Suite Night Awards, SPG Lifetime Status, and Breakfast Coming SPG Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Members


There has been lot of chatter about the upcoming enhancements to the Starwood Preferred Guest program at the Platinum level. When you deal with close to 1000 properties and need to keep them informed, there are always going to be some leaks even when the corporate tries to control the release of the information. I have already written about the breakfast and the Suite Night Awards. Now I have more clarity of these benefits. I believe that Starwood is releasing the info officially in the next 24 to 48 hours.


Website being partially “refreshed”

1. Breakfast

Now properties like Westin’s, W’s, St Regis’, Luxury Collection, aLoft’s and other brands without lounges don’t have to offer a complimentary breakfast for Platinum members. This has become a competitive disadvantage for Starwood when all the Hyatt’s and Hilton properties (excluding the one in Maldives) are offering this to their Diamond members, and Hilton even for Gold ones.

Apparently the breakfast is going to be an amenity choice in some of the brands/hotels. It is a no brainer to choose the breakfast every day over 500 SPG points per stay, especially if this would also apply for award stays.  Some might say that most of the hotels are already offering a free breakfast for Platinum members. This is really country specific. Good luck getting a breakfast in Bali just for being a Platinum member at W, Westin, Luxury Collection Laguna, or St. Regis.

2. Suite Night Awards

You would get ten Suite Night Awards per year that you could apply for paid, cash + points, or pure award stays. Confirmable 5 days to 1 day before arrival. If the upgrade doesn’t clear in advance, it will be put back into your account. You would be then eligible for space available suite upgrades as of today.


The terms and conditions indicate that this would be benefit of those that stay more than 50 nights yearly. Not sure if this just an oversight, or if Starwood is starting to distinguish between Platinum members that just make it by having 25 stays and those that spend considerably more nights than that.

Overall, I don’t think that this benefit is make or break. I would be eligible for it as I spent more than 110 paid stays with Starwood last year. Ten confirmable suite upgrades would allow me to confirm in advance about 9% of my stays.

Probably the hotels that are already good at upgrading Platinum members would continue to do so under this program. Hotels are already provided a list of incoming Platinum members on a daily basis and preferable upgrade order.

Hyatt has already had complimentary suite upgrade awards for their Diamond members for couple of years. You will get four upgrade certificates per year that are valid up to 7 days each. These are valid on all points eligible paid stays and can be confirmed in advance. Some Park Hyatt’s have unannounced discontinued their participation to this program. These suite night awards are not valid on award stays.

3. SPG Lifetime

Now they are also bringing a more long-term incentive to credit stays to SPG program once you have passed the requalification requirement.


Hyatt requires $200000 spent that is credited to Hyatt Gold Passport points to get a lifetime Diamond status. You can call Hyatt and ask how many BASE points you have earned. You need a million base points to qualify. The lifetime points earned on only shows the points earned with all possible promotions. These are not paid points.

Marriott also has a lifetime Platinum, Gold, or Platinum status up for grabs. It requires 1000 (Platinum), 800 (Gold), and 600 (Silver) nights, and 2000000 (Platinum), 1600000 (Gold), and 1200000 (Silver) Marriott Rewards points earned from ALL sources i.e. hotel stays, credit card, buying points etc. You also need to be a member for 12+ years and have qualified for the status at least once at the lifetime level.

What is going to be the criteria for the lifetime Platinum status with Starwood? I don’t have the answer before this is announced. But, considering what Hyatt and Marriott is requiring, I would imagine it to be in the 1000 nights range. Last year SPG already introduced a lifetime night counter on Starwood’s website. Not sure how closely the have measured the spending aspect, but it would be easy to calculate from the number of points earned before any bonuses.

How to Write a Hotel Feedback (Complaint) Letter?


My friends always think that I would complain a lot about hotels, but that is really not the case. Last year I had more than 300 hotel stays at Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott, and Starwood hotels. Of these 300 stays only three were “disastrous” enough to warrant a written complaint; St Regis, W, and Ritz-Carlton hotel.


I have thought about it few times – the higher the perceived quality of the hotel, the more chances they have not to meet your expectations. Not sure if I have ever complained about the physical condition of the hotel. You can always fix/update the rooms, but getting the soft product (service) right is more complicated than that. Especially, when you are staying at “affordable” luxury hotels, they shouldn’t promise you more than what they can deliver. This is usually the reason for discontent.

Normally, I try to resolve any issues I have on the spot. Calling the operator and asking them to connect you to the Manager on Duty, is most of the time enough to get any stay related issues corrected while you are still at the property.  But, when you have many issues going wrong with your stay, then it might be worthwhile to write-up a letter to let the property and possible the franchisor know about the issues you have had. This is also another chance for them to make it right i.e. offer you compensation (read points).

If I have had a bad stay, I never write the letter immediately. It is better to let the things settle and not to write anything when you are “emotional”. I just write down the issues I have had on a notepad and revisit them a week or two later.

The structure of the complaint

– Your name and address

– The confirmation number

– Your account number with the hotels loyalty program

– The date(s) of your stay

First paragraph: I normally include some information about the number of hotel stays I have had and statuses, if any, I have with the hotel loyalty programs.

Second paragraph: There is always something positive about the stay as well. I always start with the things that I liked about the hotel.

And then the complaint part. I always try to be as short as possible and straight to the facts. I tend to use points to make it clearer. One or maximum two lines per issue or problem.

Third paragraph: If you know what would be your preferred resolution for the complaint, don’t hesitate to communicate it. I normally request points in the hotels loyalty program.

Fourth paragraph: Just closing the letter and thanking them.

Where to send the complaint?

With the chain hotels, like the ones I listed above, there are always two ways. You can send it to the attention of the General Manager of the property in question, or you can send it to the corporate who will delegate it to the property. I tend to send it to the corporate because then it gets to the attention of the person at the property who deals with issues like this.

How to send it?

With Starwood, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton, and Marriott you can just send it by email. I don’t like using web forms for issues like these that Hyatt requires, so I just fax it to the Hyatt customer service department.

How long to wait for a reply?

I would say that hotels are typically very fast at resolving any issues raised post stay. You should hear back from the property itself, or the guest relations department of the loyalty program, in just a few days.


I really don’t like the word “complaint” at all. Think of it as giving feedback to the property about the issues that they should be looking more into. Business are generally happy when you give them the opportunity to make things right. Also, there must be quite a few guests that have come across the same issues, but who have never taken the time to give feedback.

Confirmed Suite Night Awards Coming to Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Members


Couple of weeks ago I wrote about a supposedly coming benefit for SPG Platinum members – a breakfast. Now, website update has revealed a confirmed Suite Night Awards. Not sure if this was part of bigger Starwood announcement that was to take a place in New York on 31st of this Month. We should learn more in just a few days.

How these Suite Night Awards should work?

– You need to be a Platinum member and stay 50 nights in a year. Starwood may offer these as a promotional incentives as well.

– You can request the upgrade at the time of booking and the system will start checking availability five days prior to your arrival. You will receive email updates if your upgrade clears or doesn’t.

– If the upgrade using suite night award cannot be confirmed day prior to the arrival, it gets returned to the account.

– You can cancel the suite night award request up until 2PM before the day of arrival, if it hasn’t cleared, and the award will be deposited back to your account.

– Confirmed suite award can be canceled if your cancel your reservation. The deadline is 3PM day before your arrival. If you cancel your stay after that, you will lose the award.

My Opinion

Not sure whether I would consider this a positive move based on my own stay patterns. Last year I had more than 110 paid stays with the Starwood alone. These new Suite Night Awards would allow me to confirm less than 10% of my stays in advance.

Unlike some others, my actual suite upgrade success has been close to 100% at international properties that have suites.

These suite awards will probably work best for those that are mainly looking for suite upgrades for their vacation stays, or for those who mainly stay at limited service properties like aLoft and Element that don’t offer suite upgrades for SPG members at all. It remains to be seen, how these will work at the most popular vacation spots like Hawaii that already have Platinum heavy clientele. It may well be that complimentary space available upgrades for Platinum members might be thing in the past, unless they are willing to confirm the upgrade using these newly minted upgrade instruments, in places like Hawaii.

Overall, I think that in this case Starwood is reacting to Hyatt that introduced their suite awards the other year. You would get four per year and they would be valid up to seven nights each, but they would only be valid for paid stays. You cannot upgrade Hyatt award stays using suite upgrade certificates.

Complimentary Breakfast for SPG Platinum Members Coming to Starwood Properties March 1st?


There has been some chatter lately that Starwood would introduce chain wide complimentary breakfast for Platinum members starting March 1st. Please note that this benefit is NOT yet confirmed by the Starwood. It wouldn’t be surprising, if this would in fact be true. It would bring the Platinum benefits breakfast wise more inline with their main competitors.


Breakfast at St Regis Bali

Hilton HHonors members from Gold upwards have complimentary breakfast or some extra points. Only exclusion so far is the Conrad Maldives where breakfast is NOT complimentary even to Diamonds.


Breakfast at Conrad Koh Samui

Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort & Towers, Dubai, UAE – Review of My Stays.

Stayed at this Sheraton resort twice; once in October and another time in December. Both times my stay was for several days using free resort nights awards from Starwood’s summer promotion. Sheraton was the only participating resort when it came to redeeming the free nights in Dubai.

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Overall this is a fine resort but doesn’t quite live up to the official five star rating. It is a solid four star hotel, however. Apparently, they do quite a bit of business through tour companies. There were lots of Russians and quite a few Swedes and Finns. At least TUI has this property sold through various “package” travel agencies in Europe.



The hotel is located on the far end of the Jumeirah Beach Walk. This rather long street is full of restaurants and has some shops as well. On the other side of the road from the Sheraton is a Starbucks, which doesn’t offer free wireless, and a Thai restaurant.  

Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, and Starwood Preferred Guest Promotions for January, 2012.

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Please refer to February hotel promotions update: February Hotel Promotions Update: Carlson, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood

By now all hotel chains except Hyatt have announced their first quarter 2012 promotions. Here are the Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, and Starwood Preferred Guest promotions.

Hilton HHonors

Hilton HHonors has two ongoing promotions that should be combinable. “Resort Escapes – you can get one free night certificate after contiguous five nights stay and second one after another five.

Hilton 'Escape to a Resort' Promotion

The other promotion is More Points promotion that is basically extra 1000 Hilton HHonors bonus points per night + 5000 extra bonus points for two night contiguous weekend stay. Weekend is defined as Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night. You can earn one 5000 bonus points per weekend.

Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa – Review December 2011.

Back in December, I was on my way from the newly opened Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island, of which I have also written a review, back to Dubai. I decided to stop on my way for a night at the Westin Abu Dhabi Gold Resort & Spa, which had just opened in November. It also helped that I had one free resort night award left that was about to expire. I had planned to use it at the St Regis Saadiyat Island, but the opening of that hotel had been delayed until the end of December. The Westin is about half way between the city and the airport.


There was still some construction going on at the Westin, although you could hardly tell that. They didn’t have any suites ready yet so the Platinum upgrade was to a ground floor room with a direct access to the golf course and sitting area outside. The room was very high and quite nice. The fitness center was not ready but hotel guests were offered a ride using a buggy to another nearby one. The main deeper pool was still being constructed when I was there. All these have probably been completed by now, or will be shortly.

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Le Meridien Koh Samui Resort and Spa, Koh Samui, Thailand -review

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le-meridien-koh-samui-airport-to-resortOn my last trip to Koh Samui in late November, I checked out the brand new Conrad Koh Samui Resort, and decided to spend a night at the newly reflagged Le Meridien as well. This property was first introduced as Langham Place and then reflagged by the owner to Gurich. After a year, they decided to brand it under the Le Meridien.  So, don’t get confused, if some still refer this hotel as Langham or Gurich, as it has changed names three times in just two years!


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The location of the hotel is in Lamai beach. It is about 20 to 30 minutes from the airport by a car depending on the traffic. Most of the flights in and out of the island are on Bangkok Airways as they own the airport. There are two daily flights from Bangkok on Thai Airways. There is a direct flight from Singapore on SilkAir. Bangkok Airways also operates some international routes from Koh Samui (USM). You can get a resort to pick you up from the airport or arrange a taxi on the spot. Taxis on Koh Samui should theoretically use meters but they don’t. You need to negotiate a fare with the driver beforehand. Oneway from the airport to the resort should cost 500 to 1000 THB depending on your negotiation skills.


Friend of mine, who works on the island, picked me up from the Conrad and dropped me off at the Le Meridien.  If you are driving yourself, you just need to pay some attention or the entrance to the hotel is easy to miss from the road. You need to leave your car outside, and then you will be taken to the entrance by a cart or you can just walk.

Starwood Preferred Guest 1st Quarter 2012 “Better by the Night”–promotion.


Please note that the registration links won’t work before January 9th, 2012. They are all valid but Starwood has decided to take them down temporarily.

Starwood just announced their first quarter 2012 “Better by the Night”-promotion. The promotion runs from January 9th to April 8th, 2012. There are more than 750 participating properties in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Please note that Asia Pacific properties do not participate. There is currently promotion going on that is only valid at Asia Pacific properties for free nights.


Better by the Night promo is for double Starpoints for stays of two nights or triple Starpoints for stays of three nights or longer. There are no bonus points for one night stays. You need to register for this promo by March 15th midnight Eastern Time.  The link for registration is

Stays of one night = 2 Starpoints per dollar (no promotion)

Stays of two nights = 4 Starpoints per dollar (double points)

Stays of three nights or longer = 6 Starpoints per dollar (triple points)

Starwood’s Latest Thailand Rate Offer – Unbeatable Thailand.


During the flooding in Thailand, I was in and out of the capitol city three times and never saw anything unusual besides everything being really quiet. When I was there last time ten days ago, the city was already back to business as usual. None of the Starwood properties were affected.

Starwood has now launched a Thailand sale that will last until the end of January for stays from January 4th until 31st of March. The rates offered are up to 50% off the Best Available Rate.


These are the rates listed as up to 50% off the Best Available Rate. Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit came at the offered price for weekends in January. For the dates I checked, the lowest rate I could find for the Le Meridien Bangkok was 3300 THB. The sale rate for the St Regis Bangkok was about 1000 THB lower than the 6900 THB rate listed.

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Award Availability Woes.

Yesterday, I wrote about contacting Starwood Platinum Concierge using the online chat function. It is a good way to sort simpler things out. My issue on hand was getting complicated, and decided to make the call to SPG Platinum Concierge in the States, although I am currently here in Abu Dhabi.

The problem on hand was the award availability at the Sheraton Resort in Dubai. I had free resort nights about to expire that could be only used in Dubai at that one specific property. Only one of the six nights I was looking to book was available when checking the availability online.

One of the nights did show standard room availability but was bookable only as a prepaid rate. The Platinum Concierge, with whom I initially dealt with on the phone, was not able to book it as an award. I asked him to escalate the issue, and the call was then transferred to a supervisor.

SPG Standard Room Sheraton Resort Dubai

The room types that are available for “Standard” awards:

Great Way to Contact Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum Concierge – Use Chat!


SPG Online ChatAs I am on the road close to 100% of the time, it makes contacting various entities in the United States bit difficult. Starwood has contact centers that deal with SPG issues in Ireland and Singapore as well, but I have found that the folks sitting in the United States are the most competent of them all.

Some countries block Skype and other VOIP access and calling using a landline or cellphone can be very expensive. You could probably send an email request but, if issue needs back and forth communication, it can take quite some time to resolve. My preferred channel of contacting SPG in a situation like this is the Platinum chat.

You can find the link to the chat on the upper right corner under the Customer Service-link. I then opens the actual chat-application window where you should have your name, email address, and the SPG Platinum account number. You can then enter your question to the space below. I always try to be as comprehensive and complete with my question/request, so that the Platinum concierge, dealing with the chat, can start working immediately with my issue without having to clarify several times.

Aloft Sukhumvit 11 Bangkok, Thailand-Review

Just stayed at the newly opened Aloft hotel at Sukhumvit 11 in Bangkok, Thailand. The opening of the hotel was delayed several times due to constructions issues, and later due to the flooding situation in Bangkok. The hotel finally opened its doors on December 1st, 2011. I have previously stayed at handful of Aloft properties, but all of them have been int he United States. Often, even limited service hotel concepts like Aloft, have more full service offering in the Asia due to competition and lower labor costs.

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Executive Summary

The hotel is done very nicely. One could use words modern chic, to describe it. I especially liked the way the ground floor and the second floor set up was done.

– As a SPG Platinum member it is very difficult for me to choose this property over other SPG options in Bangkok that all offer a breakfast and a happy hour for SPG Platinum members among other benefits.

– Without any Starwood status? Maybe as long as the price is in line with the competitors.

Get 20% Discount For Buying SPG Starpoints – Capped at 20K Starpoints per Calendar Year.

Normally Starwood sells Starpoints at 3.5 cents each, and the maximum number of points one is allowed to buy each calendar year is 20K. Now until December 31st Starwood is offering 20% discount for buying points. Instead of the usual 3.5 cents you can buy them at 2.8 cents. Sounds a bit high, doesn’t it?

SPG Starpoints 20 Discount

The reason why I quite like Starpoints is due to the fact that they are very flexible. You can use them for straight hotel awards, you can use cash + points awards, you can book flights using them, and most importantly you can convert 20K Starpoints to 25K miles with number of carriers.

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