Why It Pays To Book Four Seasons With A Travel Agent

Filed Under: Hotels

I provide advice online for a living, and one challenge is that there’s rarely “one size fits all” advice when you’re writing for a diverse audience. Everyone’s situation is different, so a lot of my advice comes with caveats.

In case you don’t read this entire post, let me provide my advice upfront here, which is as close to “no strings attached” advice as you’ll find on this blog — if you book a Four Seasons hotel, you should be booking through a travel agent. And not just any travel agent, but a Four Seasons Preferred Partner agent.

Yes, you should be booking that way over Virtuoso or Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, and you should be booking that way over third party online travel agencies. Let me explain why.

Before I get into it, full disclosure — my husband, Ford, is a travel advisor and Four Seasons Preferred Partner agent, and does this for a living, and other travel advisors are also welcome to leave their contact info below). That being said, good advice is good advice…

Want to receive extra benefits for stays at any Four Seasons property? Contact [email protected] for more details. He may even be able to help if you already have a stay booked.

My friend was so excited about the deal she got

My delightful friend Sunny recently texted me excited about the travel deal she just scored:

“I just booked my hotel for Sydney in August. Four Seasons for $169 a night… that seems scary low. Does Four Seasons mean something else in Australia?”

“That’s really good! Also please tell me you booked through Four Seasons Preferred Partner to get free breakfast/upgrade/hotel credit.”

“Lol that you think I have enough to status to get an upgrade.”

“Did you book directly with Four Seasons?”

“Nooooooo. I went to their site to see if they had the same price and it was more. I booked through hotels.com.”

Our conversation continued for a couple of minutes, as I was telling her all of the things she was missing out on. Then I found out that she had actually booked a non-refundable stay through hotels.com. The conversation continued with her asking:


And unfortunately it finished with:

“You’re too funny. This has turned from what I thought was going to be ‘way to go getting a cheap rate at a wonderful hotel’ to ‘Sunny… do better.'”

Sunny is really smart and usually great at maximizing travel deals, and realistically she had no way to know about this. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

I’m hoping there’s a silver lining — Sunny not enjoying breakfast, a room upgrade, and more, will hopefully lead to others not making the same mistake. 😉

Room at the Four Seasons Sydney

Why you should book Four Seasons through travel agents

Four Seasons has a special program available through select travel agents, called Preferred Partner. With this, guests can receive extra perks for booking Four Seasons stays through them.

The exact perks vary by hotel, but in general you can expect that these travel agents can get you breakfast, a room upgrade subject to availability, some sort of hotel credit, and in some cases even more than that (this is true across just about all proprietary hotel travel agent programs, like Hyatt Privé).

What makes the Preferred Partner program so special is that generally these perks can be combined with most rates you’ll find on Four Seasons’ website. You don’t need to book the flexible rate to take advantage of these perks, but generally you can combine these with Four Seasons advance purchase rates, fourth or fifth night free promos, resort credit promos, etc.

What about Virtuoso and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts?

You might be saying “wait a second, don’t Virtuoso and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts offer that as well?” Yes and no. There are some reasons you should book through Four Seasons Preferred Partner over other programs:

  • When it comes to space available upgrades, Four Seasons prioritizes upgrades through their own program rather than through partner programs
  • Preferred Partner amenities can generally be applied to most rates available directly with Four Seasons, rather than just the standard flexible rate, as is the case with most other programs
  • Generally Four Seasons Preferred Partner agents have relationships with individual hotels, so can do a lot more to customize your stay

The one advantage to booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts is that you get guaranteed 4PM check-out, but that’s the only advantage.

But don’t travel agents charge more?

It depends. Travel agents in general earn commissions from hotels, so many don’t charge any service fees. For example, Ford doesn’t charge any service fees for Four Seasons bookings, so you’ll pay exactly the same you would when booking directly with Four Seasons.

What’s the catch? Why does Four Seasons give travel agents extra perks?

There honestly isn’t one. Four Seasons Preferred Partner is essentially a program that Four Seasons uses to sell rooms. I would guess that on average those booking through Preferred Partner are more loyal and spend more at Four Seasons properties than others.

When you think about it, it makes sense — travel agents are able to give special perks at Four Seasons properties, and as a result are probably more likely to recommend them.

Just as a hotel group might spend money on advertising or other programs, in this case they’re providing extra perks to travel agents that they can pass on to their clients.

Looking specifically at the Four Seasons situation above…

Going back to Sunny’s situation above, she claimed that the hotel was cheaper through hotels.com, though is that actually the case?

The answer is “no,” but I totally see how she arrived at that conclusion, as hotels.com doesn’t display stuff the way Four Seasons does.

For her dates they show a rate of 169USD per person. They show a rate of $654 that’s crossed out, which seems rather misleading to me. What is that number based on?

Sunny had booked a pre-paid rate. Again, this shows the total of 678USD for four nights.

But that’s not actually the total, because it doesn’t include taxes and fees, so the stay comes out to 745USD for four nights.

What’s odd is that Australian hotels are required to advertise “all-in” hotel rates, while online travel agencies can display prices without taxes and fees.

That same hotel booked directly with Four Seasons costs 277AUD including everything.

That brings the total to 1,109AUD, or 745USD.

That’s exactly the same rate.

A Preferred Partner agent could have booked exactly that rate and added all kinds of amenities, not the least of which is breakfast.

Just as a point of comparison, if you booked a breakfast inclusive rate at the hotel it would have cost an extra 109AUD per night, while with a Preferred Partner agent you’d get that for the same 277AUD per night rate.

Bottom line

While Four Seasons doesn’t have a formal loyalty program, they do offer elite-style perks for those booking through Four Seasons Preferred Partner agents.

There’s no membership required and through many (most?) Preferred Partner agents you won’t be paying any extra fees. You’ll get the same rate you see on Four Seasons’ website, only with more benefits.

To be clear, I’m not saying anyone should book Four Seasons who otherwise wouldn’t have. What I’m saying is that if you’re booking a Four Seasons, do yourself a favor and use a Preferred Partner agent. In a vast majority of cases that’s the best option.

Want to take advantage of Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits?
Contact [email protected] for more details.

As mentioned above, Ford is happy to help and can be contacted at [email protected], and other travel advisors are welcome to leave their contact info below as well.

  1. This goes for essentially any boutique hotel/hotel without a rewards program. A TA can get you deals and discounts that an individual will never get unless you’re an extreme repeat guest.

  2. Totally get you wanting to support your husband but these posts are among the least substantive, most direct ads on the site. Almost cringe-worthy to read.

    Better suited to being part of posts where you actually book the Four Seasons yourself for a trip review with Ford vs doing an entire promotion-centric post.

  3. I wouldn’t call this a ‘deviant promotion’ or ‘least substantive’.

    Ben has been totally open about Ford offering this in the post and even invited other travel agents – at least TWICE – who offer the same service to post their details.

    Plus as there are other agents offering this yiu don’t have to use Ford.

  4. I used Virtuoso to book the Four Seasons in Kuala Lumpur for three nights. Didn’t get the room upgrade but the included breakfast was worth it.

  5. @Lucky, I don’t agree with some that this is a deviant post or you’re hawking Ford’s services (though I’ve had him book for me before and he’s great).

    I get that there are those of us that read nearly every post daily and probably won’t find this article useful today BUT…I think the big benefit in a post like this is that someone will be searching for the best way to book a Four Seasons reservation and will hit on this post when they need the info. I know I give a last minute check before booking hotels/airlines that I don’t frequent and as such don’t know the best ways to optimize.

  6. I actually wondered how to get in touch with travel agents for custom travel arrangements. Thanks for sharing, and hope more will share their info on the comments 🙂

  7. I agree that these posts are less substantive than reviews generally, but I have booked a four seasons stay through Ford and I must say that it was well worth it. If I’m not staying at a Marriott or Hyatt, and if Amex FHR isn’t an option, then use Ford. He was helpful

  8. Ben, thanks for the tip! I just sent an email to Ford about the Four Seasons for an upcoming stay in a few weeks.

    I really don’t get why some people get bent around the wingtips when you mention Ford’s services. It’s your blog and you can promote whoever you want to. Plus you’ve always made it abundantly clear that other travel planners can always post their contact information too.

    Oh well. I look forward to hearing back from Ford.

  9. Yeah, I found this interesting and helpful. I stay at high-end hotels on my trips and usually either book direct through the hotel or with Citi Prestige. Now that my Citi Prestige 4th night free is limited to twice a year and I can only get the Thank You website rates, I’m interested to hear “best practice” on how to maximise hotel bookings.

  10. This is actually incredibly helpful. Usually I book via Amex FHR, but they don’t have the same deals that 4S offers on their website (book 3 nights, get the 4th free) that FSPP get access to. Not only that, but you can have breakfast in your room w/ FSPP’s breakfast credit, and you also are prioritized for upgrades booking through FSPP vs FHR or Virtuoso.

    Guaranteed late check-out is nice if you’re taking a late flight back from somewhere, but we usually don’t get a ton of benefits from that.

    Ford helped us book a great 4S recently and we got a stellar deal because of him.

  11. This is a great reminder. I booked a stay at the Four Seasons a couple of years ago via their website because I didn’t know about virtuouso. The FHR and LHRC rates were much higher. If you’re shaming Lucky for posting this then you’re an idiot and by all means you should go about booking a stay directly with the hotel or using an OTA, no sweat off our backs if you miss out on added benefits.

  12. “I just booked my hotel for Sydney in August. Four Seasons for $169 a night… that seems scary low. Does Four Seasons mean something else in Australia?”

    Yes. In Sydney, “Four Seasons means “mediocrity.”

    It should also be noted that some TAs have access to multiple programs, e.g., I’m pretty sure David Ourisman does Privé, Four Seasons, Virtuoso, and others(?).

  13. I reached out to Ford years ago for a hotel booking. He responded promptly and the offer was great.

    I wouldn’t hesitate using this service again.

  14. Lucky’s website, Lucky’s content. Why is he not allowed to post (helpful) content that also supports Ford’s business while allowing other agents to post their info in the comments?

  15. This was helpful, especially the screen shots! I get that there’s a cross-promotion going on but it didn’t get in the way. Only thing missing is what TravelinWilly mentioned above: FS in Sydney isn’t the typical FS – it’s a couple of notches below. Location however can’t be beat. You’re going to want to avoid the throngs of people when buses with airline staff and tours pull up and the entrance feels more like a concert than a FS lobby.

  16. Staying at FS Budapest right now booked via Ford. Great Deal for sure, our third time booking FS properties through him and the benefits/upgrades have been great.

    Thanks Ford!

  17. Very interesting and useful information. I have never used a travel agent as I have always been of the opinion that they are for olds that are incapable of using the internet (**cough** mom **cough**), but have heard that depending on the particulars of your travel they can sometimes get deals that can beat what you can get on your own.
    Lucky was very up-front about the Ford angle and personally I don’t see the problem so many seem to be worked up about. Seems like a win-win to me if somebody wants to take advantage of having Ford help them out and Ford gets some fair compensation. I had no idea that this was possible and that Ford could help so am glad to know. If you don’t want to use Ford then don’t.
    I am quite sure everyone here has friends or family with a certain job or skill set and has at least mentioned this to someone else in order to help them and help their friend or family member at the same time. No different than mentioning a positive recommendation for any other business. It’s called word-of-mouth and is a very popular and powerful marketing aid.

  18. Interesting. Have never used this service but will have to try it at some point. Do any of these agents work with LHW or SLH (which are not part of Hyatt)? Currently planning an extended holiday through South America and looking at some of those hotels.

    As an aside taxes (called GST) are included in any price you are shown in Australia and they are a federal tax – there are no state taxes.

    I agree with above re the hotel. It is a nice hotel in a great location but nothing special – certainly not normal Four Seasons standard. I used to stay there a lot for work before I was educated on points by a salesperson – so moved to the Intercontinental. I don’t actually think it is any better than the InterContinental (which has amazing views from their club lounge).

  19. I wish I had known this a year or so ago when I booked at the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney for my wedding night.

    I was tossing up whether to use the Four Seasons site or to book on hotels.com where I would have got an effective ~10% credit towards an ’11th night’. What ultimately swayed me was my perception that you get better service and upgrade possibilities by booking direct. I hummed and hared about it, and eventually booked directly with the hotel.

    I’ve always received very good service from Four Seasons, resulting in upgrades to suites or better on three occasions: once because our room wasn’t ready on arrival, once because our pool turned green and in Sydney because our room wasn’t ready and it was our wedding night. We got the Presidential Suite, which was magnificent, and obviously what we deserved as newlyweds!

    If I had known what I now know from your article – maybe we wouldn’t have endured those hours of anxiety when our room wasn’t ready.

  20. Thanks for the tip. I have never used a travel agent, but would be open to it for a better deal. Do you have to pay upfront or can you book a regular rate that you pay when you stay? And, does Ford get good deals for non-chain hotels? I have a few upcoming stays in Spain that I could price out.

  21. Booking directly gets you more BA credit card frequent flyer points and I don’t eat breakfast-go to the gym instead.

  22. I cannot believe how many people just look for opportunity to post hateful comments. If you are not interested in Lucky’s post, don’t read it.

  23. We booked the Four Seasons Cairo and the Four Seasons Johannesburg through Ford this past January and we could not have been more pleased with the whole experience. We received the preferred amenities and Ford and his staff followed up on one small issue that arose.

    The hotels seemed to make a special effort with us, presumably because we were connected to an enterprise that could, if they exceeded expectations, send more business their way.

    I find it interesting that so many people want to comment on what you choose to highlight among the various aspects of the travel experience. You obviously will recommend providers of quality services and the fact that Ford is your partner shouldn’t disqualify him from being recommended. We certainly recommend his services.

  24. @jetset I really don’t understand the negativity here – Lucky is providing helpful info if you want to maximise benefits and added value booking a Four Seasons. The Ford element is irrelevant, if of no interest move on but to some this will be very helpful. It’s his site and his content if you don’t like it you don’t have to visit.

  25. Lucky,
    Thank you for this information. I’m looking at booking a Four Seasons for a wedding later this year. However, knowing that it’s not part of any hotel benefit program has caused me to hesitate. Knowing that these benefits are available is very helpful to me. Thank you!

  26. I had never worked with Virtuoso before, but a couple years ago I decided to take my bff of 50 years (our anniversary) and her daughter to Disney World. I used a company called My VIP Tours to give us our own guide who knows all the ins and outs of how to make the most of a day at Disney. Disney World offers this service, but My VIP Tours was way less $$. I highly recommend this if you only want to spend one full day at Disney – OMG, the best! My VIP Tours must be a Virtuoso agent, and they booked us at the Disney Four Seasons. When I got there, I decided to splurge and upgrade us to a 1 bedroom suite. The perks were unbelievable! I got 5 $100 credits to use ANYWHERE IN DISNEY!! And because we were getting upgraded, the difference to go to the 1 bedroom was less than the benefits. Fabulous hotel, wonderful service from both Four Seasons and My VIP Tours, made for an unforgettable weekend. When possible, I do try and use AMEX platinum at Fine Hotels and Resorts bc I get 5 pts per $.

  27. Like David Ourisman, who is a friend of mine, I can offer FSPP, Virtuoso, plus the in house preferred programs like Peninsula Pen Club, Oetker Pearl, Rosewood Elite, Mandarin Oriental Fan Club, Dorchester Collection Diamond Club, Marriott Luxury STARS, etc. not only can we offer superb amenities but we also have very good relationships with the Sales team and sometimes hotel management.

  28. Regardless of who you book with, Four Seasons Sydney is a very ordinary hotel. It was built back in the early 80’s & opened as a Regent Hotel. If you are a tourist & want to be right on the harbor, the location can’t be beaten. Sadly, Sydney is not known for fine, luxury hotels!

    August is Winter in Sydney and low season which is probably why the rate. Sydney hotel rates are very fluid. And all taxes (GST) in Australia are already Included in any price quoted for anything.

    Thanks for the suggestions Lucky!

  29. @MDA Ford helped us with a LHW booking through Virtuoso once.A little complicated booking:3 adults in 1 room.He was thoughtful and patient.A great stay.Back to your question.Base on Virtuoso.It covers about 90% LHW and 60-70% SLH.And I’m sure Ford will find a best way.

  30. Stop complaining. Good grief! I found the post interesting and didn’t know about this program. The fact that Ford works as an agent and I’m getting insider information is what makes this BLOG better than others. Keep up the good work.

  31. “HOW WOULD I KNOW THAT?!?!?”

    “You’re too funny. This has turned from what I thought was going to be ‘way to go getting a cheap rate at a wonderful hotel’ to ‘Sunny… do better.’”

    lol. I think the biggest lesson here, aside from booking with a Four Seasons Preferred Partner, is to compare apples to apples. It amazes me that so many people, like your friend, don’t bother checking the currency of their rates/fares/tickets/etc. or see whether or not taxes/fees are included. Worse, they lock themselves in a nonrefundable “deal” without checking to see if it really is a deal. I hope your friend learned a few things through this!

  32. To the complainers: nobody forces you to read the post!
    I used Ford’s services and can only recommend him, he is efficient and a pleasure to deal with, even when it’s only for a one night stay in a W hotel. I would actually like to see some posts from Ford again!

  33. Location is great 5 Stars. Hotel is now 38 years old and reflects it. At its inception it was a classy 4 Star Regent Hotel. Needs to be pulled down and rebuilt, refurbishments don’t work. Not up to Four Seasons standard.

  34. Everyone knows, or at least after a bit of research, that the hotel to stay in Sydney is Park Hyatt not Four Seasons. I’ve stayed at Four Seasons all over the world but when I went to Sydney earlier this year, I was very glad I stayed at Park Hyatt. With that said, Park Hyatt operates very corporate way unlike Mandarin or Four Seasons. Glad to check Sydney off my list… with that said, Sydney is absolutely beautiful and wouldn’t mind returning again and begrudgingly stay at the Park Hyatt…

    Surprised regular readers of this blog doesn’t know about Four Seasons Preferred Partner program…. Lucky have been mentioning this about once every three/ four months for the past couple years at least. Anyone who regularly stays at a Four Seasons or Mandarin and not book through a travel agent needs to wake up and smell the coffee…

  35. Not a good article and certainly very strings attached.

    Nowhere is it mentioned that hotels.com is essentially 9% off as every 11th nite is free. And up to January, there was another 10 percent off using the venture card from capital one. And even now, there are ways to get 14 percent off essentially off hotels.com. Four seasons, not so much. Maybe 3% off using some Chase cards.

    So many vague statements in this article and a lack of math. It’s credibility straining.

  36. I used to only book FS direct through their website but now exclusively use FHR. I would certainly try a preferred partner but one of the other perks of using my platinum card and FHR when booking Four Seasons is 5x points.

  37. Side note, I don’t know why people complain when an article doesn’t interest them. Just don’t read it. I personally find this stuff useful and am interested in the vast range of air and hotel topics covered on this site beyond just the substantive (and high quality) trip reviews.

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