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Ever since the World of Hyatt introduced seasonal pricing a few weeks ago, most of us who have an interest in the program have been focused on trying to work out if there’s still value to be had out the World of Hyatt, where the better value lies, where off-peak awards can be found, and how easy it remains to book amazing stays for comparatively few points.
Up until now, most of the research that I’ve been doing around the World of Hyatt program since seasonal pricing was introduced hasn’t thrown up anything that’s hugely negative or anything that was totally unexpected. That was until I started trying to work out just how far out I’d have to book to be able to reserve the amazing Alila Venata Big Sur at no more than 35,000 points per night (Category 7 peak rate). What I’ve discovered is more than a little disappointing.
Joanna and I have plans to do an extended trip around California in summer 2023 and we’d love to incorporate the Alila Ventana Big Sur into that trip. With that in mind, I picked out a few random dates and then checked award availability at the Alila Big Sur for those dates in an effort to build up a picture that shows me what award availability is like and how much award nights cost at the property.
I checked one date every month from January through December and this is what I found:
Note: the results show the cheapest award cost + award room type & lowest level room available for cash bookings.
- 24 January – 48,000 Big Sur Suite & Hot Tub Suite
- 9 February – 48,000 Big Sur Suite & Hot Tub Suite
- 3 March – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 12 April – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 16 May – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 3 June – No award availability & no cash rate availability
- 20 July – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 4 August – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 24 September – No award availability & no cash rate availability
- 20 October – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 3 November – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
- 6 December – 53,000 Big Sur Suite & King Bed Deluxe with Fireplace
Here are screenshots for all 24 situations listed above:
What this shows is that awards are available on 10 out of the 12 nights selected, but on no occasion is a standard award available (at peak, standard, or off-peak rates) – all the available awards are at the suite level of between 48,000 and 53,000 points/night.
It also shows that even when a non-suite room like the “King Bed Deluxe with a fireplace” is available for cash (8 out of the 10 occasions on which awards are available), the Alila Ventana Big Sur will still not offer any awards that don’t book into a suite.
My first thought was that this is more than a little disappointing. I’d expected to find at least one or two nights on which a standard award would be bookable but I had come up with nothing.
My second thought was that I needed to check what types of room the Alila Ventana Big Sur offers because, under World of Hyatt rules, a property that is prepared to sell an entry-level room for cash must also make that room available for standard room award redemptions. The lack of standard room awards would indicate that the “King Bed Deluxe room with fireplace” was either not an entry-level room or that the Alila was playing fast and loose with World of Hyatt rules.
A quick look at the Alila’s webpage shows that although the “King Bed Deluxe with a fireplace” is listed first, it’s probably not the property’s entry-level room. That honor looks like it belongs to the “King Bed” room or the “King Bed with Fireplace” room which are both smaller.
Ok, so what we have here is a situation where the Alila Venta Big Sur is claiming not to have any entry-level room availability on any of the random dates that I selected and while this may sound a little odd, it occurred to me that this may just be down to the fact that the Alila Big Sur isn’t a very large property – it has just 59 rooms – and is very popular.
I then remembered an issue that I once discovered with another Hyatt hotel – the Andaz West Hollywood – where the property was only releasing entry-level rooms for sale when a multi-night booking was requested.
This prompted me to do another few searches at the Alila, and this time I searched for availability for 3- and 4-night bookings.
Second findings and thoughts
I decided to concentrate my searches towards the end of the booking period (the end of 2022) to give myself as much chance as possible of finding any entry-level rooms that the Alila Big Sur may be offering, and I soon hit gold.
For a stay from 29 November through 2 December, the Alila Venta Big Sur will sell me a “King Bed with Fireplace” room for cash…
…and it will let me book the same room at a standard room award rate:
This is reasonably good news as it means that standard room awards are still offered by the property and it confirms my suspicion that a “King Bed with Fireplace” room is classified as one of the property’s entry-level rooms.
Any joy felt from finally finding a standard room award at the Alila Ventana Big Sur was tempered just moments later when my next search revealed something else that I had suspected – the property appears to be limiting entry-level room availability (and therefore standard room rate award availability) to multi-night bookings only.
While the Alila is happy to let me pay 30,000 points/night for 3 nights from 29 November, a request for a booking for just 1 night from 29 November only brings up the option to pay 48,000 points for a suite.
If that had been all that I found I would have been disappointed but not completely surprised. As I’ve already said, I’ve seen the Andaz West Hollywood playing this game with entry-level room availability so why not the Alila Ventana Big Sur?
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things.
Keeping in mind that I’ve just established that the Alila is prepared to consider a “King Bed with Fireplace” room as an entry-level room, I was excited to find that exact room type available for a booking between 1 and 5 November 2022.
Where a “King Bed with Fireplace” room is available for cash it should also be available for points. It is, after all, an entry-level room…right?
On this occasion, only a suite at 53,000 points per night is being made available for award bookings…and keep in mind that this is for a cold time of year and almost 365 days out.
The Alila Ventana Big Sur will happily sell an entry-level room for cash and equally happily not release standard award availability on the same night.
- During all my searching, I didn’t find a single occasion where the Alila Ventana Big Sur was offering a standard room award for a one-night booking.
- My searches show that the Alila Ventana Big Sur may offer a standard room award rate if a multi-night booking is selected even if it will not offer a standard room award for any of the same nights if a single night booking is requested.
- My searches appear to show that even when a room that the Alila has previously been happy to sell at a standard room award rate is available, the property may not open it up for an award booking.
It would be one thing if the Alila Ventana Big Sur was only playing games by limiting standard room awards to multi-night bookings. The fact, however, that the property also appears to be happy not to release standard room awards on multi-night bookings where an entry-level room is available for cash, would indicate that the games go deeper than this. That’s pretty bad news.
Based on what I’ve seen today, I’d say that one of the best award redemptions that Hyatt has offered is dying but is not quite dead. It’s not dead because there remain certain conditions under which a standard room award can still be booked at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, but the fact that those conditions appear to be both variable and rare does call into question just how realistic it is to continue calling this one of Hyatt’s best redemption opportunities. Shouldn’t a “best” redemption be easier to find than this?
Featured image courtesy of Hyatt