After meeting Stephen Perrine recently, Editor-In-Chief of Best Life magazine and all-around great guy, I picked up the current issue and came across an article by Peter Greenberg, author of Hotel Secrets From the Travel Detective. Mr. Greenberg advises readers looking for hotel room upgrades to call ahead to the general manager or director of sales and establish a relationship. This explains the calls I’ve received lately, seemingly out of the blue, from guests wanting to chat.
I think I speak on behalf of all general managers when I say I hope not many people take Mr. Greenberg’s advice. We’re always happy to hear from guests, but we’re not so eager to hear from guests looking for a free upgrade. If you’re determined to get an upgrade, my advice is to request one at the time of reservation. If the agent can’t confirm it then, ask him or her to note it on your reservation, with a reason for the request if you have one. Management reviews arrivals each day, and they are in the best position to upgrade you if something is available. But don’t have a hissy fit upon arrival if it hasn’t been granted. If you really need a bigger room, pony up.
When hotel managers travel we try to take care of one another, offering a special rate, upgrade or amenity, and sometimes even a comp room. If this sounds like favouritism, it is. GMs are “Connectors”; we have a vast network of contacts in the travel industry and we talk about our brand experiences ad nauseum to anyone who will listen. People come to us for recommendations, and we’re always happy to dispense our sage advice. So it’s in our best interest to recruit one another as brand advocates. It’s also nice to have a deposit in the favour bank.
Before I travel I go online to see where I want to stay, then email the general manager to request an industry rate. I almost always get a favourable reply. Except last week, when I contacted Hotel Le Meurice in Paris. It’s more old-world than I tend to like, but I thought it would be fun to experience, and I’ve heard great things. I almost fell to the floor when I saw their rate: CDN $1,292 per night. They were also offering a “Decoding Da Vinci” package, which I thought was a bit unoriginal and bandwagon-ish, but only because I’m (apparently) the only person on earth who thought the book was semiliterate pulp. (Oops, so much for Dan Brown ever staying at Opus). My request for an industry rate was met with a polite but resounding “Non!” September is peak season, my contact explained, and no discounts are available, not on any day, not at any time, not for anyone. Tres désolée.
I was disappointed, but I do respect the decision, even admire it, and certainly envy it. Oh, to be in a position to banish discounts entirely – let them eat cake! Hotel managers understand better than anyone that peak season – or any busy time – is not the time to ask for favours. We must make hay while the sun shines. So please don’t ask us for a seniors rate for your Aunt Sally during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
As for upgrades, hotels are becoming as tightfisted as airlines. When I worked as a sales manager at Canadian Airlines I was overwhelmed with requests for upgrades, special fares and free flights. I learned from my manager that the industry was changing, and we no longer gave things away, not without a trade of equal value. Unfortunately, this change didn’t happen fast enough for Canadian; they went bankrupt. The same principle applies to hotels. If you want a gift certificate for your golf tournament, be prepared to convince us how the exposure will benefit the hotel. Charities are an exception, but even then the hotel benefits by generating goodwill, helping a good cause, and making staff feel magnanimous.
Incidentally, Mr. Greenberg’s name looked familiar to me, so I looked him up in Guest History, the hotel’s equivalent of Google. Sure enough, he stayed at Opus a while back. Did he get an upgrade? Even better. He got a comp room.
posted by Daniel Edward Craig at 1:47 PM
Keep on writing Daniel. Don’t let the PR folks over sanitize it. This is a VERY well written blog and I will be telling others about it. I am a consultant who works with hotels and I’m a huge fan of blogs. Well done!
Oh god… I completely agree with your review on the De Vinci Code. It is a semiliterate pulp. Fun blog. It gives me another reason for staying at your hotel this coming October (just to stalk you.) I would even pay for the internet connection (BTW, who charges for internet access anyway… you need to work on that.) May I get an upgrade? (I promise I won’t call)
LOL finely written and throughly entertaining =)Now I can tell my wife that I made the right choice in choosing Opus over the Sheraton Wall Centre cause at least it’s managed by someone with humour, not a faceless group of people in suits. I actually came across your blog when I googled “Opus hotel reviews”