Receiving elite style benefits while staying at hotels is always nice but you can’t always obtain top tier status with every chain so there are some ways around that, one being to book the hotel with Virtuoso.
Virtuoso is a travel agent network specializing on luxury travel whose rates are based on the Best Available Standard Rate open to the public (American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts could also be an option to receive similar benefits).
Usually advertised on property benefits have to be seen and valued in a different light to see if it really adds value (hard benefits) or things that hotels usually do if they can no matter who you book with, thos can be called ‘Soft Benefits’.
For example I consider an early check in / late check-out within reasonable limits as a soft benefit you’ll always be able to get at a decent hotel.
Receiving complimentary items such as Food & Beverage credit, complimentary breakfast, substantial room upgrades and airport transfers have a significant monetary value attached to them (even more so in luxury hotels) so those are definitely ‘Hard Benefits‘.
There are a range of providers who offer negotiated rates with certain luxury hotels but I found Virtuoso (access their main website here) to be the most generous in terms of what you’ll be able to get. For example every reservation comes with a US$100 Food & Beverage credit at the property you’re staying at.
Example: I looked at a 1 night stay at the Park Hyatt Beijing and searched rates with Hyatt & Virtuoso.
This is the rate Hyatt.com offers for a plain Standard room without tax/service charge:
If one would be able to get a Park Deluxe King which is a very spacious non-suite room that I almost like more than the huge Park Suites then that would be a jackpot for sure. Complimentary Breakfast is excellent and served at China Grill with stunning views over Beijing (the breakfast here is usually expensive, ~$50 per Person) and to top it all off you get a $100 F&B credit to spend on the hotels outlets (I suggest going to the China Bar in the evening).
In 2018 it seems they will even add a one way limousine transfer to Beijing Capital Airport to the package which would usually cost you 700 CNY (US$110). Of course you can always take a taxi for 120 CNY (US$20).
This means for a one night stay you basically get more value in incidentals than you actually pay for the entire package.
Really good in the case of Hyatt is that these Virtuoso rates are actually eligible to earn World of Hyatt Tier Credit, points and receiving tier benefits including Suite Upgrades for Globalist Members. I have this confirmed with Hyatt in the case of the Park Hyatt Beijing:
Thank you for getting back to me. For the VIRTUOSO rates I can pull up I do show it is an eligible rate. After you make the booking I would be happy to double check that for you.
If you need any further assistance please let me know.
J. S., Guest Care Specialist
This is a clear exception but well documented for years by people who use Virtuoso frequently. Not sure though how other chains approach this but in the case of Hyatt it’s perfect.
What are the drawbacks?
Basically none but you can’t make a straight online booking with immediate confirmation and payment with Virtuoso. Even though the company advertises a ‘Book Now’ function that it plays around with for the entire year already it generates a request that will be forwarded to a Virtuoso Agent that you can either assign yourself if you have a name or the website will suggest one to you. You can’t do anything until this person gets back to you with the exact price quote and confirmation and to handle the payment. That’s a bit annoying because I like to know if what I see is available and then lock it in immediately, not wait half a day or longer (especially during weekends and holidays).
Also you have to consider what these benefits are really worth to you. I’m already Hyatt Globalist so my only real benefit would be the $100 F&B credit and next year the airport transfer. In other words the difference in rate compared to the lowest available Hyatt Rate must reflect that otherwise no point for me to bother. For someone who doesn’t hold top tier status (across all chains) it’s an exceptional deal though.
Are there alternatives to Virtuoso?
Yes, for example you can use American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) if you have the American Express Platinum or Centurion Card. That requires a card membership though and I don’t find the rates that great. Also in the case of Hyatt they are non qualifying. There are also tour operators and packages available through a traditional travel agency that can sometimes offer you similar deals.
Over the years I’ve suggested this option to many friends who weren’t equipped with hotel top tier status and still enjoyed luxurious experiences this way, getting an excellent value for money. That doesn’t mean however that you shouldn’t compare prices and be realistic when attaching a value to your benefits.
I wish Virtuoso would get their online booking capability under control. They announced this tool with a huge fanfare in early 2017 and since then it’s just shambles.