January 6 2010 by Chris McGinnis
Regular readers of this blog know that I occasionally get to survey some of Best Western's very best customers, a group known as the "Best Western Diamond 100." These road warriors have spent the night at a Best Western at least 250 times in the last five years, so they know a thing or two about a thing or two. That's why I'm always so excited to get inside their heads when it comes to issues of importance to business travelers.
In late November, we queried the BWD100 regarding their feelings and experiences when it comes to hotel upgrades. Here's a distillation of their responses.
- Upgrades don't come too frequently. 40 percent of the group said they only score them once or twice a year, but a lucky 25 percent said they get them five or more times per year. Only 18 percent said they never get them.
"I usually get good rooms but to get an upgrade, to a suite let's say, requires more then the kindness of the registration clerk. Different factors need to be put together including some luck," wrote one BWD100 member. Another added, "I was recently upgraded from a King business room to a King Business Suite with a separate bedroom. I would have loved to have my wife with me for this upgrade!"
- Elite level membership in hotel loyalty programs accounted for 32 percent of upgrades, while a surprising 19 percent said they got the upgrade by simply asking for one. A lucky 15 percent said they were upgraded because there were no standard rooms left when they checked in.
One happy BWD100 member wrote, "I was upgraded to a better room at the Best Western at Newark Airport. It was a suite. It was wonderful - the room had a hot tub as well as other amenities like a refrigerator, stove, couch and sitting table. It was truly an enjoyable experience."
- Most BWD100 members (58%) say the most important characteristic of an upgrade is a larger room. Fifty two percent feel better technology (such as flat screen TVs, high speed Internet or iPod docking stations) is important. About 40 percent felt upgraded bathrooms (Jacuzzi tubs, etc.) best represent what an upgrade is all about.
"I was upgraded at the Best Western in Weedsport, NY to a king room in the corner which is twice the size of the normal single room, very nice," wrote one member. Another added, "Locations with a multi room suite that allows me to hold meetings with customers who may not have an office building in the area are best for me." A very happy member said, "At the Best Western in Grants Pass, Ore., I was upgraded to a room with a hot tub!" Another said, "I recently got a room with a massage chair and large plasma TV."
- BWD100 members had plenty of advice and suggested strategies for scoring upgrades:
"Ask for it. You don't ask, you don't get. BUT don't look at gratis upgrades as an entitlement: If you book a particular class of room, car or flight, live with it and whatever you do, don't argue about it if your request isn't accommodated."
"Just be kind and polite. Remember the employees at a hotel are working to earn a living like everyone else."
"Always ask for an upgrade. You can't be told yes without asking, and without asking, you'll never know if there was upgrade available."
"Be friendly with the reception staff. If you frequent the hotel, get to know them by name--and the occasional gift doesn't hurt either. For example, I like to order a large pizza for dinner and share that with them."
"Ensure you ask early and travel in business attire. Keep trying. Over time, you will succeed, which in turn usually generates another upgrade."
"Ask for an upgrade, insist on an upgrade, demand an upgrade and then pray for an upgrade."