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BrightlyBob's Blab

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Chinese hotels have a reputation of coming through on service and elite upgrades so I thought I'd share with all of you my most recent fabulous experience during my stay in Xi'an - home of the Terracotta warriors.

 

We arrived in Xi'an at 9am on an overnight Sleeper train from Shanghai and after a days touring with a guide visiting the Big Goose Pagoda, the Bell & Drum tower, the Walls and Muslim Street arrived at 4pm to check-in to our hotel.

 

*WOW* - What an experience! Upon arriving a bellboy collected my luggage from my guides car and asked my name. I replied and he immediately asked me to be seated in reception whilst he called the Exec lounge manager who arrived quickly, thanked me for my loyalty and asked me to accompany him to the Exec lounge where he would personally complete my checkin. We then all accompanied the manager to the lounge where we were offered welcome drinks while I went through the process at the exec lounge desk. After a few mins with my passports and visas I was then advised I could join my family and the hostess would take care of the remaining formalities. 10 minutes later the hostess approached me and advised that our rooms were ready, a double-double as reserved for the two teenagers and our room had been upgraded to a suite, on the exec floor! Of course when we walked into our rooms we found our luggage there waiting for us! SMOOOOTH....

 

Now, suite upgrades are rare enough but exec floor suite upgrades - never, not ever, never ever, never, never have I received an exec-floor-suite-upgrade in 10 years and over 500 real butt-in-bed nights as a Marriott Platinum, and latterly Platinum Premier.

 

And then there was the evening lounge, top-shelf liquor and lots of different hot options meant you could eat a full evening meal there AND choose between a Western or Chinese menu. Although the alcohol hours were officially short -  6pm-8pm only - in practice I was there at 5:30pm before dinner and was offered a beer, and returned after dinner at somewhat past 8pm and was able to have a couple more. The Exec lounge Breakfast was amongst the widest I have seen in any exec lounge worldwide and the alternative in-restaurant breakfast was absolutely the best breakfast selection I have ever seen anywhere in the world.

 

So, smooth-as-silk no-wait exec lounge checkin, upgrade both rooms to exec lounge level AND our room to a full suite on the lounge level, top alcohol and food offerings and the best hotel buffet breakfast ever seen makes me sooo glad I'm a Marriott Platinum Premier ---------- that got comped Hilton Diamond - Yes folks, all this top-treatment, best ever experience occurred at the Xi'an Hilton. It had to be a Hilton as Marriott has no central properties in Xi'an. Its only my second Hilton stay this millennium!

 

As part of this trip I've also stayed at the Marriott Shanghai City Centre, where I received a concierge level "upgrade" to a standard room 4 floors below the lounge and the Beijing Renaissance Wangfujing where I received no upgrade whatsoever. Both required lengthy checkin procedures and waits (ironically the Ren Beijing stuffed a slip in my roomcard advising all club level guests could checkin in the lounge - only given after I'd gone through the whole lengthy checkin process in reception!). Both lounges are good, as are the alternative full breakfast options, but really, no patch, absolutely no patch, on the incredible Hilton Xi'an...

 

I think it might be time to rethink my opinions on Hilton!

You know how it goes in the beginning it's all rosy, everything's good, but over the years you feel taken for granted, that your partner just doesn't care for you. Overlooked and ignored you wake up one morning and wonder - really, why am I taking this? Is this all I'm worth?

 

Well on Monday morning I awoke in my small corner room 2505 at the London Renaissance Heathrow Hotel with a magnificent view of a poured concrete wall just inches from my window while the family next door argued as I could plainly hear through the connecting door, thinking, is this really the best room they could find for a regular Plat premier guest? Thus I began questioning our entire relationship - and decided that it was time to part with the London Heathrow Renaissance. It's been good at times - well the lounge has, but there has to be more to a relationship than great free beer. There's lots of other hotels around who have got to treat regular customers better than this.

 

As a regular LHR Renaissance Hotel guest I receive:

 

(a) lengthy checkin queue and an elite queue line that is ritually ignored and utterly pointless

(b) no suite upgrades at checkin, never, not ever. I mean never! Promises of "next time" never kept

(c) repeated "missing stays" - forgetting to post at least 10% of my stays

(d) repeated point-shorting - at least half of my stays that aren't actually missing are significantly point-shorted

(e) "forgotten" Plat bonus points.

(f) charges for car parking but forgets to give the card needed for the reader necessitating further queueing

(g) forgets to post incidental card details given leading to payment refusal at restaurant/bar and further queueing

 

My last stay 1st-3rd July experienced a, b, f and g and so my first step, once home and acting upon my resolution, I consulted the Marriott Plat line where I spent half an hour on the phone Monday afternoon with them correcting my last 3 LHR Ren stays of woeful underpayment, one missing stay, one significant point-shorting and one "forgotten" Plat bonus points. Yes, that is my last 3 stays at the Heathrow Renaissance! And I've been accepting this as normal for years! The place uses every opportunity to "accidentally" underpay points. Now I await my points posting for my stay ending that fateful dawn of realisation Monday morning and I'll bet you a buck to buttons there'll be at least one of c, d, or e!

 

I am sorry London Heathrow Renaissance, but this type of crappy consistency isn't a good thing, its time to try another LHR hotel. SPG have a couple of options, and I think there's a Crowne Plaza and at least 2 Hiltons. With my regular stay record I should be able to find another fish in the LHR sea that will provide me with good consistency instead of your take-me-for-granted type.

 

A few years ago if you'd have asked me what I would most want with me on a desert Island I would have replied, without hesitation, a lifetime supply of beer (and the means to keep it cool). Now, after some thought, I'd reply a lifetimes supply of tea (and the means to brew it).

 

The free beer was good, but there's more to a relationship than free beer - Yes, LHR Renaissance, I've outgrown you!

Marriott, IHG, Hilton & SPG compared:

 

China, Florida, Europe and SoCal.

 

In 2015 I booked a month off work to take a redemption Fly-Drive with my four teenagers around Canada and NE USA. As my planning proceeded I realised there were quite startling differences in comparative redemption costs between my 2 favoured programs - Marriott and IHG - and posted a thread ranking those 2 and the other 2 of the big 4 hotel programs. This year I'm again on my travels redeeming Marriott Reward points in China during July and IHG in California during October and decided to compare again. The results of that comparison led me again down the rabbit hole of comparative redemptions and this blog is the outcome of that.

 

EARNING POINTS
Before you spend the points, they first have to be earned and no comparison between the values offered by each scheme can ignore the earn rate, since only with this data can one truly assess the comparative value of each loyalty program. I'm assuming top tier is completed in 60 paid nights as all the chains have different ways to their top tiers on that number of paid nights. I assume each night costs $150 plus tax (total inc tax of $10,000pa) and that 30 of those are single night stays, 10 are 2-nighters and 2 are 5-night stays. I take into account HH Diamond & IHG Spire at 20 points per $, MR Plat at 15 and SPG Plat75 at 4 and add in the arrival amenity at 1000 per single night arrival at HH but choosing breakfast on all other stays and do the same with SPG. At Marriott I get 500 points and the free brekky, and IHG doesn't provide a free breakfast benefit at all, so it's just the points there. At SPG on the longer stays I'm allowing for the green choice.

 

30x1-nighters - Total 30 nights
HH 120k------IHG 105k------MR 83k------SPG 33k
10x2-nighters - Total 20 nights
HH 60k------IHG 65k-------MR 50k------SPG 17k
2x5-nighters - Total 10 nights
HH 30k------IHG 31k-------MR 24k------SPG 10k

 

TOTALS
HH 210k------IHG 201k------MR 157k------SPG 60k

 

ANNUAL BONUS SCHEMES
Here I assume Hilton bonuses offer double points most of the year with some stay based and triple bonuses. At IHG I'm assuming the accelerate bonuses make 60k twice each year, with miscellaneous bonuses making another 20k. Marriott megabonuses make 25k twice each year and the summer promo makes 15k. Finally I've assumed SPG continued its double promo with some tripling, so:

 

HH 120k------IHG 140k------MR 65k------SPG 20k

 

Total PROGRAM points on a years hotel spend of $10,000


HH 330k, that's 33 points per hotel $ spent
IHG 341k, that's 34 points per hotel $ spent
MR 222k, that's 22 points per hotel $ spent
SPG  80k, that's  8 points per hotel $ spent

 

CREDIT CARD COLLECTING

 

UNITED STATES

 

Now if you're going to be directing stays purposely to one hotel chain it makes sense to add the affiliated credit card to ramp up the earnings, so I'm going to add in credit card points for spending. Here I'm assuming $20,000 pa being spent on the cards, $10,000 on the hotels, $7,000 on restaurants, flights, gas and supermarkets and $3,000 on the other purchases. The Hilton Surpass gives 12 points per $ at Hilton, 6 on restaurants, gas and supermarkets and 3 on the rest. The IHG Select card pays 5 points per $ hotel spends, 2 points at restaurants, gas and supermarkets and 1 point on the rest, plus an annual free "any IHG hotel" certificate. Whilst it can be redeemed for up to 60,000 points, and I've redeemed my last 2 at that value, I nonetheless hold their value at half the face value due to expiry, so for this purpose, 30k points. Lastly it provides a 10% point rebate on redemptions. For this purpose I'm adding 10% to the points at final USA totalising which is an extra 44k. For Marriott the Chase card is a debatable choice. It does however offer 15 EQNs so I favour it here. The card pays 5 points per $ at Marriott's, 2 per $ on fuel, flights and restaurants with 1 on everything else. It also adds in an annual Cat1-5 cert which I value at half its possible 25k, namely 12k points. For SPG elites the SPG AMEX is the best option earning 2 points per $ on hotels and 1 on the rest and is overall a slightly higher earner for Marriott elites too, if you're not needing those 15EQNs.

 

US Credit card earnings on $20,000 spend:


HH 170k------IHG 140k------MR 79k------SPG 30k

 

So the GRAND total is
HH  500k, that's 50 points per hotel $ spent
IHG 481k, that's 48 points per hotel $ spent
MR  301k, that's 30 points per hotel $ spent

SPG 110k, that's 11  points per hotel $ spent

 

UNITED KINGDOM

 

Now in the UK, the Hilton Barclaycard pays 3 points per £ on hotel spend and 2 points on everything else, the IHG Premium card pays 4 points per £ hotel spend and 2 on everything else and on £10,000 spend provides a free "any IHG hotel" certificate. Whilst it can be redeemed for up to 60,000 points, and I've redeemed the last 2 at that value, I nonetheless hold their value at half the face value due to expiry, so for this purpose, 30k points. Lastly, the SPG AMEX is the only option in the UK for both Marriott and SPG loyalists and pays very well with the 1:3 conversion SPG:MR and making 2SPG (6MR) per £ at hotels and 1 (3MR) on everything else.

 

Spending the same $20,000 (£15,000) garners:

 

UK Credit card earnings


HH: 40k------IHG 78k------MR 67k------SPG 22k

 

So in the UK the (not so) GRAND total is
HH   370k, that's 37 points per hotel $ spent
IHG  419k, that's 42 points per hotel $ spent
MR   289k, that's 29 points per hotel $ spent
SPG 102k, that's 10 points per hotel $ spent

 

Since I last calculated this relating to my Canada/NE USA trip in 2015 Hilton has done away with categories making its redemptions more dynamic and SPG categories have remained pretty static whilst both IHG and Marriott have continued their annual category creep, with IHG even adding two new categories at 55k and 60k points. All four of these stays represent this vacations taken, or planned, this year.

 

Last time Marriott and IHG tussled for best value earn and burn with Hilton and SPG way behind. How will the dominos fall this time?

 

This summary lists each hotel and the hotel spend needed in USD to earn the points necessary to buy the stay expressed as (P$xxxx : UK$xxxx : US$xxxx) where:


P.   - Points earning only, no credit card in USD
UK - Points and the affiliated UK card in USD
US - Points and the affiliated US card in USD

 

-----CHINA in July-----

 

Shanghai - 5 nights in the centre
Hilton: Hilton Shanghai -------------160,000 HH   (P$4900 : UK$4300 : US$3200)
IHG: Indigo Bund -------------------200,000 IHG  (P$5900 : UK$4800 : US$4200)
Marriott: Marriott Shanghai Centre  60,000 MR  (P$2700 : UK$2100 : US$2000)
SPG: Westin Bund ------------------ 40,000 SPG (P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)

 

Beijing - 5 nights near Forbidden City
Hilton: Hilton Wangfujing ------------180,000 HH (P$5500 : UK$4900 : US$3600)
IHG: Crowne Plaza Wangfujing -----125,000 IHG (P$3700 : UK$3000 : US$2600)
Marriott: Renaissance Wangfujing -- 80,000 MR  (P$3600 : UK$2800 : US$2700)
SPG: Westin Beijing ------------------40,000 SPG (P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)

 

Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- Marriott $6,300; IHG    $9,600; SPG $10,000; Hilton $10,400
UK:- Marriott $4,900; IHG     $7,800; SPG   $8,000; Hilton  $9,200
US:- Marriott $4,700; Hilton $6,800; IHG    $6,800; SPG     $7,200

 

The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $2,000 at all the chains.
This is a very easy win for Marriott because both the very central full service hotels chosen are low categories. At only 140,000 Marriott points for both stays it's making 1.5UScents per point. Hilton finds itself beaten into last place here, saved only for US customers by its excellent Surpass card

 

-----FLORIDA in August----

 

2 nights Orlando offsite near Universal
Hilton: Doubletree ---------------40,000 HH  (P$1200 : UK$1100 : US$800)
IHG: Holiday Inn ---------------- 50,000 IHG (P$1500 : UK$1200 : US$1000)
Marriott: Fairfield Inn ------------50,000 MR (P$2300 : UK$1700 : US$1700)
SPG: Four-Points -----------------8,000 SPG (P$1000 : UK$800 : US$700)

 

5 nights offsite near Disney
Hilton: Hilton Garden Inn ------80,000 HH ($P$2400 : UK$2200 : US$1600)
IHG: Holiday Inn Express -----150,000 IHG (P$4400 : UK$3600 : US$3100)
Marriott: Courtyard ---------- 100,000 MR (P$4500 : UK$3400 : US$3300)
SPG: Sheraton -----------------16,000 SPG (P$2000 : UK$1600 : US$1500)

 

Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- SPG $3,000; Hilton $3,600; IHG $5,900; Marriott $6,800
UK:- SPG $2,400; Hilton $3,300; IHG $4,800; Marriott $5,100
US:- SPG $2,200; Hilton $2,400; IHG  $4,100; Marriott $5,000

 

The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $1,000 at all the chains.
This is a cheap stay in a high demand tourist area. SPG performs surprisingly well here, as does Hilton, leaving IHG and Marriott scrapping out for last place. Here those 150,000 MR points redeemed at only 0.66UScents per point, well less than half of the values in China.

 

-----EUROPE in September-----

 

5 nights London in a 5* Hotel
Hilton: Waldorf Astoria ------------320,000 HH  (P$9700 :  UK$8600 :  US$6400)
IHG: Intercontinental Park Lane --300,000 IHG (P$8800 : UK$7100  :  US$6300)
Marriott: JW Grosvenor House ---180,000 MR   (P$8200 :  UK$6200 :  US$6000)
SPG: Sheraton Grand -------------100,000 SPG (P$12500 :UK$10000 : US$9000)

 

3 nights Paris, Opera
Hilton: Astor Opera ----------------210,000 HH (P$6400 : UK$5700 : US$4200)
IHG: Indigo Opera -----------------135,000 IHG (P$4000 : UK$3200 : US$2800)
Marriott: Marriott Opera -----------120,000 MR  (P$5400 : UK$4100 : US$4000)
SPG: W Opera -----------------------60,000 SPG (P$7500 : UK$6000 : US$5400)

 

Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- IHG $12,800; Marriott $13,600; Hilton $16,100; SPG $20,000
UK:- IHG $10,300; Marriott $10,300; Hilton $14,300; SPG $16,000
US:- IHG   $9,100; Marriott $10,000; Hilton $10,600; SPG $14,400

 

The total cost of the vacation if paid in cash would be roughly $4,000 at all the chains.
Bucket-list destinations at near-top redemption cost. All the chains require big point totals to do this pair. It turns out a straight fight between IHG and Marriott for first place with Hilton and SPG duking it out for the wooden spoon. Marriott's value per point climbs back up to 1.2UScents here.

 

-----SoCAL in October-----

 

3 nights in LA
Hilton: Beverly Hilton ----------------180,000 HH (P$5400 : UK$4900 : US$3600)
IHG: Intercontinental Century City --180,000 IHG (P$5300 : UK$4300 : US$3800)
Marriott: Beverley Hills Marriott ---- 120,000 MR  (P$5400 : UK$4100 : US$4000)
SPG: W West Beverley ----------------60,000 SPG (P$7500 : UK$6000 : US$5400)

 

4 nights in Anaheim
Hilton: Doubletree ---------------------140,000 HH (P$4200 : UK$3800 : US$2800)
IHG: Indigo -----------------------------120,000 IHG (P$3500 : UK$2900 : US$2500)
Marriott: Marriott (also FFI & SHS) --- 140,000 MR (P$6400 : UK$4800 : US$4700)
SPG: Sheraton -------------------------- 40,000 SPG(P$5000 : UK$4000 : US$3600)

 

Vacation requires spend of:
Pts:- IHG $8,800; Hilton $9,600; Marriott $11,800; SPG $12,500
UK:- IHG $7,200; Hilton  $8,700; Marriott  $8,900; SPG $10,000
US:- IHG $6,300; Hilton $6,400; Marriott  $8,700;  SPG  $9,000

 

The value of all these is roughly the same for each hotel group at $1,500

 

Another popular redemption spot, where IHG again scores well and Marriott finds itself scrapping with its SPG stable-mate to avoid last place. Here the Marriott point redeems at only 0.6UScents, it's worst performance of the 4 vacations.

 


COMBINING ALL FOUR VACATIONS

 

Together these 4 vacations are worth roughly $8,500 & require hotel spending of:

 

Non Credit-Card holders
1st IHG---------$37,100 hotel spends needed
2nd Marriott----$38,500 hotel spends needed
3rd Hilton------$39,700 hotel spends needed
4th SPG--------$45,500 hotel spends needed

 

UK Credit Card holders
1st Marriott------$29,200 hotel spends needed
2nd IHG---------$30,100 hotel spends needed
3rd Hilton-------$35,500 hotel spends needed
4th SPG---------$36,200 hotel spends needed

 

US Credit Card holders
1st Hilton--------$26,200 hotel spends needed
2nd IHG---------$26,300 hotel spends needed
3rd Marriott-----$28,400 hotel spends needed
4th SPG---------$32,800 hotel spends needed

 

Total value of the breaks amounts to roughly $8,500 the value of a point is:
Hilton: ----------cost 1,310,000 points = 0.6 UScents per point
IHG: ------------cost 1,260,000 points = 0.6 UScents per point
Marriott: --------cost   850,000 points = 1.0 UScents per point
SPG:  -----------cost   364,000 points = 2.3 UScents per point

 


NO CREDIT CARD MEMBERS AKA REST of the WORLD (RoW)
This probably best represents those that carry airline affiliated cards and have neither the room in their lives, or their wallets, for another. And of course MOST OF THE WORLD where affiliation cards are a rarity. This category is very tightly fought out by IHG, Marriott and Hilton but won out by IHG with Marriott following closely behind and Hilton in hot pursuit. The IHG points represent a 23% rebate against stays, Marriott is 22% and Hilton is 21%. No stewards decision needed for last place where SPG trails in far behind the other three with its points representing a 19% rebate.

 

UK CREDIT CARD MEMBERS
Here, Marriott leapfrogs over IHG to first place because using the SPG card with its 1:3 conversion ratio means 6MR points per £ at hotels, as against IHGs card awarding 4 of IHGs less valuable points at its hotels. This continues on all other spending too with 3MR points on other spending as opposed to IHGs 2, and although the IHG card does provide a free annual certificate it just can't catch up the value, in no small part because each IHG point is worth a third less than a Marriott point. It does however remain close between Marriott and IHG with Marriott just clinching that first place representing a 29% rebate against IHGs 28%. Although Hilton is third, it's insipid UK credit card offering means it's avoids last place only marginally at 24% with SPG, ably assisted by its excellent AMEX, chasing Hilton to the wire at 23%.

 

USA CREDIT CARD MEMBERS
Here, it's definitely a battle of the 2 credit cards, IHG Select and Hilton Surpass. In fact Hiltons Surpass Credit card is the better of the two and does the heavy lifting taking Hiltons otherwise tepid scheme into its photo-finish victory with IHG, but IHGs head start from its better value scheme and the IHG cards ingenious 10% points rebate helped it run Surpass to the wire. Both schemes supported by their cards offer an excellent overall 32% return. Hilton Honors is however not so much a top-value scheme as a torpid program beefed up by a top-value card that raises Hiltons otherwise mediocre return to this win. Marriott members are beaten down here by the relatively insipid Chase offering, which needs a review. No doubt that will be considered when the new combined Marriott/SPG program is launched. Until that happens USA Marriott elites will have to satisfy themselves with a 30% return. SPG keeps up its losing streak at only a 26% return, picking up the wooden spoon, yet again. And it would have been worse but for the relatively simple, yet quite generous SPG AMEX.

 

Here your best credit card is Surpass adding 50% to Hilton points, followed by the SPG AMEX that eschews complex rules just to give a good 40% increase with SPGs valuable points. The IHG Select Visa manages the same 40% uplift as SPG but via certificates and redemption rebates that may not be as convenient as points simply dropped into your account each month. The Chase Marriott card is the laggard here hauling only 35% and showing signs of neglect.

 

SUMMARY

 

Simply straight points only program-for-program comparison, there's not much between IHG, Marriott and Hilton. Although IHG wins this it's not convincing and the lack of benefits during stays means it all feels a bit utilitarian, unless you're staying at the Intercontinental, Indigo or a recently refurbed Crowne Plaza, AND pay your own freight to enter the lounge or take breakfast. Overall, penny for penny, with the free breakfast and lounge access provided by Marriott and Hilton they represent a better value choice bearing in mind the micro-difference in redemption percentages between these 3.

 

For UK and USA residents, the big take-away from this is to get the affiliated credit card if you are going to systematically collect hotel points since they provide a real boost to earnings.

 

In the US, the Hilton Surpass is undoubtably the best, providing 12HH points per $ at Hiltons, that's more than Hiltons base points! Amazing! The IHG Select cards innovative 10% redemption rebate can really add value, but only as long as you're redeeming. If you're saving over several years for a special redemption then the card becomes less interesting, though of course it beats all comers if you're making that once-in-a-Lifetime million-points redemption trip! And there's some very upmarket Intercontinental's to enjoy out there, backed up by some great refurbed Crowne Plazas and those new Indigos! Marriott's Chase card is looking distinctly flabby in the US market, indeed with the SPG AMEX paying double points at Marriott (2SPG=6MR) and 1SPG (3MR) on all other purchases Marriott members should be better off with that, assuming they don't need the EQNs provided by Chases offering. Even so, using SPGs card wouldn't have changed Marriott's 3rd placing here. SPGs AMEX doesn't bother with lots of bells and fancy whistles preferring a simple earn route in SPGs more valuable points. Longer term, Marriott needs to pay some attention to its affiliated card and a recent announcement indicating it's being considered clearly shows Marriott is alive to the issue.

 

In the UK Marriott elites will do well with the SPG AMEX. The IHG Premium MasterCard is a good choice for IHG regulars. Hiltons card is a fairly anaemic offering, somewhat like its full service hotels in the UK, but the recent crop of newer hotels are slick, albeit, limited service, outfits. It's difficult to see the point of Hilton in the UK though, Marriott full service hotels are far better maintained and more numerous, IHG covers the same ground offered by Hiltons limited service brands but has several times the number, they're everywhere! Hilton is squeezed out between these two, if you want full service, Marriott has more of them and in better condition, if you want limited service, IHG has hundreds more of them AND both these companies have better value loyalty schemes. Finally there's SPG. It's an odd UK player, with only a couple of hotels outside London and consequently I'd imagine very few UK elites, yet it's managed to snag a good, simple card with the AMEX. British SPGers should certainly be enjoying the enormous extra choice of presented by Marriott outside London to earn their points and I'm sure American Express has experienced a sizeable uptick in the SPG card from Marriotts British pointsluts, keen to ramp up their point totals.

 

PROGRAM-BY-PROGRAM

 

HILTON
Hilton Honors is a pretty unimpressive performer here with nothing that particularly stands out, but with the Surpass card it becomes a full throated US contender winning out against IHG in a photo-finish. Even so, it wins through on none of the vacations at all - indeed without the benefit of the Surpass card, Hilton finds it difficult to compete and in the UK it's insipid card leaves it well behind IHG and Marriott (supported by the SPG AMEX). In fact in the UK it came perilously close to taking the wooden spoon from SPG. A lot of work is needed here, especially with its UK Hilton full service inventory in a pretty dilapidated condition, its best UK hotels are now the newer Doubletree, Garden Inn and Hampton properties, all of which offer more restricted membership benefits. In the UK it's very difficult to make a case for Hilton. Add to that it's dynamic redemption pricing which means there's no longer any categories so it's vulnerable to unannounced and almost undetectable devaluations. The program is now in Hiltons trust, and I'm not sure it's trustworthy enough to be left with its hands on the levers of such an opaque scheme. If Hilton decides it's time to gut the scheme it can do so easily and no amount of points from the Surpass card could stop the slide. At the turn of the millennium Hilton was a leading scheme with hotels you really wanted to stay at but neglect of the full service UK properties and a slash and burn approach to its loyalty program has left it threadbare.

 

IHG
IHG Rewards Club wins the "points only" category, battles Hilton gamely in the US and runs a close second to Marriott in the UK, but being a largely benefits free zone it really should have romped all 3 races. IHG is a points-for-free-stays program goddamnit! I would have expected this to be right in its home game, after all, it offers little else for elites but oodles of points for free stays, yet although it wins on "points alone" its pipped at the post by Hilton in the US and Marriott in the UK. To some extent IHG was struggling with my predisposition for 5-night redemptions thus hitting Marriott's 5-for-4 sweet spot. What would allow IHG to compete more effectively would be a change in my redemption behaviour as the stay lengths here have worked against it with half the stays being 5-nights which is what I almost always reserve if I am considering redeeming 4 nights. This is because Marriott (and Hilton and SPG) operate a fifth night free on redemptions. This stay length causes problems for IHG as unlike the other 3 chains it doesn't offer that fifth free night. If all the 5-nighters were instead 4-nighters IHG would see its total spend requirement reduced by approx $4,000 enabling it to clean-sweep the world as number 1.

 

MARRIOTT
Marriott has lost its crown in the US and on "points only", reflecting its aggressive category creep and maybe also the fact that half of these 4 vacations play directly against its category placement policy where it fixes hotel categories on the basis of redemption demand, not brand. Hence there's eight of Marriott's luxury JW properties languishing in Category 2 at only 10,000 points per night and nine of the budget Fairfield Inns scaling the heights at Category 8 costing a breathtaking 40,000 points a pop. Now, leisure destinations in the USA - where the vast majority of Marriott points are both earned and redeemed -  suffer considerable redemption pressure with Florida and SoCal at the very eye of the leisure redemption storm. Marriott's policy means they react to that pressure bumping up the categories again, and again to try and ease the pressure in the pot. But this doesn't work so well in these hotspots as many members simply think "I've built up all these points - I AM HAVING A FREE STAY THERE,  however many points it costs!" However, Marriotts approach does mean it places even full service 5-star hotels into low categories where redemption demand is comparatively weak, such as China, where you'll find 3 of the Cat2 JWs and where both my Super-Central choices were 5-star full service, yet low category (Shanghai Cat3 & Bejing Cat4). The outcome of this policy is that Marriott offers poor value in both Florida and SoCal as they are classic USA redemption hotspots  but the scheme can offer amazing value where redemption pressure is lower, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow, many ACs in Spain, those CYs, RIs and FFIs that are scattered around the American  'burbs. If I'd stuck to just these places Marriott would have romped home in all categories. Nonetheless, even though 2 of the 4 vacations played against Marriott it still won overall for those living in the UK with the able assistance of its high-value (for UK) SPG AMEX card and 1:3 transfer rate. Had the UK been stuck only with the lethargic UK MasterCard then IHG would have romped home here as well.

 

SPG
Starwood Preferred Guest doesn't seem to have improved its earn-and-burn much from my last outing, mostly bringing up the rear, but does manage a strange win in the offsite-Disney race. This is probably due to the fact it runs the on-site Swan and Dolphin hotels which means the nearby-but-offsite hotels have to be priced especially keenly to see redemption activity. It's certainly the stand out there. Elsewhere SPG struggles to come even close at last place and finishes some distance behind the rest. The programs bright spot is undoubtably the in-stay benefits. You may need to save longer for that vacation, but at least when you get to the hotel you'll be well treated by SPG. Many think that's worth the poorer earn to burn ratio.

 

Conclusion

 

The clearest takeaway here is if you're invested into a loyalty scheme, get the card. For most of the world that's not possible as indeed it isn't for many US residents who've decided to use credit cards to ramp up airline miles and don't have spend left to divert to a non-airline card. But for those of us that can get the hotel affiliated cards, and do use them, they do really juice-up the totals.

 

Another clear takeaway here with both Marriott and IHG can be found in their top categories which requiring a spend of $1,800 per night at IHG and $2,000 ($1,600 on 5-night stays) at Marriott compare very cheaply with Hiltons top category that requires $3,000 of spending and SPGs that requires an eye-watering $3,500! The effect of this is easily seen in London and Paris where all the chains post high redemption categories, but Marriott and IHGs comparatively low caps easily win out. What is also noticeable here is that the Waldorf at 80,000 points requiring $2,400 spending to get there is 15%  below the top of the Hilton table but SPGs London Sheraton Grand is 25,000 points requiring $2,500 spending yet is 30% lower than its top category! SPG points transfer to Marriott at 1:3 and this earn rate is pretty well reflected in my earning breakdown, yet SPGs earn and burn rate is dreadful. Thus, it's not the earn bit - it's the burn bit - Yep, those SPGers are feeling the burn! The London JW is a Cat9, the Marriott maximum, at 45,000 points. Similarly IHGs Intercontinental Park Lane is the maximum at 60,000 points. As IHG points are worth about 30% less than Marriotts points it's Intercontinental on Park Lane is, in Marriott money, about 40,000 points. SPGs Sheraton Grand is 25,000 SPG points which is equivalent to 75,000 Marriott points. And thats not SPGs top category either!

 

So, although Marriott's crown has slipped, it managed to keep the UK title and was a tight second on "points only" against the benefit-free IHG. For US elites Marriott made a close run against Hiltons all-conquering Surpass, but even so, 3rd is nothing to be proud of. For Marriotteers the best redemption value remains those destinations that take advantage of the route less travelled, as unlike the other chains that just won't place their full service brands in their lower redemption categories, Marriott does.
Time to explore India or China, mayhaps? The Shanghai City Centre Marriott is only a Cat3 despite costing $150/nt, as is the Beijing Central JW. In reality Florida and SoCal are both crowded Hotel markets running cheap rates as all the chains compete. Those are the places to pay money for your room and earn your Marriott points. The top location gateway cities where redemption pricing is artificially capped by the top category such as NYC, London and Paris or the low category roads less travelled are where the best Marriott redemption values lie so if you stick there then Marriott's value is unbeatable.

And so it begins!

 

IMG_1626.JPG

 

Aboard the 1pm Manchester-London Pendolino with a nice cool Becks, mmmmmmm.

 

A great day for a TIPPLE!

As I was touring some old posts, new posts being pretty inaccessible due to the latest spam attack, I noticed many criticisms of cutbacks, whether that's the free mug of joe at Courtyards, category creep or a lack of upgrades. Coupled with that is criticism of Marriott pandering to the millenials. It's certainly a fact that I would prefer a mug of free joe to a cup of Starbucks for $5, that I prefer a buffet breakfast to the bistro offerings and that I want a desk in my room to work at. It is however a fact that all hotel groups are looking at the future of travel and planning their new hotels and refurbishments to cope with the next generation. It obviously means our hotels are changing, but does it also mean the winding down of loyalty programs? Are we in fact experiencing a death-of-a-thousand-cuts?


Now we all know, just like the last 50 years, the next 50 will be a period of profound change. How will the world of Internet-Everywhere and driverless cars change the lodging industry over the course of the next 50 years? Marriott needs to know, because it's building hotels right now that will be trading then. Their buildings need to be adaptable to forthcoming demands and their marketing attractive to the next generation.


The internet-everywhere world means no need to book a hotel, just turn up and as long as you don't care much about the name above the door, apps like hotel-tonight will find you a reasonably priced clean place to rest your head. But hold on a mo'... Who needs to be stationary when sleeping? The driverless car will mean you can sleep while being driven to your destination. But then for business meetings, who actually really needs to travel? Video-conferencing is already here and synching everyone's tablet means meetings can be conducted seamlessly across the globe. Conferences and workshops likewise. All these factors combine to  suggest the days of the branded hotel chain are numbered.


Now you may say that I'm defeating my own argument, videoconferencing is already here and been with us for years now, yet new conference centres, with connected hotels are still being built. And they are. Demand continues, but is that because we Gen X are the ones making the spending decisions and we are still familiar with that setup? Whenever I attend conferences I always make a habit of talking with the young lawyers and to a woman (new female lawyers now outnumber males, so I'm adjusting my style to reflect that) they roll their eyes at these conferences. They view them as junkets for the men to escape the kids for a night and carouse in the bar. "We could do this on our iPads", they sigh. At the moment the boss pays, so they go. But in 20 years they'll be the boss.


Already we we can see the fading attraction of the industrial hotel of the 1970's City centre, 300-500 room establishments with numerous conferencing facilites. Look at Marriotts new build hotel list, almost entirely smaller hotels in a range of areas, plenty of the Autographs, Courtyards and AC/Moxy.


Then we have the perennial room service menu, that yardstick of a full service hotel is being replaced by a bagged offering delivered to your door.


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The future of hotel room service? Does Sir require a Spork?


Room service, an oft utilised service by the baby boomers, is now running at a loss in most of the non-luxury sector. My first boss, a baby boomer, used it lots, I (Gen X) barely do so. Not because of its cost, though it is expensive for what you get, but because these days there's lots of local food offerings I prefer to try. Hotel restaurants, no longer guaranteed patronage by my generation of guests are trying to make their restaurant a local destination in itself, or in the case of the Courtyard Bistro menu, making the food offerings more generic and hence able to be served by the coffee shop assistant, thus cutting overheads.


Our generations current behaviour is effecting the business hotel model. Millenials, and today's teenage generation (the i-Gen) will over the next 50 years be effecting the future model as they will be making the lodging decisions. Some already are. Two changes reflecting that fact are already with us,  the Open-plan Courtyard Bistro concept and the removal of desks from Full Service hotel refurbs. Millenials have all their work on their iPad, they don't need a desk, they do want to connect over a coffee. Not a cup of joe, real coffee! They don't want to spend their money on expensive room service, but clearly do like spending it on pricey coffee!


So, are these fickle newcomers going to be brand loyal? We know they're brand conscious when it comes to clothing, footwear and their ubiquitous coffee habit, but insufficient numbers of them are making lodging decisions at the moment to determine whether they will be when it comes to lodging. Decisions this year from the 3 largest chains, IHG, Marriott and Hilton, seem to indicate their belief that brand loyalty remains a key part of their strategy and that loyalty schemes remain an important part of their offering, though characteristically they don't seem to agree how to deliver loyalty rewards.


IHG has launched a new top-tier level, Spire... Yes, I know, Spire Elite? Really...


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Spire Elite? Get over the silly name and bank those points!


Now, in common with the IHG scheme generally which concentrates on offering points for free stays, the new level offers a 25,000 achievement and renewal bonus and 100% bonus points in spending, but no real in-stay benefits other than a space-available upgrade, which they are good at honouring. So no free breakfast or lounge access.


Marriott for its part has launched the M club, a larger exec lounge placed close to the hotel restaurant free to enter for Gold/Plat with fee-paid entry available to other guests.


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Bigger lounges next to the restaurant (like this at Toronto Eaton Centre) await future Marriott loyalists


Marriott has therefore followed its model of a mixing points and in-stay benefits and this remodel of the concierge lounge is clearly a big commitment to the future of the in-stay loyalty benefit offering.


And last but not least, Hilton has changed its scheme to offer lifetime Diamond. Although late to the lifetime party in comparison to Marriott the offering of a lifetime scheme is a big promise on the future of the program.


So it seems, whilst our generation may not like some of the changes being made to attract future guests, we can at least be assured that the loyalty scheme is here to stay, and that the chains value both the programs and us, the regular, loyal guest, representing both the present, and future, participants.

Following pressure from activist investors Starwood (SPG) has retained the services of Lazards to consider a "nothing ruled in and nothing ruled out" strategic review of its future, that could include buying up a competitor, or as caught the headlines, selling itself to another. Arne Sorensen on behalf of Marriott jumped into the fray on Wednesday saying having cast an eye over the sums he wasn't interested. Hilton ruled itself out yesterday. Which rather reminded me of a story that emerged last year, stating IHG had announced itself as amenable to approaches. None were made.


 

So, nobody wants to buy SPG, or IHG. But both might be for sale. SPG is a rising star that has recently stalled, IHG is a leviathan that seems to have lost its way in the mediocrity of its established brands, for although it may boast a dozen or so brands, in reality there's only 2 that are well known to the public, Intercontinental and Holiday Inn. More regular travellers will also be aware of Crowne Plaza. None are viewed as particularly desirable. SPG has a reputation for sprinkling the stardust. Could SPG's stardust brighten up IHGs humdrum properties?


Like the other hospitality groups, IHG has a dozen or so brands, also like the others, the vast majority of inventory is tied up in just a few leading ones, namely:


Intercontinental (IC). 5-star gateway-city downtown and airport hotel group. Mainly aged properties with all the issues that arise therefrom, even if the hotel is paying the attention to maintenance detail demanded in this segment, which they're not! Trading on its name, it has little else of substance to offer.


Crowne Plaza (CP). 4-star mainly city-centre and airport group, likewise suffering from aged properties and inadequate maintenance. It's most recent initiative was a few years ago with its sleep advantage system, miniature room and pillow sprays. That's faded away, a bit like the brand.


Holiday Inn (HI). 3-star utterly ubiquitous household-name chain. If the decors green, most of the western world knows what hotel they're in! Alas, a surfeit of aged properties subject to even less maintenance than the other two have taken their toll on a previously trusted name. In about 2008 IHG announced a major rebrand strengthening its HI standards and a new logo. No sooner had the ink dried than the financial crisis hit and franchisees were simply unable to find the cash to invest. The new standards were relaxed and extra time given to rebrand, which at some properties consisted of little more than nailing up the new brand sign. Job done! Not!


But amongst this depressing story of mediocrity there are some fabulous hotels in each brand. IHG was also one of the trailblazers with its Holiday Inn Express chain.


Holiday Inn Express (HIX). After a head start in the USA, new HIX hotels have sprung up at freeway intersections, city centres and industrial parks all over Europe to the same room design and frequently, same actual building design too. Priced between €40-€100 per night, these new, clean properties have reinvigorated IHGs stale image. Well, OK, not that much, but IHG did see into the future here, much the same way as SPG led with the "W" brand that others so want to ape, and indeed Marriott with its "Autograph" that SPG has just copied as "Tribute". But HIX is the big one here, chasing the mass market, relatively cheap to develop, well liked by consumers, whether value-seeking business or families on leisure stays, it's high-quality room, low-price-with-breakfast proposition means it's grown exponentially here in Europe, as well as in the USA. And it is in these 2 areas that SPG is deficient. It's seriously short in Europe, the worlds largest single market. And it's seriously short on a high-quality-low-price proposition. Sure it has the brand, 4-points, but nothing like the reach. IHG is the largest hotel brand in Europe. SPG needs that exposure. IHGs HIX is everywhere. And IHG remains cheaply valued by the market, one swallow does not make Spring. HIX success alone is not enough to turn around the money markets view of the IHG supertanker.


IHG needs some stardust. And SPG does have that. So, a takeover by of IHG by SPG would be a match made in heaven, right?


Well the proposition has clear advantages, overnight SPG goes from being a virtual joke-chain in Europe to a leading presence in almost accross the EU. It adds significantly to its Chinese inventory making it the pre-eminent western chain there too, and fills in its many, many gaps in the still-vital USA market. Of course it faces some duplication issues, though because of Starwood's own barely perceptible EU presence, not many there. China's growth is such that whatever duplication there is in China shouldn't be a problem for long. And of course the vast majority of IHGs USA inventory is HI or HIX, both in markets woefully under-represented by the SPGs brands. Turning to IC, SPG has no equivalent, Westin is a more modern 5-star biz-hotel chain than IC, which is much more a Starwood/Marriott plus an extra star. So something could be done there. Alas, where CP hotels and Starwood hotels duplicate something may have to give. All the same, this merger shouldn't lead to a large sell-off. It's a pretty good fit. Of course IHG won't be taking over SPG, so SPG's vociferous activist-investors would need to dig deep. But then they are activists, yes?


So assuming SPG could raise the finance, a big assumption I admit, what to do? Well, many IC franchisees would need up their game and be forced to refurbish, but the brand name has a beloved history with its links to PanAm and it can be differentiated from Westin. Some ICs and the better CPs should be relatively easily rebranded to Starwood. The smaller IHG brands should be decided on a case by case basis, keep some brands, dump others, rejig properties into the expanded portfolio. The elephant in the room here is Holiday Inn, and by association, Holiday Inn Express. Make no mistake, along with IHGs European presence, the worldwide HIX is a major prize for Starwood. But the question is whether to keep the HIX brand name and move the properties within the unloved 4-points chain over. It should be an easy yes, but as HIX is a derivative of HI, does it make much sense in keeping with the HIX brand if HI is not to be used post takeover? And would it create value to strip out those HIs that can't make SPGs 3-star grade and spin off Holiday Inn as an entirely separate entity competing in the lower end, more variable of the brand markets, Best Western, Days Inn, Super 8, etc, etc. If so, then what value is there in retaining the HIX brand, and will it suffer brand confusion with the inferior spun-off chain?


If there's any hotel brand that's more associated with a reputation for aged inventory, creaking infrastructure, brand inconsistency and brown furniture than Holiday Inn, I can't think of it. HI hotels are clean, that's about it really. So, what to do with Holiday Inn? Well getting rid of the hotels isn't really the answer. It's here, in this Holiday Inn/Hilton Garden Inn/Courtyard and Holiday Inn Express/ Hampton/ Fairfield Inn markets that SPG needs to strengthen its representation, selling off the HI properties would defeat that element of the takeover. On the other hand, a lot of these inconsistent HIs on SPGs books could sully the brand. Clearly whatever the name of the 3-star brand, the standards need to be strengthened and a good number of HIs just won't be able to find the enormous funds to correct decades of decay. And depending upon how highly SPG raises the bar, will depend on how many fall. Since a good part of the raison D'être for this merger is mid-market small-town exposure, filling in SPG's embarrassing US gaps, it's going to be important to keep many of these ageing properties on board. Another role for the activist investor methinks?


So once the standards of the 3-star chain have been set, the next question is the brand. Holiday Inn may be well known as a brand, but it's not held in high esteem. IHGs half-hearted rebrand hasn't helped, over-promising and under-delivering means that even if SPG announced its own rebrand for HI, few amongst the staying public would believe it'll make any difference, after all, the last one didn't. And of course, nothing quite says business hotel like Holiday Inn, erm.... Against that, it's a well known name, and with time and effort couldn't its fortunes be reversed? And there's another reason to keep the name, the well respected HIX. Keeping HI would make the HIX or 4-points debate a no-brainer, bye-bye 4-points. No flowers.


And then we get to the debate about loyalty programs. Which one to keep, SPG or IHG? Yes, as I suspected, the shortest paragraph of all. I'm an IHG Plat, where do I sign for SPG? Gimme, gimme, gimme...

As some of you may be aware I am planning a family trip to Canada and USA later this year, on what may well be our last family holiday as my eldest begins University in September and is unlikely to want to holiday with the oldies, or his lame brother and sister. And in order to fund the trip I'm burning points. I am however Plat at both Marriott and IHG, and as I  planned my spend I asked myself, how do these points issued by the major hotel chains really compare? What follows is my answer.



 

Firstly, let's take a theoretical redemption night at Heathrow (LHR) in mid July. At the Hilton (HH) its 60,000 points, the Crowne Plaza (IHG) is 30,000, the Marriott (MR) is 35,000 and the Sheraton (SPG) is 10,000. So the Sheraton is the obvious redemption here, yes? After all it's 15% of the cost of the Hilton and half the cost of the other two. Well actually, no. Because these points are effectively currencies with differing earn rates we need to find out what it takes to earn those points, and then by converting each currency to a common unit based upon earn rates we can see the true comparative cost of the redemption.



 

So to enable easy comparisons between prices I'm going to convert them all to a common currency and to do that I need to work out how many points each $ of spending makes with each group.

 

So how does earning work? Well, they're all different.



 

Hilton awards 10 points per $ plus 50% top tier (diamond) bonus plus 5 points per $ when choosing to earn points&points double dip.

IHG likewise awards 10 points per $ spent but following changes the top elite with 75 nights pa now picks up a very meaty 100% bonus.

Marriott completes the 10 per $ set with 50% bonus for Plats.

SPG stands alone awarding just 2 points per $ spent, but like IHG tops up its 75-night elites with a 100% bonus.



 

But that's only the start. All the schemes have bonus offers during the year which can add substantially to the points total. Most generous (again) is Hilton, with opportunities to double and triple the base points during certain times of the year. IHGs special offers can be fantastic, but also unobtainable at times. Compete their combo offers and you can earn 100,000 points twice a year. Fail, and the earnings don't even make 20,000. Mind you, with IHG there are other miscellaneous opportunities over the year. Marriotts megabonus may be simple and repetitive but awarding up to 60k bonus points 3 times each year really adds to the totals. Like Hilton, SPG has double and tripling opportunities and can significantly add to the numbers of points awarded. Overall I'm going to take the view that offers add 10 points per $ to Hilton, 7 points to IHG and Marriott and 2 extra to Starwood. Finally there's arrival bonuses. Hilton awards 1000 points, IHG, Marriott and Starwood 500. I'm using my average as a 1.5 night $150/night FS stay adding, after rounding 4 points per $ to Hilton and 2 points per $ to the other 3.



 

So taking into account base points, top-elite bonuses, arrival points, promos and double dipping each scheme pays out the following points per $ spent:



 

Hilton Honors (HH) 34per$

IHG Rewards (IHG) 29per$

Marriott Rewards (MR) 24per$

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) 8per$



 

Now you do get so many more HH points per $ spent at Hilton's, but their redemption table is the most expensive costing up to 95,000 points per night. IHGs top rate is 50,000, MR is 45,000 and SPG is 35,000, but at SPG your earning rate is only 25% of Hilton's. In other words, each chain awards differing numbers of points per $ spent and then charges different amounts to redeem. SPG should always charge the least, HH the most, but how to accurately compare redemptions? Well, simply convert them like currencies based on earnings. So:



 

$1 spent = 34HH=29IHG=24MR=8SPG



 

So now we've fixed the earn rate, we now need to convert all redemptions to a common currency and since I'm a Marriott man it'll be MR points. So we can see that what you spend with Marriott to get 1MR point would get you 1.5HH, 1.2IHG & 0.3SPG



 

So in order to discern real value comparisons I'm going to adopt the MR point as the common currency and when looking at redemption costs convert them to the currency that I and fellow MRInsiders understand best, Marriott Reward points. On this basis my theoretical night in LHR turns up costing:



 

 

1st Crowne Plaza 30,000 IHG......@1.2:1= 25,000

2nd Sheraton 10,000 SPG...........@0.3:1= 30,000

3rd Marriott 35,000 MR..................@1:1 = 35,000

4th Hilton 60,000 HH....................@1.5:1= 40,000



 

So on this basis, if I had top tier in all 4 chains, and the points in all 4 then the best value redemption would be the Crowne Plaza followed by the Sheraton, then Marriott with Hilton bringing up the rear.



 

Next, in order to make sure that redemptions are valid we need to compare across a series of hotels in different areas. For a North American comparison my Roadtrip is ideal, taking into account big cities and and small towns alike, resulting in the following outcomes:



 

REDEMPTION RATES


Here I'm going to list each hotel in order of redemption cost in Marriott Reward points, make my personal pick and explain my personal view since not all hotels are equal here. For instance whilst I view HIX and FFI as equals, a standard Hilton isn't in my view the equal of the DC Mayflower. Such considerations may influence the final pick. Nonetheless, to emphasise, all points quoted are CONVERTED to MR and in strict cost order.



 

So, to our first destination:



 

1 room in Oakville for 4 nights

 

1st MR Fairfield Inn 40,000 - Pick

2nd IHG Holiday Inn 50,000

3rd HH Hampton 80,000

4th SPG 4-Points 85,000



 

 

This is a stay near the in-laws and really is a pure cost play. I rate MR as first, it's cheaprr on points next to the rest, IHG 2nd, cheap points and a good hotel, Hampton 3rd, its a lot of points but at least its local and SPG trails the rest.

 

Next, 2 nights in Ottawa, where, strangely enough, HH does not have a central presence, so I have to buy this stay at Hilton.



 

3 rooms in Ottawa for 2 nights



 

1st MR Marriott 120,000 - Pick

2nd IHG Indigo 150,000

3rd SPG Sheraton 181,000

4th HH None, pay $800 for online Arc Hotel



 

Again, Marriott is the cheapest redemption here and it's a good hotel so I rate it first, IHG I'm rating 2nd, Indigo hotels are very nice, SPG comes 3rd, even costlier than IHG and HH brings up the rear as it has no central Ottawa presence, so I have to spend real cash.



 

2 rooms NYC Times Sq for 3 nights



 

1st IHG Intercontinental Times Sq 250,000

2nd MR Marriott Marquis Times Sq 270,000 - Pick

3rd HH Hilton Times Sq 280,000

4th SPG Sheraton Times Sq 363,000  



 

Although there's not much difference in point cost between HH, IHG and Marriott here the Marriott takes this as although it's not quite cheapest on points it does sleep 3 to a room and is the seminal hotel on Times Square. IHG makes 2nd as the IC is both cheaper and better than both the HH and SPG offering. HH makes 3rd as its far cheaper than the expensive SPG option.



 

3 rooms DC for 2 nights



 

1st IHG Hamilton Crowne Plaza 175,000 - Pick

2nd MR Renaissance Mayflower 210,000

3rd SPG Westin 218,000

4th HH Hilton 240,000



 

The Hamilton is the cheapest here and hence takes it with the historic Mayflower leading the following pack, which along with the Westin far outclasses the Hilton taking last place on both hotel quality and cost.



 

3 rooms for 1 night stop-off



 

1st MR DuBois FFI 45,000 - Pick

2nd IHG Clearfield HI Express 50,000

3rd HH Clearfield Hampton 60,000

4th SPG Harrisburg Sheraton 64,000



 

As this is a stop off its a pure point play, Marriott makes first as its cheapest, IHG 2nd, HH 3rd and the far more inconvenient SPG (so inconvenient it requires a compete reroute to do it) comes last.

 

Fallsview suite for 6 in Niagara for 2 nights



 

1st HH Hilton 107,000 - Pick

2nd MR Marriott.. No suite redemption $800

3rd SPG Sheraton No suite redemption $800

4th IHG CPlaza... No suite redemption $800



 

Obviously as Hilton is the only redemption option here it takes first place. Marriott takes second as Plats get lounge access and breakfast, and its better location nudges out the Sheraton which takes 3rd leaving the no-free-breakfast Crowne Plaza trailing in last.



 

Finally, 4 rooms in Oakville for 2 nights, then 3 for 3 nights and then 1 for 5 more nights.



 

1st MR Fairfield Inn 180,000 - Pick

2nd IHG Holiday Inn 275,000

3rd HH Hampton 360,000

4th SPG 4-Points 382,000



 

This again comes down to points, MR gets first place as its so much cheaper, IHG 2nd as the Holiday Inn is very good and cheaper than 3rd placed Hilton. Again the extra points and lengthy drive to get to SPG brings it in last place.



 

CONCLUSIONS



 

A point may well be a point, but each hotel scheme mints points of different worth that accumulate at different rates and redeem at different values. However rebalancing points to earnings irons out this built-in opacity and MR wins out as cheapest with 4 out of the 8 stays (including the theoretical Heathrow night). IHG is runner up with 3 and HH avoids being bottom but only because none of the others allow suite redemptions, otherwise HH is very uncompetitive here, though not quite as poor as SPG which is consistently rooted to the bottom half throughout the entire roadtrip with its best value performance at Heathrow, though even then it can't make top!

1,232,876


Yes folks, happy, happy happy 1,232,876! Marriott's happy number!


Mmmmm, so I guess I should explain myself.


Marriott has reportedly signed a contract with the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, but what caught my eye in the press release was the small print at the end. Marriott Rewards now claims 45million members.


Thats a big number. Thats bigger than any single state in the US. That's a decent sized country. Heck of the 27 EU countries only 5 have a higher population than 45 million.


And another number too, Marriotts on the edge of achieving 700,000 rooms worldwide. If all are simultaneously occupied by 2 people then the number staying at Marriott hotels on that one night is more than the population of Birmingham, Britain's 2nd city, or San Diego, the US 5th.


But, my number for the day isn't Birminghams population, or the number of Marriott members worldwide, but the potentiality these numbers represent.


Of course, most of the members making up that huge 45million membership are inactive. But it's a massive database, and if it could be activated, well Marriotts hard pressed franchisees would be salivating at the outcome. For if that entire 45 million membership stayed only 10 nights per annum in Marriott hotels, then MR members would be spending 450,000,000 nights (Yes, you read that right, 450million) in Marriotts worldwide each year, or 1,232,876 for each and every night. That's a 175% occupancy rate against the mere 700,000 rooms available!


So what can Marriott do to incentivise their membership to stay only 10 nights each year?

brightlybob

Time to move on...

Posted by brightlybob Jun 24, 2014
I have some lifelong allies, they have always been my friends,

They care for me, are there for me, their help it never ends.

Whether its first thing in the morning or last thing at the night

My dear friends are always there as long as I've a light.


 

These friends are not demanding, in fact they have no needs,

They go wherever I do be it London, Bath or Leeds.

They comfort me when times are bad or whenever I am down,

They wait for me to want them there to help pull me around.


 

They celebrate the best with me, the turning points of life,

Were there when I got qualified and proposed to my wife.

My spectacular victories as my career took its shape,

Were partly due to them as they helped my nervous quake.


 

I took them on my holidays they joined me in the sun,

We all got drunk together, oh yes they joined me in my fun,

Whether highbrow charity balls or contests eating pies,

They were there helping me to see how the situation lies.


 

Then when I started lecturing the delegates knew a lot,

My friends were there to prop me up when the questioning got hot.

In social situations where I was lost on what to say,

I could use my friends, excuse myself, to get out of the way.


 

But recently I had the need to call upon the Quack,

I'd got a truly awful cough it really was a hack.

My doctor duly asked about my dearest little friends,

and then to my complete dismay he said it had to end.


 

It seems that over time my friends have been quite clingy,

Mainly around the lungs where its all gone a bit stringy.

My Doctor says its not a good thing that my friends have gone and done,

If I dont end it with them now itll be like playing with a gun.


 

So last month I spoke unto my friends now called Silk Cut Low,

And told them very clearly I was sorry they must go.

To my dismay they gave no sound, they didnt show regrets,

So I placed them in the bin MY DEAREST CIGARETTES.


 

So now I'm fit and healthy for I've given up the weed,

No standing in the freezing cold to satisfy the need.

No seeking out a brolly and huddling in the rain,

No seeking out the late night shops that really was a pain.


 

Yes life is so much better now without a single rotten ***,

My lungs can breathe, my nose can smell, now I no longer drag

My fingers don't stop moving but its my brain that is the biggie,

All it does is shout all day I NEED A BLOODY CIGGIE!


There's a thread that's attracted a lot to attention recently, namely the apparent IT glitch that means I'm suddenly the Featured Insider...

 

UM, no... Apparently that's no glitch, my bribe was accepted (amazing what you can get for a couple of Bubbly's and a 3 year old copy of the Beano). The IT  glitch relates to the fact that although I've been appointed Featured Insider for the month, bejacob remains the reassuringly familiar mugshot on the front page when viewed by the general public, before us insiders login, as pointed out in the "random question" posted by the fragrant madmax

 

Well, official Marriott enquiries have been made but no "resolution" which is not surprising, for as we know, this is no IT glitch, Marriott doesn't do IT glitches.

 

The real reason is, that I'm (shhh, keep this to yourself) the "Inisiders insider". I am the temporary leader of our secretive clan, I can only be seen once you enter your password demonstrating your Insider status, only then are you proven worthy to share the secret.

 

So that rather beggars the question, what exactly is the role of the "Insiders insider"? And how do you find me?

 

Well to find me you'll need to search the darkest corners of the Insider blogosphere, or the few threads I discern worthy of my *secret* attention. You'll be able to identify me by my brown mackintosh, sucking on a Marlboro, both hands tucked suspiciously deeply into my pockets. Don't worry about my rasping cough (it comes with the Marlboro's) or the grey cloud hanging over my head constantly drizzling onto my mac (we English proudly bring our weather wherever we travel). I'm genuinely authentic, the "real thing".


As for my role, well I harbour the deepest secrets of the Insiders. Why reduced benefits at resorts? Where did the Courtyard free cup of Joe go? Why would anyone instruct a hotel not to "overachieve"? What really happened to those EEO BOGO certs? Will Marriott ever open all lounges 7 days week? What is Courtyard for? (Ok, so I don't know the answer to the last one, nobody does, though I secretly think erc might).


So just post your questions below and let your all-knowing "Insiders insider" hack up his lungs, brush the dandruff off his soaked shoulders and make a complete stab in the dark, disguised as a real answer.

 

Enticing role eh? Who's next?

Here's a question for you.

What are your chances of early death if you're a smoker?


The answer may surprise you, for its only 50%.

That is to say only 50% of all smokers die from a smoking related disease, or to put it another way, half of all smokers are NOT killed by their habit.

This is one of life's miscommunications, the health lobby has been telling us for years that smoking is unhealthy and it kills, both of which are true, however the effect is not felt by all smokers. BUT they don't tell us that, instead the message is deliberately left to be misconstrued, that each cigarette is literally a coffin nail, hastening your death as surely as a hot curry hastens an urgent sitting on the porcelain throne.

But, if you are a smoker it need not be that bad, or good, depending upon the next piece of data. You see if a smokers close relative having been a smoker themselves succumbs to a smoking related death then the surviving relatives chance of following the bloodline apparently doubles. Since the overall chances of dying of a smoking related illness are 50%, for those whose relatives lived till they were 80 or 90 then went peacefully in their sleep despite assaulting their lungs with 60 Marlboro's each day, well the lucky recipient of those genes must have a far less than 50% chance of dying due to their habit, their chances may halve, so that's only a 25% risk, the kind of risk many may deem reasonable for their daily gaspers.

But what of those whose close relatives have succumbed.... Oooeerr!

Or should that be YIPPEEE!!!

You see, take my situation, my father was an inveterate lifelong smoker and died of lung cancer at 62. As I am following in his footsteps in my lifestyle choice (smoking), this doubles my chances of following in his footsteps at death.

So far, so logical... FANTASTIC!

I am INDESTRUCTIBLE!!

Allow me to elucidate. My chances of dying of a smoking disease were 50%, until my Dad died when they doubled... so that's from 50% to 100% The chances of death are the same for me as for every carbon based lifeform, 100%. AND as they can't go any higher I must be immune for every other way of dying.

It also means I know HOW I am going to die, not in a car accident, no matter how fast I drive, not in a plane accident, even if I decide to fly Zimbabwe airlines (or even Aeroflot). Nope, I'm going to die of a smoking related disease... Its a 100% certainty!!!

I have achieved something very rare in this life, immunity from death by any sort of natural, human or unnatural means. I can drive a car off beachy head and I will survive . I can hunt down every world terrorist wearing a suicide bomb each time and survive every blast! I can go Bungee jumping knowing It can't possibly kill me (I needn't even bother with the uncomfortable Bungee rope). I can go skiing down the most suicidally exciting slopes. Heck I could even read Cherie Blairs latest tome in the full knowledge I will live to tell the tale.

I could chat up Jennifer Lopez, feel up Pamela Anderson and knock up Angelina Jolie without the slightest fear of retaliation for I AM the nearest thing to INVINCIBLE.


So on this basis considering how lucky I am, why the hell have I quit smoking, and am currently chewing my feet off?

(Help)


 

 

 

brightlybob

First Blab

Posted by brightlybob Jun 6, 2014

WooHoo an opportunity to write about stuff.


On interwebthingy too, so everyone can read about it.


This is a good thing as I have lots of thoughts in my head and nowhere to put them, so maybe if I put them in this blog they'll go out of my head.


And into yours dear reader... Mmmmm


Perhaps I should quit while I'm ahead.