Hotel chains want you to book directly through them because it costs them less to make a reservation themselves than it does to pay a commission to Expedia or other online travel sites (or travel agents). Hyatt has a new attempt at this you need to know about — a 15% discount — but beware.
More than a dozen years ago hotel chains started to focus on driving their most frequent consumers to their websites by limiting points-earning to reservations made directly, limiting elite stay-earning, and in some cases even limiting points. While individual hotel treatment may vary:
- Major chains do not offer points-earning on room rates booked through many third party channels.
- Major chains do not offer elite qualifying nights for these third party bookings.
- Now only Marriott (among major chains) honors elite benefits on such stays.
For both a chain’s best customers and for infrequent guests, they also had to make consumers believe they’d be able to get the best deal by booking direct. That’s why chains offered ‘Best Rate Guarantees’ though those are so fraught with fine print and gotchas that they’re more marketing spin than offer that most consumers are able to benefit from. Hyatt’s best rate guarantee is weak sauce.
Expedia Dancers Flickr: Juggernautco
A couple of years ago, starting with Hilton, hotel chains began to rewrite third party contracts to allow themselves to offer cheaper rates on their own websites than offered through these third parties.
Sometimes, and only by a little. It’s enough to let them say they have the best rates on their own sites, ‘only for members’ (making the rates ‘private’ is key to this differentiation, and also drives signups in their loyalty programs).
Hyatt’s member discounts were often up to 10% off, better than the 2% – 5% offered to competitors, but still not generally any better or at least materially better than AAA rates.
Hyatt has now just launched a new member discount:
- Up to 15% off
- Prepaid and non-changeable
- Requires 14 day advance purchase
- Still at the discretion of individual hotels to offer, so whether the rate is available or not (and how much off) will be property-dependent
- Initially available at Andaz Mayakoba, Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, and Park Hyatt St Kitts.
Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
Here’s the Park Hyatt St. Kitts. The regular member rate is showing 15% off. The advance purchase member rate is showing 20% off, more than Hyatt tells you to expect. But I wouldn’t book the 20% off rate. AAA with breakfast is cancellable for $20 more.
At Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen they’re offering members 15% off the standard rate (BAR) but they’re also offering 15% off to AAA members – and the AAA rate is cancellable.
While this won’t likely always be so, the first date I checked at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta had the same prepaid member rate as the member rate – both the same as the ‘standard’ rate (i.e. no discount for members, no discount for giving up flexibility, but still offering both). And all of those rates were more expensive than the AAA rate.
This is why I keep renewing my AAA membership.
Online travel sites are useful as one-stop shops to compare options for consumers who don’t know up front which hotel they want to book. Their technology is at least marginally better than that of the major chains. They compete to show consumers what they want as quickly as possible. So they provide a better booking experience. For hotel chains to shift consumers to book direct, they need to:
- Show consumers the product that best meets their needs
- Offer consumers the best price on that product
- Give them the best user experience
So far the discounts on their own hotels — sometimes — only gets them a small piece of the way there.