The major hotel chains put a lot of effort into getting you to book directly with them rather than through online travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia, etc. That’s because hotels have to pay a commission of 10%+ when you book through an online travel agency, which they don’t have to pay when you book directly with them.
This is one of the main reasons that a few years back many hotel brands introduced “members only” rates for those who book directly with them. These rates offer up to 10% off the best available rate, and are intended to get you to book with the hotel directly rather than through an OTA.
One of the other ways that the major hotel chains try to get you to book direct is by offering best rate guarantees. The intent is that they’ll match the better rate that you find elsewhere and offer you some sort of a discount. This is a smart marketing technique, as it’s intended to reinforce the idea that you’ll always find the best rate when booking directly on the hotel’s site.
Now, it’s clear that hotels use this more as a marketing technique than actually intending people to consistently take advantage of it. The idea is that if someone booking a hotel sees that the hotel offers a best rate guarantee, they just assume they’ll get the best deal when booking direct.
However, in reality this has been an opportunity many people have taken advantage of to consistently score deals on hotel stays, since often slightly better rates are available elsewhere. So we’ve seen a trend whereby many hotels have devalued their best rate guarantees. Up until now, IHG has really offered the best guarantee of any hotel group — they’d offer you the first night of your stay free if you found a better rate elsewhere. For a one night stay, that meant you could stay for free.
Well, IHG has modified their best rate guarantee — now IHG’s best rate guarantee offers to match the price you find elsewhere and give you 5x the IHG Rewards Club points for successful claims, up to a maximum of 40,000 bonus points.
At most brands, IHG Rewards Club members earn 10 points per dollar spent, meaning you’d get an extra 40 points per dollar spent, for up to a maximum of $1,000 of spend. I value IHG points at about half a cent each, so that’s like the equivalent of getting 20% of your rate back in the form of points.
That’s still better than nothing, but certainly not nearly as generous in a vast majority of cases as the old policy.
Ultimately I’m not surprised to see this change. The biggest benefit IHG gets from a best rate guarantee is just the peace of mind of those booking with them. They don’t actually want people to take advantage of it, and they assume that most people aren’t looking at the details of the claims, etc. I suspect it was a very small percentage of guests making a vast majority of claims, so they decided that no longer made sense.
Of course that’s bad for those who benefited from this, but I see where they’re coming from.
Did you ever file an IHG best rate guarantee claim?
(Tip of the hat to YHBU)