event planners love hotel status (just like everyone else)

hotel status and event planners

Many event planners travel often; one of the perks of being a road warrior and frequent business traveler is “status” in travel loyalty programs, whether those are frequent flier miles or hotel points. It’s nice to be “rewarded” for being loyal to a particular brand or two with a few small perks – maybe it’s an upgraded room or free breakfast or even just free internet access. ¬†Some hotels also offer planner points – reward points for booking a meeting or conference. Those are the quickest way to make a lot of points (so long as your employer allows you to accept those points – not all do).

I’m not going to get into the ethics of selecting a hotel based on the number of reward points you might earn – that’s not the best way to make an important decision like site selection – but instead I wanted to discuss why having “status” of any kind is important, and why it’s really unfortunate when hotels don’t treat their “elites” as well as they could.

Now before you start rolling your eyes, I agree that this is definitely a #firstworldproblem. I will admit that having “mid-tier” status in two hotel loyalty programs (Gold with Hilton¬†and Platinum with Hyatt) has been useful to me in both my business travel and personal travel. I have been able to save my employer money by getting free breakfast (at Hiltons) and free Internet (both). I was able to guarantee a reservation at a sold-out Hyatt when I needed to stay there for a business trip because of my status. I also know that very few of the perks are guaranteed at every property and I try not to get too greedy.

Event planners – or really anyone who travels a decent amount for her job – deserve the little perks that come with giving a particular hotel chain or two some brand loyalty. We’re not asking much.

So when I recently had a business trip in Austin, Texas and I wasn’t tied to a specific property, I chose the Hilton, which was slightly more affordable than the Hyatt, and definitely a good price for the weekend. I knew I would get free internet and free continental breakfast – saving my company a few dollars. So I was a bit surprised when I checked in to the hotel and the agent didn’t welcome me as a Gold HHonors member. You may laugh, but this almost always happens.

I was given my key and they swiped my card and started to send me on my way. So I asked if they had my HHonors number on file – they did. Oh, okay. Well can I have the internet code? The agent shrugged and told me to choose the HHonors option but then decided to give me a password – either way it would be free.

What about breakfast? We all want free breakfast, right?

Oh, we don’t offer that benefit here.

What??????

So, I was a little more composed than that, but I didn’t back down. Finally the agent fumbled through a drawer and found some coupons for a free coffee and pastry at the coffee shop in the lobby, or you could “upgrade” the coupon for $10 and get the full buffet at the main restaurant.

Continental is continental – no one said they had to give me a full hot breakfast for free (although many Hiltons I have visited do this). The thing that bugged me is that I had to ASK for it, and even then, the agent asked like he was doing me a favor, not something that was a listed benefit of the program.

The whole thing really shadowed my opinion of the hotel. It was fine, it wasn’t stellar. I ended up upgrading to the buffet one morning and just grabbing coffee and a pastry the other morning. But the breakfast wasn’t the point, it was how they treated someone who they designate as loyal to their brand.

To bring things back to event planners; I would be horrified if any of my guests were treated that way as a hotel guest checking in – status or not. While “elite status” should get someone an extra special welcome and a perk or two, all guests should be welcomed.

Overall, I wouldn’t go back to the Hilton Austin. I would much rather try out another hotel in the area when I next have to travel there. And the whole episode was a great reminder of why it’s important to do site visits and to try and be as incognito as possible – most hotels bend over backwards when they are trying to win your business and treat event planners like royalty; you should find out how they treat everyday guests because that’s how they will treat your meeting attendees.

And if I’m being honest, I’m even more excited about Hyatt for future business travel.

PS – I’m not an expert on hotel loyalty programs or airline frequent flyer programs, but there are some fantastic blogs out there which share tips and tricks for maximizing points and miles. Two of my favorites are View From The Wing (focusing on aspirational travel – first class, etc.) and Mommy Points (focusing on travel with families). If you are into points and miles too, share your favorite blogs and resources in the comments!

Photo Credit: { Smarter Travel }