Kimpton Eventi, New York

Hotel Upgrade: The Secret Sauce

Some recent hotel stays have resulted in fabulous rooms and I wondered why.

The last day of June, my wife and I checked into the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton property, in Philadelphia. We arrived an hour early and were disappointed that we could not immediately go to a room. The front desk agent told us our room was not ready, suggesting it was a nice room. I asked whether we should switch to an available room and she slyly indicated we should stick with the assigned room. Hint taken, we checked our bags and explored historic Philadelphia. The front desk agent called us when the room was ready. We were rewarded with a corner suite with a jacuzzi tub and a glorious view of Independence Hall.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia

Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia

Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia

Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Philadelphia


The next day we checked into another Kimpton property, Eventi, in New York City. Again, we were given a corner suite, with a great view of the Empire State building.

Kimpton Eventi, New York

Kimpton Eventi, New York


The third stay was at the Marriott Springhill Suites near Denver airport. Even though the property was sold out and we arrived late, they saved what I thought was their nicest room on the middle of the top floor. Not a hotel room upgrade but definitely what I consider better than usual (possibly even special) treatment.

Why was I lucky to receive great hotel rooms and two hotel room upgrades in the middle of the summer (peak travel period)?

There are countless articles about begging for requesting hotel upgrades when checking in, including this front desk perspective.

But my rooms were upgraded before we checked in. How did it happen?

I have two theories.

1. loyalty program

My wife belongs to the Kimpton Karma rewards program and I belong to the Marriott Rewards program (both are free to join). I made these reservations with our loyalty information. However, I have booked hundreds of hotel rooms with loyalty information but rarely have received complimentary hotel room upgrades.

Being a loyalty member is nice but does it increase the chance of a hotel room upgrade?

If you stay with a chain more than 25 nights a year, you are certainly more likely to be upgraded. Even then, I occasionally read griping posts about super duper platinum Presidential level members NOT upgraded to a concierge suite and they will take their business elsewhere (yeah, right!). For the 98% of us who stay once or twice a year, loyalty membership is NOT a secret path to hotel room upgrades.

But, I did receive a hotel upgrade. In fact, two in a row (and special treatment at a third property). Why?

Hotel Upgrade: The Secret Sauce

2. use a travel agent

Booking through a travel agent is the magic sauce to a hotel room upgradeI believe.

Think about it.

Hotels want to entice people to return. Properties provide incentives to customers with past or anticipated future loyalty. For instance, a hotel chain might toss a hotel upgrade at customers with a history of numerous stays (the crack phenomenon).

A loyal and frequent traveler might book an extra 25 rooms a year—but a travel agency can swing several hundred extra nights a year. That’s one travel agency! Now think about a travel agent network. Virtuoso has over 300 agencies and almost 9,000 travel advisors. Booking even one extra room (on average) per advisor would result in an extra 9,000 bookings. Hotel chains WANT that extra business and will provide heavy incentives.

Booking your hotel reservation through a travel agent agent, such as Virtuoso, is what I call the secret sauce, the “secret” to virtually guaranteeing a hotel upgrade.

As a consumer advocate and travel skills expert, I encourage you to use a travel advisor to book hotel rooms. Find a Virtuoso travel advisor. Find a non-Virtuoso travel agent. Experiment. See if one agency has better clout than another.

Although I am an independent travel consumer advocate (I will always suggest the best solution to save you money, time, and stress), I am (disclosure) also a Virtuoso travel advisor—albeit a new one (I am exploring all paths to finding the best travel deals). I can make hotel reservations for you and it will not cost you anything. I will book the same rate you find and there is the possibility that I will find something better (double bonus).

You do not have to use my service. You do not have to use my agency or even my network (Virtuoso)—even though I think that is the magic ingredient (the secret sauce) for a hotel upgrade.

For instance, I booked the above three reservations as a regular customer, with public (not travel agent) discounts; same discounted rates anyone else could have booked. I booked standard rooms, not corner suites. The only difference is I entered my travel agent code on the reservation.

As a travel advisor, I can apply your discounted codes (AAA, AARP, Costco, etc.) and loyalty numbers. My theory is hotel chains assign more clout to reservations with that magic travel agency designation. Those reservations have a much better chance of a room upgrade.

Please note that this is my theory and unproven. However, it is the best chance that I know of for regular travelers to receive a hotel upgrade.

No matter how or who you use to book hotel rooms, I would love to know how it works out.

Your thoughts?

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4 Responses to “Hotel Upgrade: The Secret Sauce”

  1. Jayme August 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    Think your theory will work in Europe? I can let you know in November 🙂


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