Monthly Archives: May 2010

Consumer Reports releases hotel survey…and the winners are…

The rough economy has taken its toll on the hospitality industry and Consumer Reports Hotel Survey finds there are good hotel choices for every budget. Readers found The Ritz-Carlton, Homewood Suites, Renaissance, Drury Inn & Suites, and Microtel Inn & Suites were among the most satisfying of 48 chains in their respective categories.

Consumer Reports hotel ratings are broken into five categories: Fanciest, Luxury, Upscale, Moderate and Budget. Travelers’ expectations differ by category, but some moderate hotels pleased readers almost as much as the epitome of ritz, the Ritz-Carlton. Even the budget category had one winner: Microtel Inn & Suites which topped its category again.  Microtel was top of its class in CR’s last hotel survey.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 27,506 subscribers who spent a collective 124,000 nights at 48 chains across all five categories from January 2008 to April 2009.  Here’s what Consumer Reports found:

  • It pays to haggle. Only 35 percent of respondents tried to negotiate for a better deal, but those who did were rewarded with a lower rate or room upgrade 80 percent of the time. That’s a slightly higher success rate than readers experienced in Consumer Reports 2006 survey. Those who called ahead to do their haggling were even more successful than those who tried to negotiate in person.
  • Booking method doesn’t affect satisfaction. There was no correlation between respondents’ happiness with their hotel stay and how they booked it. Satisfaction was similar whether they called the hotel directly, used the hotel’s Web site, phoned the chain’s toll-free number, used an independent travel site, or walked in off the street without a reservation.
  • Suites have advantages. For approximately the same price as a regular room, the lodgings in an all-suite hotel give a more spacious, homey feeling. Respondents singled out Homewood Suites and Drury Inn & Suites as well-maintained and exceptional values. Suite hotels come in different price levels, and suites are sometimes an option at standard chains.
  • Some beds are better than others. Many high-end chains boast about their plush mattresses and lush linens. Survey respondents cited the Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and Westin as having the best beds and bedding. Conversely, at least 11 percent of guests (three times the average) at Howard Johnson, Travelodge, and Americas Best Value Inn complained that their beds were so uncomfortable that they couldn’t get a good night’s sleep.
  • Most “bargain” hotels aren’t. Respondents who stayed at a budget hotel said they were drawn by cheap rates. But except for Microtel, budget hotels continue to earn the lowest scores for value, upkeep, and ease of checking in and out. They also generate a disproportionate percentage of complaints about bedding, lighting, décor, and heating and air conditioning. Travelodge, Econo Lodge, and the misnamed Americas Best Value Inn, a newcomer to CR’s Ratings, were consistently among the most trouble-prone.

Tips to Find a Great Rate

Changing supply and demand makes prices a moving target, so it still takes a savvy shopper to unearth the best bargains. Consumer Reports June issue offers 10 tips to finding a better hotel rate and saving some cash. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Wing it. Respondents who appeared unannounced paid about $20 less per night for comparable accommodations, on average, than those who made a reservation ahead of time. Travelers who really want to play “chicken,” ask the desk clerk for the lowest possible rate, then say you’re taking your business elsewhere. If occupancy is exceptionally low, the clerk might invoke the “fade” rate, an option coming into play more often. It’s the bare minimum the chain will accept for a room, as an alternative to leaving it unoccupied. If you’re willing to roll the dice and show up late in the day without a reservation, you could hit the jackpot—or end up sleeping in your car.
  • Become a fan. More chains are becoming involved in social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Fans or followers of a chain will be notified of upcoming promotions and specials as soon as they’re available.
  • Look for specials. Given the poor economy hotel Web sites are loaded with limited-time offers. Among those that caught CR’s eye: a $100 gift card for every two nights’ stay at a Westin; an additional night at half-price for every night you stay at a Sheraton Four Points; and a 15 percent discount when you book at least eight days in advance at Super 8.

Hotelmine web site update!

It seems like we’ve been working on the Hotelmine web site for over a year but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so here’s the update as of today’s post.

The development team is finished with the “cosmetic” revisions that we submitted a couple of weeks ago.  We’re confident that you’ll like the fresh look of the site and the simplicity of navigating your way to where you need to go and that’s booking a great deal on a guest room directly with the hotel of your choice.

We’ll be moving the site to the server this weekend and some additional tests will need to take place before we officially launch Hotelmine into public beta.  We anticipate that date to be Tuesday, June 15 and once the site is up we’ll be ready to open registration. 

To Our Valued Members

There’s more reasons why you should join Hotelmine other than it’s FREE TO JOIN!  Here are some of the other benefits you’ll realize when you become a Member.

  • OK it’s FREE to join Hotelmine
  • Since we don’t charge a hotel a typical distribution fee or commission, our hotel partners are able to pass those savings on to you. No there’s none of this name your own price stuff or top-secret deals on our site.
  • When you join Hotelmine you’ll receive an invite to complete your personal profile.  One of the advantages of completing your profile is that hotels will be able to send you other promotions, in addition to the great ones you’ll see on the site, that best reflect your personal preferences.  Simply put if you like to ski in Aspen you won’t receive a spa package promotion from Tucson.
  • Members will be able to share their research, hotel promotions, and other important findings on every social media site imaginable to include your favorites like Digg, Technorati, and of course Twitter and Facebook so this is an area that we think that you will enjoy using to communicate with your friends, family, and followers.
  • On occasion you’ll be tasked (either by election or by volunteering) with planning a trip like a girls getaway weekend to Vegas or a guy’s golf trip to Myrtle Beach so we’ve include an easy way for you to book 10 guest rooms or more through Hotelmine. We’ll handle all of the details in-house.
  • You’ll have the option to follow your favorite hotels through Hotelmine so you’ll never miss a deal that you have been patiently waiting for from any of the hotels on your “Watch List”.
  • Some of the future enhancements that we are currently working include apps for your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Droid, and other similar handheld devices.  We’ll let you know when those are ready ASAP.

To Our Valued Hotel Partners

Many of you may not recognize Hotemine as a household name but we’ve been working with you and bringing customers to your hotels since 1994.

Our pledge to you is simple and straightforward.

  • We’ll treat you with the type of respect that you expect and deserve and partner with you ’till the cows come home.  That’s not lip service, that’s a promise.
  • If you see something that you’d like us to try or change, don’t be afraid to bring it to the table.  We’re all about enhancing the customer’s experience.
  • We didn’t create Hotelmine because we thought it was a cool idea.  We created Hotelmine because we’ve  heard your cry about lowering distribution and conversion costs.  We can discuss that in private but you know what we’re talking about.
  • You say you want to be social media savvy and extend your brand beyond your own web site?  Hotelmine has included all of the tools to provide information and connect with your customer at the right time, and in the right place.
  • You won’t have to go out and buy an expensive subscription to a service that will create ‘buzz’ for your hotel.  We’ve already set that up in your dashboard so you can do it yourself.

For additional details about how to get your hotel enrolled in the Hotelmine program contact

Michael Landau
Regional Director of Marketing

Five luxury 'digs' in our National Parks

The Ahwahnee

Skip the tents and cabins and step up to booking a luxury room or suite when visiting one of our National Parks.

Furnace Creek Inn (Death Valley National Park) – The original Inn, constructed by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, opened with twelve rooms in 1927. Additional rooms, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a golf course were added during the next several years. Furnace Creek Inn is an AAA-rated four diamond facility that has retained its original grandeur. Sixty-six rooms range from relatively small hillside rooms on the back side to two-room suites, each with a living room plus a bedroom with a king bed. Rates range from $320 to $458 per night. The Inn is closed during summer months. Furnace Creek Inn is a luxury hotel in a unique environment.

The Ahwahnee (Yosemite National Park) – Considered by many park travelers as the crown jewel of national park lodges, the Ahwahnee was built in the late-1920s to be an expensive, luxurious hotel. The hotel did and still does meet these standards. The lodging facility offers 123 rooms, both in the main six-story hotel, and in a series of nearby secluded cottages. Rooms are quite nice, but the real focal points are its Great Lounge, with a 24-foot-high beamed ceiling, stained glass windows, and two massive stone fireplaces, and the spectacular dining room with its 34-foot-high vaulted beamed ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows. It is worth a visit just to eat a meal in the dining room. Room rates range from $450 to $525 per night not including suites.

Jenny Lake Lodge (Grand Teton National Park) – An unusual luxury lodging facility, Jenny Lake Lodge is comprised of 37 well-maintained rustic cabins situated in relatively secluded wooded area. A few of the cabins are freestanding, but most are duplex units. The lodge is rated four diamonds by the AAA. Unlike most other national park lodging facilities, the rates at Jenny Lake Lodge include breakfast, a five-course dinner, use of bicycles, and horseback riding. A complimentary shuttle is available to nearby Jackson Lake Lodge and to the town of Jackson. Daily rates range from $599 for single and duplex cabins, to $850 for suites that include a bedroom and separate parlor.

Cavallo Point (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) – America’s newest national park lodge, Cavallo Point consists of historic military quarters plus new contemporary buildings that offer a total of 142 rooms. The setting, just below the north terminus of the Golden Gate Bridge, is outstanding, with views of the bridge available from some of the rooms. The Contemporary rooms are bright and airy while Historic rooms offer a better feel for this early-1900s U.S. Army post. A cooking school, an attractive spa, and complimentary transportation to nearby Sausalito are offered by the lodge. Daily rates begin at $265 for Historic rooms and $310 for Contemporary rooms. Suites and Contemporary rooms with a view of the bridge are considerably more expensive.

Greyfield Inn (Cumberland Island National Seashore) – The Inn, constructed in 1901 as a home for a daughter of business tycoon Thomas Carnegie, has ten rooms in the main house, and an additional six rooms in two separate, but nearby cottage buildings. Rooms in the main house differ in size and furnishing, and most require use of shared bathrooms. Rooms in the cottage units each have a private bathroom. Because Cumberland Island, Georgia’s southernmost barrier island, has no bridge access, guests must arrive via the Inn’s private boat that departs from Fernandina Beach, Florida. Daily rates range from $395 to $595 with a two-night minimum stay requirement. Rates include breakfast, a sack lunch, and a semi-formal dinner during which jackets are required of male guests.

It's all about timing when traveling

Journalist Mark Di Vincenzo, founder of the Business Writers Group, gets into the nitty-gritty of why timing really is everything with his book Buy Ketchup in May and Fly Before Noon. The collection is about 190 pages of tips on when it’s best to do just about anything. Here are some of his travel tips:

Best time of day to fly: noon. According to airline pilots, you will avoid the rush hours and minimize foul-weather delays.

Best day of the week to fly: Saturday. Airlines have fewer flights, meaning shorter lines, fewer delays.

Best month to fly for summer vacation: August. No one knows why, but flight delays are fewer than in June or July.

Best day of the week to shop for airline tickets: Monday or Tuesday, when airlines roll out the best deals.

Best day of the week to rent a car: Tuesday or Wednesday. Most business travelers already have their cars, and you will beat the rush by city dwellers who want a car for the weekend.

Best day of the week for a hotel upgrade: Sunday or Monday, the slowest days.

Best month to book a cruise: April or November. That’s when you can catch the repositioning cruises. The drawback is that these often are trips with few port calls.

U.S. issues travel alert for Jamaica

The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Jamaica on Friday, citing unconfirmed reports of criminal gang members amassing in Kingston and the mobilization of Jamaican defense forces.

“The possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area,” the alert said.

“If the situation ignites, there is a possibility of severe disruptions of movement within Kingston, including blocking of access roads to the Norman Manley International Airport,” according to the alert.

“The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area,” the alert said.

The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, is taking extra security precautions, according to the alert, which expires June 21.

“American citizens should consider the risks associated with travel to and within the greater Kingston metropolitan area,” the alert said. “U.S. citizens in Jamaica are advised to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when venturing outside their residence or hotel.”

The United Kingdom on Thursday updated its travel advisory for British citizens in Jamaica.

The British Foreign Office urged UK citizens to take extra care when traveling away from their homes or hotels due to the “increased risk of civil disorder and street violence in Kingston” and potentially other urban areas.