Flash Sales and Free Hotels

Flash Sales and Free Hotels


DiscoverAmerica.com is the official travel and tourism website of the United States. In April and May Discover America Daily Getaways sponsored by American Express offered travelers some of the best bargains of 2011. Loyalty Traveler blog analyzed the high value of several Daily Getaways travel flash sales–limited time, deep discount offers. Most of these flash sale offers sold out within an hour, if not minutes or even seconds. Consumers who were quick on the mouse click bought deep-discount hotel stays and car rentals for future travel.

Sample Daily Getaways Travel Offers:
Prices shown are 10 percent discount off the listed sales price for payment using an American Express credit card.

  • 30,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points were $300 compared to $720 on Hyatt’s website.
  • 40,000 Choice Privileges points were $150 compared to $400 when buying directly from the hotel program.
  • 250,000 Hilton HHonors points were $1,238 and sufficient for a six-night VIP category 7 hotel award like Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort or Conrad Maldives Rangali Island where daily rates typically exceed $500 per night.
  • 20 percent off the dollar price of Marriott Travel Cards allowed members to buy discount hotel stays with the ability to earn points, promotion credit and elite status on those stays.

The Daily Getaways deals are as good as you can find anywhere for cheap travel. Discount buys for Marriott travel cards and hotel loyalty points from Hyatt Gold Passport, Hilton HHonors, IHG Priority Club, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards were an opportunity to get hotel rooms or airline miles at bargain basement prices. Fairmont, Carlson, Omni, Loews, Gaylord and Las Vegas hotels offered discount hotel stays. Avis, Alamo and Hertz offered car rental discounts. United had 20 roundtrip U.S.-48 tickets for $280.

This is the second year of spring season travel deals through Discover America. Last year the U.S. Travel Association teamed up with the leading hotel and car rental brands and launched Daily Getaways weekday sales from May to June 2010 in a bid to stimulate summer tourism. The flash sales gave hotel chains and car rental agencies the opportunity to promote their brands while consumers saved.

Confusing to consumers is the way many Daily Getaways are advertised. For example, “Two nights at Ramada for $100” may not grab your attention as a high-value travel offer. The sale was actually for 32,000 Wyndham Rewards points and Ramada hotel nights were just one redemption option. Perhaps 12,800 miles in United Mileage Plus or American AAdvantage for $100 is more eye-catching. This is the exchange rate for 32,000 Wyndham Rewards points converted to frequent flyer miles.

The high value of Daily Getaways travel offers make DiscoverAmerica.com a site to watch for future travel bargains. Though you may have to wait until spring 2012 for the next round of Daily Getaways, if the past two years indicate, this will only be an annual U.S. travel showcase. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that major hotel chains, car rental agencies and airlines continue to participate with Discover America for future Daily Getaways.

Are free night promotions coming to an end?

Starwood Preferred Guest is the first hotel loyalty program in 2011 to offer unlimited free nights with a “Stay Three, Getaway Free” promotion. SPG members earn one free night at a Starwood Resort for every three hotel stays from May 1 to July 31. All Starwood Hotels worldwide are participating for earning free nights, but only 200 Starwood Resorts allow free night redemption through Dec. 21, 2011.

A three-month promotion period is the only restriction to earning unlimited free nights at Starwood Resorts. Redemption options include the St. Regis Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico that normally requires 30,000 points per night for this SPG category 7 resort. SPG’s Stay Three, Getaway Free may be the best value hotel loyalty promotion of 2011.

The free night promotions after two to four hotel stays are waning in this third year since the economic downturn hit hotel travel hard in late 2008. Hyatt Gold Passport was the lone perennial stalwart for free night promotions in the hotel boom years of 2004 to 2008. Then the recession of 2009 had all major hotel chains offering unprecedented free night promotions. In 2011 Best Western celebrated its rebranding effort with a free night after three stays from February to April and Club Carlson launched with a free night after two stays from April 15-June 15, but both these offers limited members to one earned free night.

The pull-back on free night offers indicates 2011 is a year of rising optimism for hoteliers. The opportunity to earn free Starwood Resort nights in 2011 for hotel stays from May to July is a high-value promotion for paid stays now and a free resort stay later.

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