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the city’s top tourist sights. The core of the city is located further south, towards the river and the ferry terminal.
The Green Hill Hotel, soon to be managed by Best Western, is outside of the city center
Best Western sees the deal as an opportunity to increase the value of the hotel in many ways. Glenn de Souza, VP of International Operations for Asia and the Middle East sees quite a bit of potential:
We are confident that Best Western International’s proven track record in the Asian hotel market, along with our highly skilled management and staff, will enable the Green Hill Hotel to not only increase occupancy and average rates, but also broaden its geographical guest mix.
The hotel scene in Yangon (and all of Myanmar, really) is quite a mixed bag. There are very few high quality properties or even what would be considered 3-star hotels in the rest of the world. Those which do exist are often priced at the very high end of what it reasonable for the quality of the product offered. The other options are generally less expensive (though not always cheap) but the offerings are less than spectacular, even at the lower price point. Combined with the significant recent increase in tourism and getting a decent room at a fair price in Yangon is quite a challenge. It seems that Best Western hopes this move will allow them increase the prices. That’s great for the hotel operators but not necessarily so for visitors. Then again, if the quality of the rooms increases as well then maybe not so bad.
Plus, I suppose this means an opportunity to earn and redeem points eventually.
When hotel booking engine PointsHound started up late last year there were some notable limitations to the service. Most significantly, like other OTAs, bookings made through the site would not earn points or stays in the hotel loyalty programs. While that’s no problem for some customers (like me) it is a deal-breaker for others. Earlier this year the company quietly introduced a limited collection of hotels where they are now able to offer elite benefits and points earning for stays, in addition to the airline miles for bookings. It turns out Hilton HHonors is no longer the only way to “double dip.”
That initial work was more a proof of concept than a final product. This past weekend the PointsHound team finished a major update to their site and one of the big changes was that they now have more than 3,200 hotels across 115 US markets where their customers can “Double Up” on bookings.
Searching their list of hotels you may come across an orange icon at the bottom of the entry which looks like this:
Book that hotel and you’ll earn both the airline points from PointsHound for the booking and also all the traditional benefits which come from direct booking through the hotel’s website.
Here are the rates for a PointsHound-only room and a double earning rate (and, just for fun, the direct booking rate) at a couple hotels on the same night for the same room:
For the same per-day rate you can walk away with 2600 free United Points (based on being a Level 2 PointsHound user). Or take slightly fewer points and a non-refundable rate and save some cash on the nightly price.
A Hyatt Place:
In the case of the Hyatt Place stay you are potentially giving up 100 airline points in favor of earning your Hyatt Gold Passport points. In the case of the Marriott you actually get MORE points by booking it as a stay which also earns Marriot Rewards points. And in each case you’re getting more benefits than just booking directly through the hotel’s site directly.
Of course, there is the rather notable catch that the option doesn’t exist in all cities, much less all hotels in any given city. Still, if the option works for the location you’re in and the property you’re interested in that’s a nice win. In cases where the price and earnings are otherwise the same this might even be enough to sway someone like me – a skeptic on the value of hotel points – to go for a booking engine which allows lots of earning options.
Also worth noting is that PointsHound has a promo out for some bloggers now whereby you can get a 60-day trial of Level 2 status (more points earned per night) and 250 bonus points for
signing up completing your first stay and the blogger gets 250 points. I’m pretty sure Gary even negotiated that the user can get all 500 if you want to sign up there. If you want the bonus points and Level 2 status you can use my referral link here. The main link atop the post is a generic one.
PointsHound, the hotel booking site which lets you earn airline points for your stay, has added a few new partners to their earning options in the past couple weeks. American Airlines‘ AAdvantage, Virgin America‘s Elevate and the Etihad Guest programs are now options for their members. This brings the total number of earning partner options up to eight:
In my quick scan of the site this morning the Etihad and AAdvantage earning rates seem to be about on par with those from United’s MileagePlus or Delta‘s SkyMiles programs. Earning rates in the Elevate program appear to be rather lower in the few I saw, but still reasonable.
Definitely worth checking out the earning options with PointsHound when looking at hotels, especially when not staying at a branded property (or where their Double Up feature works and you can get both earnings). In some cases cash-back portals might still be a better value, but PointsHound is definitely in the running.
Also, if you’re new to PointsHound and want 250 points in your favorite program when you enroll feel free to use my referral link (I get 250 points, too). The other links above are direct without any referrals.
It was just over two years ago, in February 2011. It was St. Valentine’s Day, in fact. Maybe that should’ve been a tip-off that there was something different about the bed and room that night. My wife and I were in Rome, wrapping up a quick weekend trip to Lecce and I had managed to book a forced overnight on the return, allowing us to visit with a friend of ours in Rome. It was there that the awesome happened.
We were staying as guests in the lodgings adjacent to San Silvestro in Capite, a minor basilica in Rome. The church itself was incredible to see and our room was also quite nice. It was certainly not ornate; actually rather sparsely furnished. The lack of furnishings actually make it appear even bigger, I suppose, as did the high ceilings.
But the best part of the story came just over 2 years later when I got an email from my friend and our host there. It turns out that Pope Francis had a close connection to an Argentine priest who was affiliated with San Silvestro. A quick check of their archives indicates that, over the years, Jorge Mario Bergoglio visited his colleague in Italy a few times and on at least one of those visits he stayed in the guest room at San Silvestro, the same room my wife and I were in on our quick visit.
And so there it is: February 14, 2011 was the night we slept in the same bedroom as the new Pope.
PointsHound, the hotel booking engine which also lets you earn airline points, has a promotion out through the end of March earning members 500 bonus miles in their airline program of choice for completing a new hotel booking. PointsHound currently has 5 partners available:
When the program initially launched there were some limitations in the earning scheme, most notably that bookings made via PointsHound were considered OTA bookings by the hotels and therefore not eligible for earning points in the hotel loyalty program as well. Earlier this month that started to change as the company introduced certain markets and properties where it is possible to earn both airline points at booking AND hotel points during the stay. That’s a big upgrade for people who like their hotel status just as much as their airline points.
The double earning is limited right now but expected to grown in the near future. Ditto for the collection of partner airlines.
Still no option to search directly for properties where the double earning is possible but that will hopefully change soon enough. In the mean time, at least worth looking in to again, particularly with the 500 bonus miles on offer right now.
n.b.- The link above to PointsHound is a referral link for me. I don’t know if it still actually does anything, but it used to offer bonus points for enrollment.
The economy hotel tier in Europe will see a new player come March 2014: Moxy Hotels. The brand, backed by Marriott, expects to open the first of their new properties in Milan roughly a year from now, kicking off plans for 150 properties across Europe over a 10 year period, 50 of them in the next 5 years. The brand is focused on the millennial generation, with an emphasis on stylish design, connectivity and an affordable price. They want to grab the intersection of the backpacker and jet set markets.
Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International, sees great potential for the new brand:
MOXY HOTELS is the essence of the next generation traveler, not only Gen X and Y but people with a younger sensibility, for whom contemporary style is paramount. Every aspect of the hotel was thoughtfully researched and crafted to reflect and deliver on the changing lifestyles and expectations of this fast-growing customer segment. We believe Marriott will lead the way in redefining the traditional economy hotel experience throughout Europe.
After Milan the brand plans to open in Frankfurt, Berlin and London. Other locations will be targeted in Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
The hotels will be medium sized – the goal is 150-300 rooms at each property – with a focus on welcoming common spaces as much as in well appointed rooms. In this way the Moxy brand hopes to offer the social aspects of hostels while going a step or three up the ladder on amenities and privacy when the guests want it. And with free wifi throughout the properties and USB ports at every outlet the company is clearly taking a fresh view on features, at least in some areas. And for guests who want something a bit more traditional there will still be large LCD TVs in the rooms.
For budget travelers who are also points-focused the Moxy chain offers the best of both worlds. Their participation in the Marriott Rewards program will allow guests to accrue and redeem points similar to other Marriott-backed properties. And with only 20% of the budget hotels in Europe currently brand-affiliated this new product opens up a lot of possibilities in the space.
The way they describe the properties I can see some appeal for my travel habits, despite being quite a bit older than the "millennial" target market. That said, looking at the photos on their website I’m clearly not in the same circles. Not quite hipster and not quite euro-trashy; I don’t exactly know what they are going for, but it does have me intrigued. And, while I don’t really love visiting Milan, I suppose I can plan a trip for next spring anyways, just to see how it is.
Just because I don’t see a ton of value in hotel loyalty programs doesn’t mean I’m not a member of most of them. Keeping up with what’s going on means being a member, even if I don’t have a lot of points. But it also means I get some rather entertaining emails from the programs. This week saw two such emails come in.
The first, from Club Carlson, was advertising their 25% off redemption promotion through April 30, 2013 for properties in China. Alas, this is how it looked when it came in:
Apparently my zero points might be enough to get me an award night with the new discount.
Putting that entertainment aside, the promo is actually pretty good if you’re going to be in China and have some Club Carlson Gold Points in your stash. The promo code is 25REDEEM to get the discount.
The second email came in from Le Club Accor. Turns out it has been a while since I stayed at one of their hotels and my points are going to expire.
Yup…all 78 points are going to evaporate. And I’m not going to do anything about it at all.
I suppose I’m glad I got the emails. And I know that they are using mail merge algorithms to build the content. I just think – especially in the case of the Club Carlson one – the text might need a bit of adjusting to be a bit more relevant and a bit less humorous.
I don’t expect much from most hotel stays, and getting a room at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC for $65 all-in is a hard bargain to pass up. Still, even with that great bargain coloring my views, I was a bit disappointed in the stay. Part of that is my fault. The hotel is still undergoing renovations to the guest rooms and that meant lots of construction going on inside. Had I booked directly through Hyatt I would have been sufficiently warned:
Even a hotels.com booking might have warned me (though it isn’t updated with the delayed completion date) had I scrolled down enough to find this bit:
Alas, the booking via the United.com Hotels booking engine (just another 3rd party OTA contracted out by United) didn’t include the renovations warning in their property alerts:
Not Hyatt’s fault that the OTA isn’t up-to-date, but still frustrating.
I had also asked of my Twitter followers which Hyatt to stay at (the Hyatt Regency was the same price) and the Hyatt Washington account responded. They neglected to mention the construction as well. Sadly, I think this is the most disappointing part of the news. They should know and, when asked which is better, a heads up on the construction wouldn’t be unreasonable.
Our initial room assignment had us squarely between construction on three sides; the atrium was the only side without contractors coming and going all afternoon. Normally not a problem but we wanted to take a nap. That’s more difficult to do with someone hammering on the walls of your room all afternoon.
To their credit, the hotel was very up front about the construction at check-in. All guests were offered a glass of sparkling wine upon arrival and there was also a voucher for free internet, a free movie or a free cocktail in the hotel bar.
They did their best to be accommodating. Except for the part where the construction schedule didn’t go floor-by-floor so as to minimize the number of people booked in next to the construction. Or maybe it was my 3rd party OTA booking that got me the worst room location in the building. After a visit to the front desk after the attempted nap we were able to get a room a few floors up, away from the noise. It was much better.
And, I must admit, the renovated rooms are pretty nice.
The translucent screen in the headboard is back-lit which is a bit strange but it is also nice, indirect light for the room. The bed was comfortable, the bath amenities sufficient (though I’m pretty sure the shampoo in our room was a half-used one left over from a previous guest) and generally speaking the space was aesthetically pleasing. At the price-point I paid there was really nothing wrong up to this point in the stay.
My wife went out to the gym in the morning and I didn’t bolt the door behind her. I could hear housekeeping headed up and down the hall outside but they didn’t come to our room; we had arranged for a late check-out (no charge, even for a no-status OTA booking) and they were apparently aware of this. At one point I heard a key card on our door and then it opened. I figured my wife was back from the gym. Instead it was a hotel employee, opening the room and announcing "Hotel Security" as he stepped in. WTF?!?
Apparently a prior guest left something in the room and he was just coming to see if he could find it. At least that’s the story he told me. And the front desk manager was aghast when I mentioned the incident as we checked out. But neither actually apologized. And it NEVER should have happened in the first place.
I’d probably stay here again given the same price point. Even without the $50 coupon from United the Hyatts were pretty much the cheapest hotels in DC proper for the weekend; Priceline and Hotwire couldn’t even save me much on the stay. And the room renovations are quite nice; I actually liked the room layouts and amenities. But the guy from the hotel walking in on me definitely left a sour taste in my mouth. Not cool at all.
Looks like registration for the Delta/Starwood Crossover rewards opened up a couple days early. The program goes into effect on March 1st but the registration opened up this morning.
Some more coverage of the Crossover rewards benefits can be found at the links below. In the meantime, go ahead and get the registration done. You probably want that anyways.