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I’m in the process of helping to plan a big trip around California for next year so the past few evenings have seen me spending a lot of time hunched over my keyboard trying to find award availability at properties from all four of the major chains. So far, I’ve had a reasonable amount of success, but I’ve also come up against three properties (from different chains) that each gives a different example of the kind of behavior that can make this game incredibly aggravating.
Awards deliberately witheld for select short stays
My first example of an annoying hotel practice comes courtesy of the SpringHill Suites Napa Valley (a Marriott property) where it’s impossible to book a short weekend break (on points) from April onwards.
If you select a 1- or 2-night stay when attempting to make an award booking at this property at any point between April and August next year, the Marriott calendar will show you that there’s no availability at all if you want to check in on a Friday or Saturday night.
If, however, you change the search parameters and extend the length of the stay that you’d like to book to 3 nights, awards miraculously open up on dates where awards were previously unavailable.
That’s annoying and even though this is a practice that clearly goes against the spirit of most loyalty program rules (including those of the Bonvoy program), it’s a practice that I seem to be seeing more and more often.
No rooms for sale at all
I’m going to stay in Napa for the second example which features the Hilton Garden Inn Napa.
One of the more generally accepted “rules” of the miles & points game is that the earlier you try to book a hotel redemption, the greater the chances are that you’ll find award availability. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to apply to the Hilton Garden Inn Napa which appears to have forgotten to release rooms for July 2023.
We’re 9.5 months away from the start of July 2023 so it’s not unreasonable to expect a property to have released its inventory for that month and that makes me wonder what’s going on at Napa’s Hilton Garden Inn.
While the nearby Embassy Suites is more than happy to sell guests rooms for cash (be it for a 1-night stay or a 4-night stay)…
…and while it’s also happy to sell award nights for July 2023…
…the Hilton Garden Inn claims to be sold out for cash bookings…
…and unavailable for points bookings…even if you’re happy to book a longer stay:
The fact is that the property is not sold out – I called to check – but no one there (or at the Hilton reservations desk) can give me a reason why it has yet to load its cash rates or its award availability for one of Napa’s busiest months. Want to go in June? No problem. July? Not a chance.
At first, I thought this might be a brand-specific thing (I don’t stay at many HGIs so I have no idea what’s normal for the brand and what isn’t) but as all four of the other HGIs that I checked are happy to sell me a room in July 2023, this issue seems to be property specific.
Considering those of us who have been around the miles & points game for a while are often telling those new to the game that early booking is to be encouraged, this kind of behavior isn’t helpful. I’ve no idea why the Hilton Garden Inn Napa is doing this but I wish it would stop.
Note: I’m aware that, strictly speaking, this isn’t just an award booking issue. The fact, however, that the property has failed to load any rooms at all, impacts award availability and that’s why it is mentioned here.
Deliberately withholding entry-level rooms
My 3rd and final example of annoying hotel behavior is one that I’ve seen quite a few times in the past but I’ve never seen this behavior displayed to this egregious extent at a property that’s not really special at all.
The rules of the World of Hyatt program state that if a property is prepared to sell an entry-level room for cash, it must also offer up that same room for award bookings and on the whole, this makes finding award space at most Hyatt properties pretty easy.
A number of high-demand properties like the Andaz Maui and the Alila Ventana Big Sur are known to get around this rule by either designating a very small number of rooms as entry-level rooms or by simply not making entry-level rooms available at times when they don’t want to offer award space. This is may be against the spirit of the World of Hyatt rules but that doesn’t appear to have stopped them from doing this.
Cue the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.
The Hyatt Regency San Francisco may be a nice place to stay but no one can claim that it’s a property that stands out in the Hyatt portfolio nor, for most of the year, is it a high-demand property. That makes it all the more surprising when you find out that it appears to be playing some serious games with award availability.
Before I go on I should point out that I’m not sure that there isn’t more going on here than just a property playing with award space as what I’m about to discuss appears to make no sense at all. Nevertheless, as no one at the property has been able to explain what I’m about to show you, here’s what I found:
At the time of writing, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco doesn’t appear to be offering standard award availability on any night past 6 January 2023.
An entry-level room at this property is called a “1 King Bed” room and you’ll find plenty of availability for this room through what’s left of 2022.
On just about every bookable night in 2023, however, the lowest level room that the hotel is offering is designated as “1 King Bed Bay View” which is not only very expensive but also cannot be booked with points.
Hyatt may not offer a booking calendar but you can get a good idea of what rates look like at any Hyatt property (from month to month) by using Google’s hotel search function and then narrowing down the results to your chosen hotel and when you do that here, this is what you see for the Hyatt Regency San Francisco:
In November and December, the cheapest room costs under $500 on almost all nights, and there’s a good number of nights on which the cheapest room can be booked for under $300.
Note: As a general rule, you can usually assume that standard room awards are available on the cheaper nights.
Now take a look at what happens in 2023. After 6 January, there isn’t a single night on sale for under $741.
World of Hyatt members would be able to get slightly better rates by booking directly through Hyatt but that doesn’t change the message that these calendars are giving out – the Hyatt Regency San Francisco is not selling any entry-level rooms from 7 January 2023 onwards and that means that there’s no award availability at this property on most of the bookable dates in 2023.
My first thought was that the property was planning a serious refurbishment project that would see all the “1 King Bed” rooms out of action for a significant amount of time but as there’s no mention of planned works on the website and as my one call to the property didn’t elicit this as a reason for the rates that I have been seeing, this doesn’t appear to be what’s going on.
I’m struggling to believe that the Hyatt Regency San Francisco thinks that it can get away with charging at least $600 – $700 a night every night for the first 8 months of 2023 (the property is in the financial district so it’s usually very quiet at weekends) but the fact remains that that’s what’s currently being shown and as a result, there is no award availability on offer at the property for next year.
As I’ve already said, I’m happy to concede that there may be more going on at this particular property than meets the eye but the fact remains that the withholding/limiting of entry-level rooms is a tactic that we know a number of Hyatt properties employ to get around the World of Hyatt rules and it’s a tactic that can be incredibly annoying.
To a degree, I understand why a property like the Alila Ventana Big Sur feels the need to do this but when properties like the Andaz West Hollywood and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco join in, there’s really no excuse at all and it’s something that I really wish Hyatt Corporate would clamp down upon.
The miles and points hobby is mostly a lot of fun but sometimes the games that certain hotels like to play with award availability can be more than a little aggravating. Whether it’s forcing guests to book more nights than they want to just because they’d like to use their points or if it’s deliberately withholding entry-level rooms simply because a property doesn’t want to keep to the rules of the loyalty program it belongs to, it all seems a little unnecessary and cheap…and it’s a shame that those who run the big chains to which these hotels are affiliated don’t seem to be overly keen to step it and enforce their own rules.