Room Key launch, suing Starwood, Club Carlson A+ promo, Hilton upgrades, Marriott’s high end, Four Seasons splurges and business travel slows

In other hotel and travel industry news last week…

  • In an attempt to steer traffic away from Online Travel Agencies like Expedia and Priceline – and the commissions paid to OTAs – several major hotel chains beta-launched Room Key. The brands include Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott and Wyndham, and Room Key acts as a portal to a hotel company’s website where the booking actually takes place. It’s a pretty slick site, but I found it a bit slow in uploading choices when entering a city or zip code. They’re hoping to capture more chains and will fully launch this March.
  • Club Carlson (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, et al) has a pretty incredible promotion offering triple points for stays now through March 16, 2012. Registration is required and new this year (in the U.S., anyway), points are accrued for food and beverage purchases at the properties in addition to the room rate. Loyalty Traveler has an excellent breakdown of the promotion and its inherent value.
  • A woman is suing the Starwood Hotels & Resorts chain claiming a man who received her room key at a property in Finland just by saying he was her husband sexually assaulted her. If true, it’s absolutely horrific. Her lawyer is Gloria Allred and whenever she enters the picture, I just never know what to think. She helped push Herman Cain out of the GOP running, but some of her other cases just seem peculiar to me. I don’t know why, but I’m always skeptical with her cases. Again, if true, by all means Starwood needs to face justice.
  • The popular and well-known Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki completed its $45 million renovation of the Rainbow Tower. All 800 rooms were renovated and received new bathrooms, fixtures, furnishings and carpet. The top floor sports two suites – Duke Kahanamoku and Niumalu – both of which saw $1 million in upgrades. Pretty stunning. After the Outrigger Waikiki and Outrigger Reef on the Beach, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is my next favorite moderate hotel in Waikiki. Nothing beats the Halekulani, though.
  • The former Carlton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, as a Preferred Hotel property, became a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel last week. The Autograph Collection was launched by Marriott in 2010 and features luxury and historic hotels around the world, including The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and The Algonquin in Times Square. The Vice President of the Group mentioned additional properties would be coming online this year in the U.S. in New Orleans and South Beach.
  • Four Seasons recently made an $18 million investment in their website and online presence. The company refuses to break down the details, but one article quotes it likely includes “the big, bright photography seen online, new booking process, mobile optimization, social media integration and personal profile technology.” One day I yearn to holiday at one of their properties, but it remains out of reach for the time being. The article also quoted something I found revealing – 32% of Four Seasons guests cite the ability to check-in without speaking to someone as valuable versus the 78% of airline passengers who claim the same importance. I guess it’s sort of apples to oranges here, though. A Four Seasons front desk “agent” (they probably have much better titles) is a much higher caliber position I’d have to guess.
  • Finally, business travel growth shows signs of slowing (except on the luxury end), but at least it’s still growing. One leisure analyst thinks it could be a marker of overall trends in both business and leisure travel, but another report reveals that travel agency air sales increased 6.1% in 2011. Total transactions were down 2.1%, but things still sound pretty optimistic. After all, the major airlines launched a fare increase this week that appears to have stuck.


  1. With all the fare hikes by the airlines, I think we are approaching, or already have reached, the economic equilibrium with all of the fare hikes. So, naturally, demand is slowing considerably and enough for the airlines to notice. Leisure travel is up naturally due to the holidays and the slowly recovering economy [better now than what it was in 4Q 2010], but it is going to be stagnant or decrease this quarter compared to the last quarter and airlines will need to depend on Business travel to fill up their flights.

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