The Venetian and the Palazzo in Vegas want you to take your Twitter feed and leverage it for some hotel comps, by giving you points toward hotel credits for your tweets about their properties. Delightful. I’m sure your online friends and followers will love being marketed to for your personal benefit.
The way it works: If you tweet one of their offers, you get “up to 25 points.” (“Up to.” Ahem.) If your tweet makes a sale, you get 250 points. They tell you what to tweet about, though not the exact wording of your message.
Alternatively, you can cash in your points for other goods and services, such as a free dessert for 250 points, a free beer for 80 points, or nightclub admission for 500 points. Whoo.
At the end of the day, I think this is a stupid idea. On the one hand it’s ripe for abuse by people who create Twitter accounts, build up a bunch of spammy followers, and then start tweeting ferociously to cash in on these points. More likely, converting your account to an advertising stream risks ticking off social media aficionados who look for interaction and community, rather than marketing. Are the skimpy rewards really worth alienating your friends?
And will the Federal Trade Commission require disclosure of the reason for these tweets, as it requires bloggers to reveal sponsored posts and freebies? Inquiring minds want to know…
I hesitate to provide a link to the actual signup page for this nonsense, but in the spirit of through reporting, here you go.
And no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not getting any kickbacks here for mentioning this, and I’m not signing up my Twitter handle. My ethics and policies page is, as always, available for your perusal. If ever I decide that I want to start tweeting my way to an 80-point beer, I’ll be sure to reveal it fully.
What is daily housekeeping worth to you? What if you were incentivized to decline it?
Some hotels are trying to cut costs by offering their guests a rebate for saying no to the housekeeper. Here’s the hangtag from the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, offering $5 or 500 SPG points in lieu of a made bed:
Interestingly, for those who opt to take a pass on housekeeping, the actual voucher slipped under your door makes no mention of the Starpoints option. They only offer the food/beverage credit. (Not to worry: Writing your name and number on the card and handing the card in at the front desk will yield the points…)
Thumbs up for this option. I really like the idea of a rebate for opting out of the service, rather than imposing a housekeeping fee for opting in, the way easyhotel has done.
I don’t need my bed made daily, and I’m not that much of a slob that I need daily vacuuming.
And for me, the 500 daily Starpoints is worth more than $5 credit at Starbucks, since I milk far more than a penny per point…
Upgraded: Hotel guest behavior, via the inverse of TripAdvisor
Think twice before trashing a room in the U.K., being overly drunk and loud, or steal the towels. Not only because it’s rude and obnoxious, but also because you may end up on a new guest blacklist. If you’re on the list, hoteliers can refuse to accept another reservation from you ever again: “About 10,000 small hotels, B&Bs, holiday letting agencies and campsites are expected to join the subscription-based GuestScan network, which will enable them to check whether a guest’s name is on a blacklist before they accept a booking. [...] Under the Data Protection Act, guests will be told their name is on the blacklist and they will have a right of appeal. Accommodation providers must indemnify GuestScan against the consequences of malicious reporting.” It’s TripAdvisor turned on its head!
Upgraded: Pushback against Homeland Security searches
If you arrive in the United States from overseas, your laptop, cellphone, or other electronic device is treated as if it were a suitcase, subject to search and seizure. It’s as if your data is a bag of dirty clothes inside your bag. Why? You’re in the gray area of the customs area — not quite admitted to the United States, but still on United States soil — so there has been no clarity in the question of whether constitutional protections against warrantless and unreasonable searches are applicable or not. Now, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, challenging the department’s authority to search and seize electronic equipment “without reasonable suspicion.” I’m looking forward to a court clearing this up, and rooting for the ACLU here.
Downgraded: Travel for American citizens
A fringe pastor in a tiny church in Florida threatens to burn Korans — and then backs down — but the damage is done, and the State Department is relegated to issuing a global travel alert for American citizens traveling overseas. Just awesome.
Upgraded: Rationale for lousy interior design
Vegas hotels go for the razzle-dazzle… but why are the casino carpets so hideously awful? It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: Ugly casino carpets lead to more gambling. And I thought that gaudy designs and bright colors subconsciously led to faster turnover, like at brightly-colored fast food restaurants?…
Hell hath officially frozen over. Ritz-Carlton, which positions itself at the peak of high-priced luxury hotels, has thrown in the towel and created a loyalty program. Stay at a Ritz and you too can start collecting points.
Many people don’t realize that Ritz-Carlton is actually a Marriott brand, and the new rewards program shines a light on this fact. The actual corporate ownership is something that’s always been kept on the down-low for guests, perhaps because it would be somehow unseemly for a Ritz-Carlton to be in the same league, if only by association, with the Fairfield Inn that’s just off the road from exit 10 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Please! This is the Ritz, after all! The Ritz doesn’t do turnpikes!
But yet… here we are.
Since there are only 70 Ritz-Carlton’s worldwide, the program offers you the opportunity to earn at sister properties in the Marriott program, at the same earning rates as the Marriott program.
But you can’t be a member of both the Ritz program and the Marriott program. You will have to choose your allegiance. Conversion from Marriott to Ritz will be possible 1:1.
On the one hand, Ritz-Carlton is finally offering something in the way of rewards. Something beats nothing. Until now, Ritz service was the reward, full stop.
But on the other hand, what’s the point? Who is the target market here? Corporate travelers who are Marriott loyalists, and want to upgrade? High end business travelers who might tip the scale toward Ritz if given the choice of a Ritz and a Four Seasons? (This is probably the answer.)
And who would join the Ritz program, vs. joining (or staying in) the Marriott program? While the full details aren’t quite official yet, there have been some leaks. For those seeking to redeem points for stays, it may not be a big deal at all. (30 to 60,000 points per night? Ouch.)
But if you’re looking to cash in points for an experience, and not just another night in a hotel room, and you have more points than you know what to do with, then you may find the program interesting:
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards’ partners offer unique access available only to members, including Abercrombie & Kent members-only tours in locations such as China, Turkey and Egypt; special customer events and a half-day personal shopping experience with fashion experts at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman featuring a private consultation, fashion presentation, lunch, facial and make-up application and the opportunity to redeem points toward wedding gowns and other select products from the world of celebrated designer Vera Wang. Another special opportunity for members will be four-day photography workshops with National Geographic’s renowned photographers at Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts in locations such as San Francisco and Miami. Members will also be able to redeem points for flights on 30 of the world’s major airlines and luxury cruise lines, including Crystal Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea.
But even with those higher-end luxury experiences, the rest of the program sounds like a repackaging of the existing Marriott program structure. So what’s really the niche that needs filling here? If you’re duplicating the Marriott program, just duplicate the whole thing and create a “Ritz tier” or such.
It’s not yet clear to me whether this is a move of recession-induced desperation or a stroke of genius that will give the hotel brand a leg up on its high-end competitors, like Four Seasons. Let’s check back in few quarters and see…
For a limited time, InterContinental Hotels Group properties will reimburse some guests’ checked baggage fees. So a hotel chain — including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites — is indirectly subsidizing airlines. Interesting.
Beginning Aug. 16, when travellers book two consecutive weekend nights at any one of the 4,500 IHG hotels worldwide for stays between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30, 2010, their checked bag is free. Travellers can participate each and every weekend they stay with an IHG hotel during the “Check It Free” promotion period, when they pay for their hotel stay using their Visa® Card.
Download a rebate form via www.ihg.com/freebag and submit it with copies of your hotel receipt and baggage fee receipt for the same trip postmarked by Jan. 31, 2011.
Rebates are in the form of a prepaid Visa card, which carries monthly fees if you don’t exhaust it within six months.
The rebate has quite a few moving parts: 1) weekends only, 2) 2 night minimum, 3) Q4 only, 4) pay with Visa. Break any one of those rules, and say bye-bye to the rebate. Plus: 5) expiring-balance on the rebate itself.
Given those restrictions, this is potentially useful for weekend getaways. But for weekend getaways, won’t a carry-on suffice?…
So this ends up being great PR for IHG, but not necessarily something that will benefit the masses. That said, if you can map this out in advance, and you can make this work: Go for it!
Upgraded: In-flight magazine verité
How about this headline for an inflight magazine: “Live Entertainment in Kabul: Dog Fighting.” Seriously. This is onboard Afghanistan’s Safi Airways, and as their recent WSJ profile makes clear, this is an airline run by realists. “In the seat pocket in front of you on Safi, you will find an article on Kabul heroin addicts, photos of bullet-pocked tourist sites and ads for mine-resistant sport-utility vehicles.”
With much hoopla, and a great uptake by many media outlets, JetBlue recently re-launched their all-you-can-fly passes, which provided a month of travel for a $499 or $699, depending on whether you wanted to include weekends or not. Much smaller SunCountry Airlines followed suit days later. I remained silent, and the offers expired. Readers have asked me what I think, and why I didn’t mention this earlier, especially with much of the media is all agog about these deals. Perhaps there are some folks who have a bicoastal commute and could have made this work for a month. And this may be great for gap year tourists or retirees looking to duplicate the EurailPass experience at a higher altitude. But really, how many people can use this? Maybe it’s Europeans: Most Americans don’t have a month of vacation time to burn, and how much of that time do they want to spend flying? Mileage runners are out of luck, too, as you don’t earn miles for each flight on such a pass, but rather earn a fixed sum. So, for the most part, these passes are a non-starter. They’re great PR for the airlines that offer them, though, and perhaps that’s the goal all along.
Upgraded: Mexicana’s life chances
Mexicana, which declared bankruptcy just three weeks ago, has already been bought by an investment group and the airline’s pilots’ union. (Admittedly, the pilots only bought 5% of the airline.) Terms are still a secret, until August 25. But presumably this means that Mexicana will fly again.
Upgraded: Luxury gimmickry
Hotels, especially at the high end, are always looking for a gimmick: a way to distinguish themselves from the myriad luxury properties that are competing for guest dollars. But sometimes, the competition gets downright silly. The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in California is offering a “fire and wine butler.” From the hotel’s pitch, which made me laugh out loud: “Thursday through Sunday evenings, The Fire & Wine Butler roves The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay on a specially-provisioned golf cart, providing on-the-spot fire and wine service to guests enjoying the out-of-doors.”