Sometimes you run into a situation where the hotel you intend to book shows as sold out on the chains own website while third party channels such as Expedia or Ctrip still sell plenty of rooms.
In order to enjoy loyalty program benefits and earn points/stay credits you have to make a direct booking so the only official way to accomplish this is by forcing availability either via the hotel or reservations.
Sold out hotels happen frequently especially during certain popular events, conventions and of course peak seasons.
If you’re top tier elite with hotel loyalty programs you often have a so called ‘Guaranteed Availability’ which pretty much means a hotel room at rack rate, usually 3x as much as the average Best Available Rate. However even for this there can be blackout dates so this benefit doesn’t always apply.
In the case that the hotel you intend to stay at is still available on a third party channel but not the hotels own gateway it depends on the chains policy how this is being handled.
Starwood for example will react to a Best Rate Guarantee request and force the property to accommodate you at the rate found on the third party channel. That way you have an official direct booking and even profit from the 2000 Bonus Starpoints (or rate adjustment) for the BRG. John wrote about this first two years ago (see here) and the option is still alive.
Hyatt doesn’t do such thing. Besides that their Best Rate Guarantee developed into a charade during the past year there is also the issue of them only responding to rate discrepancies, not availability issues.
A current example from myself:
Park Hyatt Shanghai being sold out for the dates I intended to book, yet third party channels (Ctrip in this case) still offer rates for many differen room categories, even though expensive.
You have to be careful that the rates you’re looking at are instant confirmations because all others aren’t ‘live rates’ and would likely not result in a confirmation even after you pay for them. You’d simply get a refund.
The same happened for an earlier booking I made at the same property. The rates at the Hyatt website were simply not matching up with the options on Ctrip and other channels. I could have filed an official BRG but knowing what a pain this has become and that’s it’s rarely worthwhile (we wrote about the amended Hyatt BRG policy here) I worked it another way.
I decided to just contact the hotel to see if they’re willing to book me a room as official Hyatt reservation with the rates found online at the OTA’s. They did and I contacted Hyatt afterward to use one of my confirmable Globalist Suite Upgrades to a fantastic Bund View Suite.
Unless you really want to earn hotel credits you could also just book the hotel on the third party channel available and then write the hotel to add your loyalty program (elite) membership to the reservation for possible benefits. I wrote about this matter a few weeks ago (access here).
If you have a contact at the hotel of your choice you can always ask if they can do something for you to accommodate your reservation. Just mention that you find all this availability through other suppliers and that you’d much rather deal with the hotel instead of filing a Best Rate claim. Hotels are often not only internally rated but also charged for individual BRG claim processing (similar to complaints that go through Customer Relations). Properties therefore have an incentive to deal with a guest in such a case rather than ignoring the request. Some will do anyway so be prepared to get ‘shot down’ so to speak.
I find that Starwood’s Best Rate Guarantee still works best compared to all their peers in the industry. The responses are usually fast and claims are being approved in an honest fashion, not declined for bogus reasons like many competitors. The benefit of being able to force availability such as in a case like this is especially useful.