I’ve written a fair amount about my personal travel which almost always involves my family. But I also travel occasionally for work, so I have a bit of perspective on the corporate travel world, both from my own work travel and from chatting with my colleagues, a few of which are borderline road warriors.
On a recent work trip, I faced a conundrum that I bet affects many of you, and I’m curious to know how you handle it. I was accompanying a colleague on a site visit. It was to the middle of nowhere Indiana, so we would be flying in together and then sharing a rental car for the long ride to our destination where we’d spend a couple of nights. Fortunately, he picked my preferred airline, or I might have refused to go. Just kidding. Maybe not.
But for the hotel, he selected a Fairfield Inn by Marriott.
I don’t have anything against Marriott per se, I just find that Hyatt and Starwood’s program is much more rewarding — despite the fact that Marriott seems to be racking up Freddie awards right and left. As a result, I will go out of my way to stay at these brands. The irony is that I now even have Marriott Gold status courtesy of RewardsPlus from United! Even so, they just don’t excite me (unless they are running the real MegaBonus promotion, not the crappy version that rolled out this spring). While they make a good backup program because they are everywhere, I prefer to stay elsewhere when all else is equal.
In this case, all else was equal.
This town had a Hyatt Place with exactly the same price as the Fairfield Inn. The only difference was that the Fairfield was near the freeway while the Hyatt Place was in town. I’m pretty sure that my colleague didn’t pick the Fairfield for that reason though, but rather it was suggested to him by our corporate travel agency which seems to have an affinity for Marriott. Basically, if there’s a Marriott available, that’s what they recommend. As a result, if my colleagues have any status at all (most do not), it’s with Mariott.
Now for sure, if he had had status with Marriott, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought as that’s as good a reason as any to stay somewhere and I definitely support working to earn status with somebody as opposed to nobody. But I knew that he didn’t have status.
Moreover, I have found that Hyatt is perhaps the most consistent at their low end brands like Hyatt Place and Hyatt House. I really don’t mind staying at these properties, even if they are a bit boring. Most importantly, I struggle to requalify Hyatt Diamond on stays, usually hitting exactly 25, so literally every one of them counts.
So what would you do in this situation when your colleague picked a hotel somewhat randomly? Would you suggest that you stay at your brand?
In the end, I went along with the Fairfield Inn. In this case, he was the program manager and more senior than me, so despite the fact that I don’t think he really cared where we stayed, I let it go. Had the Hyatt Place been across the parking lot (like the Holiday Inn Express), I absolutely would have walked over and stayed there. But we were along the freeway and the Hyatt Place was in town, so that really wasn’t an option.
Adding insult to injury, this particular Fairfield Inn was pretty awful.
I did get a bit of vindication the next day at our meeting when one of our counterparts said that he had stayed at the Hyatt Place in town and had received wonderful service. It took all of my willpower to keep from giving my colleague the stink eye.
Since I’m sure many of you have been in this situation, what would you do? When traveling with a colleague, how do you decide when to stay at their brand vs. yours? What if your colleague doesn’t have a preferred brand? Do you take the opportunity to teach them about miles and points?