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Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by uggboy, Sep 18, 2013.
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|| Which Do You Prefer... Chain or Independent Hotels? ||
I used to use a lot more chains- now more independents or very small local chains for example.
It's the same with us, at first we booked usually chains because of the perks associated with status when staying with them, but gradually this has changed into booking many more independent / affiliated hotels or locally owned smaller chains lately. Overall, our experiences tend to be more rewarding outside the traditional chains in terms of style, service, cuisine and often location too. Having said this, we also still book chain hotels, but this depends on what's on offer for the location / what's the price points and how rewarding it is on a personal level to stay with any given hotel.
I have used chains more often on the domestic side for points and perks, but overseas trips typically land me in independent, local hotels or B&Bs as I enjoy the intimacy and friendliness of a smaller operation when traveling abroad.
It all boils down on a few things incl. where to travel and what's the occasion. One thing seems to be clear, that smaller independent hotels are usually offer more interesting rooms, often a better location and better personalized services / friendliness. Thanks for your insights, very interesting on how to earn / burn points / perks and when to book / use independent hotels / B&Bs on your travels. We also find that usually independent hotels offer better quality food for breakfast or dinner, that's what we experienced many times this year. It's rare that a large hotel matches this IMHO.
What's the top US Independent hotel right now?
This would be very interesting as the chain choices are often pretty clear aka Park Hyatt, JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Conrad, Waldorf Astoria offerings.
I try hard to avoid chains where I don't have status; I do the same with airlines. If there's a problem, I want to be treated well.
Generally I like the more individual hotels that are affiliated with chains, such as Starwood's Luxury Collection. I also look for hotels in iconic or historic buildings. Paradors are great this way, but I wouldn't classify them as a chain in the usual sense (no frequent sleeper program AFAIK). Small chains like Raffles can also be good experiences. Other good options are the specially selected reservation associations that give perks, such as FHR or LHW.
In some destinations, such as China, I very much want a chain, while in other locations, such as Paris or smaller European towns, I avoid chain properties except in special circumstances.
Indeed, many traditional chains offer affiliated hotel brand aka Luxury Collection by Starwood, Autograph Collection by Marriott or Ascent Collection by Choice, here, the perks come with high status, and these are properties who are iconic aka classical buildings, ultra modern design hotels or offer a special "premium" location which wouldn't be otherwise bookable. A great choice IMHO, getting the best of both worlds, on the one hand, the reliability of chains, but on the other hand, the uniqueness of very special properties.
Yes, especially in smaller cities or towns in Europe, it's more advisable to book an independent hotel, here, the independents truly shine, they offer often better locations, many have usually a superior restaurant offering, better value between overnight rate and service, plus original design features which wouldn't be on offer at a traditional chain hotel, beside the above mentioned affiliated hotels of course or let's say a St. Regis, here beauty and luxury is common, or such niche chains as the Lungarno Collection in Italy, especially in Florence, we had the pleasure in August to stay at the Gallery Hotel Art in Florence for 4 nights, and it is located only a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio, but still feels a world away in their private lane, the Fusion restaurant offered superior food from Tuscany and the art in the lobby is unique, plus the room we had was a beauty in itself, from luxury bedding, Salvatore Ferragamo amenities to double sinks in the bathroom, plus all the handles in the room are made from leather which is used by Ferragamo. Of course, the Lungarno Collection is owned by Ferragamo. The hotel / booked via it's website came also with free entrance to the Salvatore Ferragamo Musuem and we had breakfast, internet, upgrade included in our rate. Alone the location would be impossible to match with a traditional chain, only St. Regis and the Westin could nearly match the location as they're around 5 to 7 minutes walking distance along the River Arno located.
Our review here on Milepoint from our August stay:
Beside the Paradors, interesting also would be the Pousada offerings in Portugal, plus of course marketing / reservation organizations like LHW, Relais & Chateaux, Perferred Hotels and Resorts, Small Luxury Hotels of the World or even the members of Design Hotels.com.
Glad you mention China, as many do, in chains we trust, this seems to be the way to go at the moment, but I'm pretty sure independent hotels are growing into a major force too, smaller chains are already offered within LHW for example as well as some top independent hotels too. Let's see where this goes from here in China, when the hotel market matures here there will be a demand for uniqueness, combining global standards with local flavors. This we see already all over Asia, and I'm pretty sure China will follow suit.
One advantage of the major western chains in China is that there are strict rules regarding food procurement and handling. I've witnessed some shoocking lapses in hygiene at locally owned four star mainland Chinese hotels, even in tier one cities.
Big Chain with Big Perks and Benefits!
As long it's the "right" choice, perks / benefits are welcome.
All things equal, I lean towards chains internationally, as I know what to expect without midnight surprises. But the second time in the same city I am open, having explored the city during the first visit.
Good point- for me it really depends on the country. In PRC for example I almost always use chains unless I really know a hotel well enough to trust it (for example in Ningbo I tend to say at the Nangyuan which is not a chain but is a very good hotel in the new wing).
In Thailand on the opposite end with the exception of the Four Seasons in Bangkok I really tend to stay in independent hotels.
In Europe almost always independent hotels again with the exception of the beautiful Four Seasons in Paris, Prague, and Budapest.
In USA there seems to be a dearth of independent hotels and as such I almost always end up at chains- there are some exceptions such as the St. Julien in Boulder however in general independent hotels in the USA are ever harder to find.
As a generalization, an owner operated property will pay far more attention to details than 99% of chains.
normally chains as I like the perks unless where I'm heading doesn't have the chains or if the chain's locations are out of the way/not good.
Besides independents, for the past 10 years I've been using sites such as www.vrbo.com for our lodging needs.
I will book both offerings from time to time! its depend on the situation.
I book the hotel that's best situated (since I often don't have a car when I travel). Sometimes that's a chain, sometimes it's an independent property. I do whatever works!
How does this compare to airbnb.com ? I have seen quite a few mentions of vrbo.com in various blogs but have never used them.
and v.v. here, I've never used www.airbnb.com I really liked the mapping on the site though! I just might have to give the site a try next time I'm looking, thanks for posting.