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Get preferential treatment at luxury hotels using ‘Preferred Partner’ travel agents

If you ever stay at Mandarin Oriental, Park Hyatt, Four Seasons, Peninsula or similar upscale hotels, you may be surprised to know that you are almost certainly NOT getting the best possible deal if you book via the official website.

We are just back from the Four Seasons in Hampshire for a post-Christmas break, and got a significantly improved package by NOT booking directly!

Four Seasons Hampshire

The high-end hotel chains often have ‘preferred partner’ programmes with high-end travel agents.  These are, fundamentally, incentives to encourage an agent to favour one property over another.

PenClub, for example, applies to all Peninsula properties.  You pay the same rate as you would on the Peninsula website, and all online promotions are also valid.  However, you will also receive free breakfast, an upgrade if available at check-in, a 30-minute extension on any spa treatment and upgraded room amenities.

Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel agents will get you an upgrade on arrival if arrival, free breakfast (usually available as room service or in the restaurant) and $100 of food and beverage credit.   Again, all online deals will be matched.

Starwood has ‘Luxury Privileges’.  Available at mainly at Luxury Collection, St Regis and W hotels, you receive free breakfast, upgrade if available at check-in, early check-in and late check-out and an extra amenity, which varies by property.  This is only bookable on Best Available Rate bookings.

Other programmes include STARS (Ritz-Carlton), Sir Rocco’s Knights (Rocco Forte Collection), Park Hyatt Prive (Park Hyatt) and Diamond Club (Dorchester Collection).

To access these deals, you need to book via a high-end travel agent, often one affiliated to a booking group such as Virtuoso.  You can see the 1,004 hotels at which they can offer you special deals here.  Virtuoso is a US-based group, however.

If you have an American Express Platinum card, you can access similar deals via their Fine Hotels & Resorts programme.  This covers similar chain properties plus a lot of independent hotels.  The 2013 directory is here.

You can now book Fine Hotels & Resorts (‘FHR’) deals online via the Amex Travel website.  Once logged in, Platinum cardholders will be shown the FHR deals.

The key difference between FHR and a ‘Preferred Partner’ scheme is that Amex has their own negotiated rates.  These can be higher or lower than the hotels own rates for the day you want – for our Four Seasons stay, Amex wanted an extra £20 per night, and the ‘3rd night free’ deal was not available.

A strong point of FHR is the GUARANTEED 4pm check-out.  This makes it a good option for a weekend break.  You also get free breakfast at every hotel, plus a 12-noon check-in ‘if available’ – which could mean anything, and isn’t very helpful.

 

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Comments

  1. Ah, but do you earn loyalty points, status recognition, and benefits this way? I’ve always found it unbelievable that hotels drive this wedge between themselves and travel agents in a way that airlines and cruise ships do not.

  2. Dannyrado says:

    What a fabulous tip, even more stuff to remember when looking for hotels (as if there wasn’t enough.)

  3. Excellent very handy for my next trip to Dubai. Makes it even better if you can earn points, do we know how this works? Do you provide your details to the hotel or travel agent?
    Thank you Raffles

  4. Some of these rates can be booked/searched online which can be useful for comparing prices! I’ve booked through both of the below sites without issue, both times recieving fantastic deals!

    Four Seasons Preferred Partner rates online @ http://www.whatahotel.com
    Four Seasons Bangkok – Basic Room @ £127 a night and got upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite and had a meal credit worth £65 which covered a meal for 2 plus drinks in their Thai restaurant!

    Virtuoso rates online @ http://www.classictravel.com
    Aria Sky Suites in Las Vegas – 2 Bedroom Penthouse – Misprice @ $90 a night! Was honoured along with the Virtuoso benefits – I even got free stretch limo transfers!

    • Thanks BP for the sites. I don’t spend enough for agents like David to be interested, so good to be able to see and book these online too.

  5. When booking through David do you pay him directly or the hotel? And if you pay to him directly are there FX issues (since that’s been my issue with TAs in the past sometimes…)?

  6. You pay the hotel directly, both with Virtuoso and Amex FHR

    • John Tickner says:

      And at the time of the stay rather than in advance like Expedia ?

      • Yes, pay on departure.

        This is also driven by the fact that you are paying the flexible / cancellable rate, albeit with extra perks on top.

        If a hotel offers non-refundable rates at a discount then you are less likely to be able to combine these with Virtuoso benefits.

        However, this is not an issue for us as we very, very rarely book nonrefundable rates. Gets a bit risky with 2 kids who are easily susceptible to illness plus the usual issues around unexpected business trips for my Mrs.

  7. lostlamb says:

    how did you know that Four Seasons in the UK are offering guaranteed room upgrades?
    just checked on Virtuoso ‘special deal’ list cant even see Hampshire FS listed, and nothing with guaranteed upgrades.

  8. Thanks for this info, Raffles – I’ve used FHR (via Amex Plat) to good effect a few times now. They also have some FHR-like cover of UK properties in their UK Hotel Collection as you’ve previously covered on here – they tend to have less by way of welcome amenties/credit, but the upgrades are guaranteed with them too – handy as they cover Malmaison and Hotel du Vin properties.

    Very handy to know of a good Virtuoso booking agent though – will keep those details on file :)

  9. “You can now book Fine Hotels & Resorts (‘FHR’) deals online via the Amex Travel website. Once logged in, Platinum cardholders will be shown the FHR deals.”

    Can you guide me through how to get this please? When I log in to my Platinum Chargecard and then check availability at an FHR property, I am only seeing non-FHR rates.

    • Hmm if I login and then go to the Amex Travel page it shows me FHR rates OK – they even have an FHR logo next to it. However I often end up calling anyway to make sure the rate is eligible for an upgrade (I find that often only some rooms types are eligible), but it’s handy to be able to compare rates before calling. The Amex reps are also normally quite good at calling hotels to negotiate on the FHR amenity (eg I’ve had dinner for two turned into lunch and dinner for one)

      • Can you give me an example of a hotel and dates you are trying so I can see if I can replicate what you see? There’s something odd about my card as their site regularly tells me I don’t have a Platinum charge card, but Amex say it’s just dodgy coding and I should ignore it.

        • Hi MKB

          I tried searching for London in March – lots of properties showed up with the FHR logo.

          • Thanks. I just tried it a third time, and on my home rather than work PC, and I can now seem the FHR rates. Most odd that they didn’t come up before. It’s as if I’ve got a non-Platinum cookie on my other PC!

          • Ah good, glad you got it working! You might be onto something with the cookie idea – I had major issues logging into BA.com for a while then used incognito browsing in Chrome and found it worked. Cleared cookies in my main browser and it started working!

  10. Thanks for this info Raffles. I’ve emailed David re an upcoming Dubai trip (after your recommended hotel rates were off the charts!) and I am going to make a booking with him once he is happy with my “client acceptance form”

  11. I guess Geoggy that we both emailed David pretty much the same time.

    I am looking for Dubai as well and make a booking with him already. Thank you Raffles for recommending him, I guess he has few more clients coming his way. I found communication with him to be excellent and prompt.