Booking Using HotelUpgrade App

HotelUpgrade is a brand new app with the tagline “VIP service comes standard.” It has launched within the past week, and is available for free in the app store.

I met someone from HotelUpgrade a couple of months ago, and they explained their new app, which would give you extra benefits and perks for stays at select hotels. My follow up question was “okay, what kind of a rate do I have to book to qualify?” The response was “any rate you could book directly through the hotel’s website.” Something didn’t add up to me. I can earn extra perks on AAA, senior, government, and corporate rates? That sounds too good to be true, so I told them to let me know when they launch.

Well, they were at FTU Advanced in Chicago this weekend (they were one of the sponsors) and let me know that the app finally launched.

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I downloaded the app this morning and played around with it a bit, because I was curious how it worked in practice.

List of HotelUpgrade partner hotels

Once you launch the app it lists all the cities in which HotelUpgrade is available — so far it’s available in 11 cities and at ~20 hotels:

  • Albuquerque — Holiday Inn Express Albuquerque Airport, Staybridge Suites Albuquerque Airport
  • Atlanta — Courtyard Atlanta Vinings, Holiday Inn Atlanta Airport North, Holiday Inn Perimeters/Dunwoody
  • Austin — Holiday Inn Midtown
  • Boston — Hotel Indigo Boston-Newton Riverside
  • Chicago — Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport, Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare
  • Ft. Myers — Holiday Inn Downtown Historic District, Sheraton Four Points Airport
  • Los Angeles — Westin Long Beach
  • New York — Courtyard Manhattan/Times Square, Holiday Inn Express Fifth Avenue, Residence Inn Manhattan/Times Square
  • San Antonio — Hotel Indigo Downtown Alamo
  • Santa Fe — Fairfield Inn Santa Fe
  • Wichita — Wyndham Garden Downtown

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As you can see, that’s a pretty underwhelming list so far. I don’t want to judge them yet since they just launched, but when your only property in “Los Angeles” is in Long Beach…

It’s interesting to note that a majority of their partner properties are limited service hotels. They have some Hilton, IHG, Marriott, and Starwood properties, though Hyatt properties are noticeably absent.

HotelUpgrade partner hotel perks

So what kind of perks can you expect from HotelUpgrade? It varies based on the number of nights you stay. Take the Westin Long Beach, for example.

When you select the city you want to look at, the next page will have a “plus” and “minus” sign, whereby you can specify the number of nights you’re staying, as the perks vary based on how many nights you stay.

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The default perks displayed are for stays of five nights.

In the case of the Westin Long Beach, for example, a five night stay gets you:

  • 2,500 bonus Starpoints
  • Suite Upgrade (if available)
  • 500 bonus Starpoints for each additional room

For one night stays, the perks are as follows:

  • 500 bonus Starpoints
  • Complimentary manager’s reception (Tuesday only)

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Then there are even additional benefits if you book stays of 10 or more nights.

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I do find their upgrade verbiage to be a bit odd. For example, here’s how they advertise upgrades:

CONFIRM YOUR UPGRADE

Send us your reservation confirmation numbers through the app, or even by email, and your upgrade is automatically confirmed. We guarantee your upgrades at arrival and you will always receive your normal loyalty program benefits.

“Confirm your upgrade” and “your upgrade is automatically confirmed” and “we guarantee your upgrade on arrival” are all big terms to use for space available upgrades at check-in, in my opinion. What are they guaranteeing at check-in, exactly?

Booking your stay with HotelUpgrade

So one of the best things about HotelUpgrade is that you make your booking directly with the hotel, so you still get all your normal loyalty program perks and points. When you select your hotel you click “Book this Hotel,” and it takes you to the hotel’s website.

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Then when you’ve made your reservation you can get your HotelUpgrade perks in one of two ways:

  • Log back into the app and go to the hotel’s page, where you’ll be prompted to enter your confirmation number
  • Forward your confirmation email from the hotel to upgrade@HotelUpgrade.com

Bottom line

HotelUpgrade certainly has the potential to be extremely useful. It’s the only service I know of that offers extra perks even on corporate or other “special” rates (AAA/Senior/Government/etc.), so it does have a unique selling point.

If it’s going to be useful for consumers and actually change their behavior, they have to expand their footprint drastically. I actually think they’re not doing themselves any favors by launching in a dozen cities with only a couple of hotels in each city. I think they’d be much better off launching “big” in one city, so consumers actually have a choice.

For example, when your portfolio of hotels in “Los Angeles” consists of one hotel in Long Beach, I think it probably turns a lot of people off.

As it stands now, I’ll definitely use HotelUpgrade if I were staying at a hotel they partner with, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to book a hotel I wouldn’t otherwise stay at due to HotelUpgrade (in other words, I’m not staying in Long Beach the next time I want to visit Los Angeles). ๐Ÿ˜‰

And in a way I do find it slightly ironic that they’re marketing this as “luxury suites, executive lounges, and clubs” and “we donโ€™t like people slumming as ordinary hotel guests” when a majority of their properties so far are limited service ones. But then again, maybe long term they’re trying to go after a higher end market.

I’d certainly recommend downloading the HotelUpgrade app as their list of hotels continues to grow. This is definitely an offering to keep an eye on…

Have you used HotelUpgrade so far, and what do you think of the idea?

Comments

  1. @ Bgriff — That’s a great question. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I have no inside knowledge, though my assumption is that they’re making some commission from bookings they make for their partner hotels.

  2. @ Santastico, that would defeat the purpose of Virtuoso, as Virtuoso is built on relationships and communication. “Being more than a credit card number”

  3. FWIW Santastico, I’d be more than happy to be that conduit for you ๐Ÿ˜‰

    (I do have clients who literally text me hotel name & date – and I book as easily as one would book thru an app)

    Some clients like more personalized service than others!

  4. I think that this is a great idea, I hope that they get more hotels on board soon. I have a question, I am Platinum with Starwood but was interested in booking a stay at the St Regis Bangkok through Virtuoso. Would I earn SPG points for that stay and would those nights count toward my elite status? Thank you!

  5. @ Santastico. Not an app but classictravel.com offers many Virtuoso bookings via its search engine. It does not, however, offer access to each and every Virtuoso hotel. I like using it to know what the rates are before inquiring with my agent.

    FDW

  6. @Janelle: Virtuoso IS compatible w/ elite stay/night/point credits w/ SPG (and all loyalty programs). Would be more than happy to handle your booking if you’re interested. Ben @ tripsinthevillage . com

  7. @Lucky: do we have to actually book the hotel through the app, or merely go into the app to provide our confirmation code to receive the ‘upgrades’? Since all my corporate travel is booked through HRG/Concur, this would be an important detail to know.

    Funny, but the Westin Long Beach is actually the only useful property in the list for my travels. This is probably an historic moment when something launches first in Wichita before San Francisco!

  8. @kelly. It seems to me like they only make money if you click through them. Just like any online shopping portal or any online add that makes money because they sent you. You have to go back and give them your confirmation number because the benefits are added manually. …I think

  9. @ Kelly — Presumably you’re supposed to book through the app, though in practice I don’t really see how the redirect would be tracked. I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked even if you just forwarded the confirmation number. I certainly could be wrong, though.

  10. I think someone actually needs to try it and see what they actually get. We have seen other new startup services end up short on delivering what was promised.

  11. I would think twice before sending my confirmation number to total strangers who are promising absolutely nothing and are entirely untried and untested. Just because they showed up at a convention means nothing. Madoff was a pretty well-respected guy until he wasn’t.

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