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I need a break and I need to get away. In the past 4 months haven’t been out of the small suburban town I’ve been living in for more than a handful of days and it’s starting to get a little claustrophobic. I’m fortunate that I’m in Europe right now and not back home in the US because while my home state of California is well into its second “lockdown” (of sorts), Europe is trying to open up and people are being encouraged to travel (albeit cautiously).
I’ve been playing around with a number of potential trip options over the past few weeks and one of the trips Joanna & I are most likely to take involves a 7-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife. The resort is large, the communal areas appear well ventilated, and there’s plenty to do on Tenerife that doesn’t involve mingling with other visitors. From a social distancing point of view and from a ‘staying healthy’ point of view, the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife and Tenerife itself seem like as good a place as any to visit right now…but I’m hugely conflicted about how to book the accommodation.
The First Consideration
Ordinarily, I would almost always book a Ritz-Carlton property with Marriott Bonvoy Points because the property’s room rates are usually high and I have an aversion to paying what I consider to be “silly money” for a hotel room. But these aren’t ordinary times. Right now I can make a 7-night award booking at the Ritz-Carlton for 300,000 Bonvoy points…
…or I can book the same room for €249/night = €1,745 (~$2,020) for the stay.
As a cash booking would get me a $100 credit at the property, the total cash cost for the 7-night stay would come to approximately $1,920. So, if I was to use Bonvoy points instead of cash, I’d be getting about 0.64 cents of value out of each point that I use. As I value Bonvoy points at 0.6 cents each this isn’t a horrendous redemption for me, but it’s certainly not a particularly good one either and I could easily get better value out of my points elsewhere.
Having said that, right now I’m in what I like to term “cash preservation mode” as I see no reason to commit to unnecessary spending while the global economy is in chaos. This means that, at the moment, I’m not easily discouraged from using miles & points just because a redemption rate isn’t particularly amazing/great/good (I’ve long been of the option that points can be used to good effect even if the redemption rate appears poor). At 0.64 cents/point of value, I’m tempted to accept the sub-optimal redemption rate if it keeps the best part of $2,000 in my bank account.
Annoyingly, however, the sub-optimal redemption rate isn’t the only thing that’s giving me a dilemma.
The Second Consideration
One of the big issues with the Marriott Bonvoy program is that various brands and properties are allowed to pick and choose what parts of the program they’re prepared to respect and which parts they prefer to ignore. In the case of the Ritz-Carlton brand, my Bonvoy Titanium status isn’t going to get me nearly as many benefits as I’d get at a lot of other brands so, for example, Joanna and I won’t be eligible for complimentary breakfasts and I won’t be able to use my Bonvoy Suite Night upgrades.
Not being able to use suite night upgrades on this reservation isn’t really an issue (I genuinely don’t care) but as I’m pretty sure that the Ritz-Carlton’s breakfasts aren’t going to be particularly well-priced, the absence of complimentary breakfasts isn’t something I’m happy to dismiss quite so easily. As we would prefer not to have to head into the nearest town every morning just to get our day started, I’m resigned to the fact that we’ll be eating breakfast at the resort on most (possibly all) days and that’s a cost that needs to be considered.
Last year, it wouldn’t have mattered whether I booked a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Tenerife with cash or with points as, either way, I wouldn’t be eligible for a complimentary breakfast. However, earlier this year I product-swapped my legacy Marriott Bonvoy credit card for the Ritz-Carlton credit card which, as part of its benefits package, offers me upgrades to “club level” rooms valid on stays of up to 7 nights…but only on paid nights. The upgrades cannot be used on award bookings.
The Ritz-Carlton “Clubs” are much more than just regular hotel lounges and they have a lot more in common with some of the Club InterContinental lounges you’ll find at InterContinental properties around the world (although the offerings at Ritz-Carlton Clubs are often better in my experience). Club access would give Joanna & me complimentary breakfasts and access to the food and drinks the Club serves throughout the day so, although we probably wouldn’t use the lounge too often outside of breakfast (we’d prefer to eat out at local establishments), it would be nice to be able to enjoy a couple of drinks in the Club of an evening and having Club access would certainly save on our overall dining bill.
Conservatively, I’d expect the lounge to save us between $50 and $75 per day under normal conditions, and savings of that order would reduce the net cash cost of the booking to somewhere in the region of $1,550 for the 7-nights. With this in mind (and considering a Club level upgrade would also provide a better room), paying 300,000 points for this stay looks even worse value (~0.5 cents per point). At this redemption rate, it’s starting to look foolish to use points instead of cash and, if that was the end of the considerations, I’d have to admit that paying with cash rather than points would appear to be the obviously better choice (even if I am in cash preservation mode).
This, however, is not where my dilemma ends because my use of the phrase “normal conditions” was very deliberate in the last paragraph.
The Third Consideration
As we’re all only too aware, our current conditions are in no way “normal”, so who knows what the offerings at the Ritz-Carlton Club will be like? They certainly won’t be at the same level as they will have been in the past (Covid-19 has taken care of that) but will they be good enough to warrant a cash booking? I have absolutely no idea what to expect and I don’t think that calling the property is going to clear things up (the staff at the front desk are hardly likely to admit that upgrading to a Club Room is a waste of money).
The math I’ve outlined above (which makes paying with cash look like the way to go) relies on the assumption that Joanna and I will be able to get reasonable value out of the Club Lounge during our stay…but what if we can’t? What if the Club Lounge is, essentially, a huge waste of time? I could find myself in the position of having passed up on a mediocre (but just about acceptable) points booking in favor of a cash booking that didn’t deliver.
On the one hand, I’d like to remain in cash preservation mode and not spend cash unless I have to (I can afford to pay cash, but I don’t believe in being silly with my money) while, on the other hand, I also don’t want to part with 300,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at a very poor redemption rate (once everything is factored in).
One part of my brain is telling me that the cash option is the best way to go as the Club Lounge “can’t be that bad” and will really enhance the vacation, while another part of my brain is telling me to forget the value I’ll be getting from my points and the temptations of a Club Lounge that may or may not be any good, and to focus on enjoying a beautiful resort stay in a room that cost nothing to book.
As things stand I have absolutely no idea which option I’ll go with and my brain’s inability to come to a decision is starting to get annoying 🙂
Featured image Image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton