InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) Priority Club to Adjust Redemption Rates.

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It is the time of the year again when hotel groups tend to tinker with their redemption charts. In 2010, when Hilton devalued their program, IHG even saw it as a marketing opportunity and launched a Luckiest Loser campaign. This time, however, it is IHG’s time to devalue theirs. We’ll see if Hilton will run a campaign to “give” back to IHG.

Here are the numbers; 25% (1125) of the hotels are going up, 20% (900) of the properties are going down, and 55% (2475) are staying the same. There are more than 4500 hotels under the IHG umbrella.

The new redemption rates are effective on January 18th but the old point rates are bookable by phone until March 18th. Would it be nice to know what hotels are going up and which ones are going down? It certainly would but IHG won’t disclose it. Apparently, this is for their competitive advantage according to a spokesperson. Starwood and Hyatt both publish a list of hotels that are changing categories and members then have time to book using the old rates.

Here are the new redemption levels for various IHG brands. I have highlighted the new levels.

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For comparison here’s the old one.

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Priority Club Last Minute Rewards Nights Are back for January.

priority-club-last-minute-reward-nights-300Every first full weekend of each month IHG has selection of their hotels for 50% fewer points per night. The catch is that you need to book the hotels on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday for the coming weekend. There really isn’t time to plan anything around these sales, but if you happen to be close by, it can make a nice weekend getaway.

This time there are 80 participating properties of which half are in the United States. The number of InterContinental’s in the selection is fifteen from 20K to 15K Priority Club points per night. One of flagship properties in Moorea is included. If you have reward nights reserved there this coming weekend, now it is time to rebook and save half the points used.

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If you have reward nights needs this coming weekend and you have some Priority Club points, it makes sense to check the following link: http://www.priorityclub.com/rewards/us/en/redeem/catalog/hotel/last-minute-reward-nights. For some reason it seems to time out on some browsers. If you get time out, try a different browser or session.

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.

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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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My Three Airline Ticket Mistakes in 2011

Although I have traveled more than 3 million miles, I do make occasional mistakes when it comes to airline tickets, and hotels, and car rentals, and…. Last year I had three airlines related ones of which two resulted me foregoing the airfare paid and just ticketing something else. One was a booking for economy on China Southern that was the most uncomfortable flight that I have ever taken.

1. Booked a TAM (JJ) flight for a wrong day.

I had Air Canada ticket booked from Seoul to Sao Paulo but wanted to spend some time in Rio de Janeiro as well. Booking a through ticket from Air Canada didn’t make any sense as the fare upped a lot. When booking tickets for intra-Brazil travel, it makes sense to try to get them ticketed on Brazilian local websites.

Fares that Gol and Tam publishes for ticketing outside of the Brazil are often double or triple the fares found on websites intended for Brazil . Apparently lot of the cheaper fares have SITI (Sold Inside – Ticketed Inside) sales restrictions.  As a side note, fares for travel without advance purchase requirements are often cheaper to ticket outside of Brazil than inside. So, it always pays to check.

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 5000 Bonus Points Offer for Finland and Denmark – IKP50.

Yesterday, I was browsing the PriorityClub website when a banner of 5000 bonus points for stays in Finland and Denmark came up. The terms and conditions also didn’t indicate that one would need to pay for any “inflated” price to get the points, as is often the case. I decided to look into this, because I was going to be in Helsinki next week.

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IHG has been revamping their websites recently and often the links are broken. When you try to click any of the hotel specific links, you only get 404 error:

priority-club-escape-to-finland-and-denmark-and-earn-5000-bonus-points

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.

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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.

Last Chance to Use The Continental Elite Maximizer to Get the Last United Airlines and Continental EQM’s in For the Year.

Two weeks ago I wrote about buying Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) on Continental’s website using the Elite Maximizer. Today is the last day to use this program to ensure that the EQM’s are posted before the end of the year.

You can link your United MileagePlus and Continental OnePass accounts, and the EQM’s are then eventually merged to determine your status in 2012.

This is the way to go if you need some EQM’s at the very last moment. It is not cheap and you need to determine if the cash outlay is going to be worth the higher airline status.

My Experiences With STPC “Stopover Paid By Carrier” When There Is No Immediate Connection.

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This is one of those acronyms you come across infrequently. STPC stands for “Stopover Paid By Carrier”. I have used this facility only twice and have flown over 3 million miles. You are not using STPC when an airline just put you to a hotel due to delay, misconnect, cancellation etc. Those are just regular accommodations during irregular operations.

The irony is that these “stopovers”, less than 24 hours, are not actual stopovers but rather transfers. If the transfer is more than 24 hours, it is then considered to be a stopover that might affect the ticket price and the airport taxes.

How to know if you are eligible for STPC? This is a tricky part. It is borderline impossible if you are using one of the online booking sites. Only competent travel agent can probably tell you when this service is available, and if there is a fee for it. The STPC is not usually listed on the fare rules either. Normally, the required connection must be at least 6 to 8 hours when there are no other flight options available between the origin and destination. It is not always offered for economy passengers when it is for business or first class ones, or there may be a charge for economy passengers and free for business first. I have seen this only to apply for revenue tickets i.e. award tickets in business or first are not usually eligible.

Depending of the airline you may need to request this service at the time of ticketing, few days before departure through the airlines office, or sometime upon arrival to the connecting airport.

My two STPG (Stopover Paid By Carrier) Examples:

Czech Airlines Business Class Damascus to Helsinki via Prague

Hilton HHonors 1st Quarter 2012 “More Points” Promotion.

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Now Hilton joins Starwoord, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Marriott (both miles and points based) by announcing their promotion for the first quarter of 2012. Hyatt’s promotion is still unclear at this point but would expect an announcement in the next ten days.

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The promotion is called “More Points”. You will get 1000 bonus points per night during the promotional period from January 1st to March 31st, 2012. For two nights weekend stays you will receive an additional 5000 bonus Hilton HHonors points. Based on the terms and conditions that Hilton has published on their website, it appears that the weekend nights are defined as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Sunday appears to be excluded from the 5000 Hilton HHonors bonus points promotion. I hope to be wrong, however.

You need to register for this promo before your stay at HHonors.com/MorePoints. It makes sense to check that the property you are intending to stay at is not on the non-participating hotels list. You can find these non-participating hotels at http://hhonors1.hilton.com/en_US/hh/landing/excluded_hotels_q1/index.do.

Hyatt Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi, UAE – Review of My Stay at Suite 2212

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Last week, I was scheduled to fly out from Abu Dhabi. The opening date of the Hyatt Capital Gate had been brought forward by couple of weeks. Previously, it was not bookable before the beginning of 2012. Decided to spend the night there and just take a cab to the airport the following morning. The location of the hotel is about half way from both the city center of Abu Dhabi and the airport. My stay there ended up being on the opening day.

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The Capital Gate building is an iconic one already due to being the largest man-made tilted structure. The hotel part of the building begins from the 18th floor. The lower floors are reserved for office space. You can read more about the building itself at www.capitalgate.ae.

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Instant Hilton HHonors Gold Status for Visa Infinite Card Holders + 40K HHonors Points After Four Stays (For All?).

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Please note that as of March 4th this offer is still working. You may need to change your address to Australia for the registration to go trough successfully. Use Google Image search to find out the first six digits of  various Visa Infinite cards and keep plugging them in until one works.

Hilton has been courting travelers and giving out Hilton HHonors Gold status for almost just signing up. Their usual MVP offer of Gold status for just four stays has been going on for several years. Now, Hilton HHonors has even better offer for Visa Infinite card holders. You can get instant Gold status until 2013 and 40,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points after just four stays. The link to register for this offer is http://www.hhonors.com/VisaInfinite.

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This promotion is intended to the following regions:

Who is eligible to participate in this promotion?

This offer is open to selected Visa Infinite cardholders residing within Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa and who are enrolled in Hilton HHonors and register for the promotion.

*Asia Pacific denotes Australia, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines

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

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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.

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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 SPG.com/bythenight.

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)

Now You Can Use Marriott Rewards Points To Book Flights + Car Rentals. Not a Great Deal Points Wise.

Marriott Rewards just launched the ability to use Marriott Rewards points to book revenue flights and car rentals. This is outsourced to ezRez Software. I think that is always good to have more options to use points, although one Marriott point under this program is only valued at around $0.005 dollars. Marriott has a dedicated website for this: www.marriottrewardsairandcar.com.

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Even Marriott fully discloses that using points for hotel rewards continues to be the best redemption option of Marriott points. I have always used my points for travel packages, however.

Southwest Airlines Launches Double Tier Qualifying Points Promotion 225dojup.

I have a confession to make. I really don’t fly Southwest that often, maybe once a year or once every two years or so. They are, however, very good airline, but just doesn’t fit my travel patterns that well. I have been their Rapid Rewards members since early 2000.

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Where Southwest excels are those short and medium haul flights. As they don’t belong to any alliance, there is no way to use Raid Rewards for award travel in international premium class cabins on quality carriers, that is my favorite way of burning earned miles/points.

Apparently, Southwest feels that they need to react based on the AA’s recent offer of Double Elite Qualifying Miles on all routes until the end of January.

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