I’m Finally Making My First Starwood Design Hotels Stay

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest
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In mid-November I wrote about the new marketing partnership between Starwood and Design HotelsDesign Hotels is a group of roughly 300 independent hotels around the world, all of which are selected for their emphasis on style and design.


While Design Hotels is Starwood’s 11th brand, it works a bit differently than the others. Starwood’s 10 other brands are fully integrated into the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while Design Hotels only has a “marketing partnership” with Starwood.


In other words, while you earn points and stay credits at Design Hotels, you don’t receive most other elite benefits. Here’s how it works:

  • SPG members receive high-speed internet access and complimentary bottled water in-room
  • Gold and Platinum members automatically receive a Starpoints bonus as their welcome gift
  • SPG members only earn Starpoints and elite qualifying stays/nights if booking through Starwood channels
  • Starpoints can be accrued at the same rate as at other SPG properties:
    • 10 points per dollar spent for base members
    • 11 points per dollar spent for Silver members
    • 12.5 points per dollar spent for Gold members
    • 15 points per dollar spent for Platinum members
    • 17.5 points per dollar spent for Platinum Premier members
    • Those paying with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card or Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card will earn 6 points per dollar spent at Design Hotels, just as they would at other Marriott properties

In other words, while you can earn points at these hotels, as an elite member it’s not going to be the same experience you get at other Starwood properties. You don’t technically get room upgrades, you can’t choose breakfast as your Platinum welcome amenity, there’s no guaranteed late check-out, etc. Still, earning points is better than nothing.

There are several Design Hotels properties I’ve been eying and have considered booking. However, in all cases, when push came to shove I decided there were better options out there. On one hand I want to stay at a unique property, while on the other hand I’d value these hotels a lot more if I received SPG Platinum benefits at them.

Well, I’m excited to soon be making my first Design Hotels stay. Specifically, I have an overnight coming up at Incheon Airport in a few weeks on my trip to Kazakhstan.

My initial plan was to just book the Grand Hyatt Incheon, which is a fantastic airport hotel. However, I happened to browse Starwood’s website, and noticed that they have a new Design Hotels property right at Incheon Airport — specifically, the Nest Hotel Incheon.


The hotel looks super funky, so I’m excited to stay at a unique property, rather than a cookie cutter corporate hotel.


This is even working out well for my Starpoints balance, since there’s a brand bonus in 2016, where I can earn 11,000 Starpoints for staying at all Starwood 11 brands. Design Hotels is probably the brand I’d otherwise struggle most to stay at, so this stay will help me earn those 11,000 bonus Starpoints.


Bottom line

I’ve been intrigued by Design Hotels since the marketing partnership with Starwood started, though in practice I do wish this were a fully integrated brand. While it’s nice to earn points and stay credits, as an SPG Platinum member it’s still a lot more valuable to stay at a property with breakfast, late check-out, a room upgrade, etc.

I’m curious to see what happens with Design Hotels when the Marriott and Starwood merger is completed. The combined group will have about 30 brands, so does it really make sense for them to have a single brand that they have a marketing partnership with, but that’s not fully integrated?

Have you stayed at a Design Hotels property since the marketing partnership kicked off? What was your experience like?

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  1. Ben, i stayed there twice this year and its awesome (although pretty much far from anything) but please, do try the truffle pasta; you won’t regret it!

  2. I stayed at a Design hotel in Madrid (the Principal). Overall it was fantastic, a continental breakfast was served anyway. As an SPG gold I don’t feel that special at any of the Starwoods though nothing has gone wrong where that would really matter. At the Principal, anyway, they seemed to treat all the guests especially well. The SPG gold gift was a bit of a snack.

    Branding-wise it could fit with some of the other groups maybe St Regis or W, but what seemed very different was the building itself – very “designy”. As I said, the service was superior but could be unique to that hotel, supporting keeping the brands a bit separate.

    I don’t have too many points of comparison as I’d typically stay at something that was W level or below, and this was much nicer.

  3. Hi Ben, yes I do have one that is upcoming end of this month at Wanderlust, Singapore.

    The room is SGD$ 169 (subjected to prevailing taxes) with breakfast. This is an advance purchase though while S$199++ (BAR with breakfast). I will let you know once I have stayed in this property.

    Decided to try something new this time in Singapore.

  4. For a Platinum guest used to getting an included breakfast, I think the key is so stay in one of the hotels that either:
    1) Has a great restaurant that you’d like to try for breakfast or
    2) Stay in a location that has other breakfast options nearby.
    That said, we chose the Kruisherenhotel in Maastricht, Netherlands this year and had a lovely stay. The staff was great and the property ideally located and of very interesting design. We would return in a heartbeat.

  5. I’ve stayed at the Nira Alpina in Silvaplana, Switzerland and it was a great experience even if it weren’t quite the full Platinum experience. I didn’t miss the room upgrade because all of the rooms at the hotel (as far as I could tell) have beautiful views, and breakfast was already included. I was also personally greeted by the owner of the hotel, and the general manager, as they wanted to talk to me (as an SPG platinum) about how to make the property better. I couldn’t recommend the hotel enough, as it’s a great example of not only Swiss Hospitality, but also a great Design Hotel.

    Also of note, if you arrive at the St. Moritz train station, call them and they will come and pick you up and drop you off back there after you check out. I made the mistake of taking a taxi and was told when I got there that they would have sent someone to pick me up had I called them. Lesson learned.

  6. @Lucky – re the 11x brand promotion, the Design and Element are also by far the most frustrating for me given their locations and relatively small number or results. I’d really like to see SPG do what you mentioned last year and offer something between 5 and 11 brands. Heard any rumblings that they might do that this year?

  7. Looks interesting. Just be careful with any in Vienna. I tried to stay at two different SPG Design hotels there and both had major construction going on with no warning on the reservation of such. Found out the hard way and ended up at the average Vienna Marriott with average exec lounge.

  8. @William Good choice with Wanderlust in SG! I presume you got a Patone Room? Small, but clean, well appointed and a very cool vibe; for what prices are in SG for hotels, S169++ is also a good deal in an eclectic part of the city. Do give the in-hotel restaurant a go! Decent food for a decent price, although being in Little India in Singapore, you’d be surrounded be a myriad of cheaper, arguably better tasting food

  9. I’ve stayed at 2 – both in NYC – Gramercy Park and Hotel Americano. The first was nice, tho service was so-so (good, though had spots). The second was too dark, cramped and not great. Service was bad and irritating. I would stay at Gramercy again, though not go out of my way for it.

  10. I’m staying at Klaus K, a Design hotel in Helsinki, in a couple of weeks, and am eager to see how it is. I was already booked their before their Starwood affiliation, but fortunately on a refundable booking, because I rebooked using 4th night free with the Citi Prestige. Rather than taking paying less overall, I instead “upgraded” to a nicer room. I got the Prestige under the signup 50K signup bonus wire specifically because of this blog. Thanks, Ben!

  11. I’ve stayed at a few Design properties, and because they are independent it really is a YMMV type of situation. That, along with Tribute, are a nice experiment but I don’t really get it – just fold them together, put a little bit more brand consistency there, and reduce the brand count.

    I was lucky enough to pull off 2 Element stays and I really love the concept. Element Boston is right across from the Lawn on D, and the Element in Amsterdam Zuid is a great location for a lot of firms and on some great bike paths. I do wish they did more Elements and less Alofts and 4Ps, as they all serve a similar niche IME, ie, they are all priced similarly.

  12. I stayed a Design hotel in Croatia for my honeymoon, called Hotel Lone. My wife and I loved it. We were treated really well, with an amazing breakfast included daily. No status required.

  13. I’m also staying at Nest before our Korean Air F flight back to New York at the end of the month. Maybe we’ll run into you!

  14. Funny Lucky you must have been secretly reading my mind 😉 I just checked into the Mainport Rotterdam yesterday and I was not prepared to get shafted on almost all of my Platinum benefits! I as usual, thought I had to fight for my upgrade so with the platinum benefits in hand and the room availability I confronted the hotel manager about my room upgrade and she pulled out a graph with all the SPG benefits including a special section for Design hotels where we get basically nothing special 🙁 I was extremely disappointed especially because like Lucky mentioned SPG has a promotion for 11,000 bonus points if you stay at their brands but why would they make a promotion where your loyalty is not honored? I wouldn’t care so much but I’m 60nights in so far this year and I feel a good 75% of the time I need to fight for my upgrades or late check outs as most hotels try to lie about availability and avoid giving you what you have spent so long earning it’s just disappointing all around!

  15. I stayed at the other Singapore Design Hotel, the New Majestic. I chose it because it was in China Town, an interesting part of the city. I am a Gold member and my room came with a stocked, non-EtOH, minibar (2 cans of Coke), a free cell phone to use-even for international calls(!),and breakfast (fair). My room featured cut-outs of (presumably) movie stars, lots a great windows, a big, high-ceilinged airy room, and some street noise. The AC, bath amenities, pillows, free wi-fi, and bed comfort were all 4 star. I even got a newspaper. The staff was friendly but sparsely populated. My 2 nights here were great; I was very jet lagged but the metro stop was around the corner. By the way, the restaurant at this hotel is most excellent. I was tired and lazy, checked it on TA, and it was a memorable meal (with a 15% discount for hotel guests.

  16. I have stayed at the Nest Hotel as SPG Plat earlier this year when they’re running the Design Hotels free night promotion, got upgraded to a Deluxe Room (and based on other reports they seem to upgrade plats to the Deluxe Room quite regularly). The room itself was gorgeous and comfortable though dining options were a bit limited and overpriced in the hotel.

    I’ve never stayed at the GH Incheon so couldn’t compare, but overall I’ve enjoyed my stay here and wouldn’t hesitate to return.

    Feel free to check out the video I made here: https://youtu.be/7aMRWm7_X00

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