Today (September 15, 2017): How to book a room at a Four Seasons hotel at the cheapest rate?
Four Seasons is one of the world’s premier ultra-luxe hospitality brands and the company is rapidly expanding its already impressive global portfolio which consists of 100 properties in more than 40 countries (with many more developments in the pipeline). Although I am more of a Soneva and Aman junkie, Four Seasons has a die-hard fan base among the rich and famous, since the hotel’s group objective is to be recognized as the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts and residence clubs wherever they locate. Four Seasons properties are created with enduring value using superior design and finishes, and supported with a deeply instilled ethic of unmatched personal service, which is probably the brand’s most succesful selling point. Doing so allows Four Seasons to satisfy the needs and tastes of discerning travelers, and to maintain its position as the world’s best known luxury hotel brand.
But with the group’s stellar reputation also comes a heavy price tag and staying at a Four Seasons hotel requires you to dig deep in your pockets (with most entry room rates above $500 USD per night, excluding taxes and any extras). Unfortunately, Four Seasons currently lacks a formalized points loyalty program – probably because their wealthy guests keep returning anyway – although they have introduced an invitation-only elite guest program called ‘Four Seasons Card’ that offers exclusive services to their most loyal travelers. However, there are some tips & tricks that can save you a few bucks on costs when staying at one of the brand’s hotels and resorts. I hereby share with you the 5 best strategies – at least in my opinion – for booking a room (or even suite) into a Four Seasons property. You can share your own tricks in the comments below.
1. Check the room rate on aggregator websites
The lowest room rate at a Four Seasons hotel for your requested travel dates will always be found on the aggregator websites Hotelscombined and Trivago. These aggregators verify hotel prices at hundreds of other sites (e.g. Booking.com, Hotels.com, Otel.com, Hotelopia, Expedia, etc ….) and show where you can book the cheapest room rate. You can try it out for yourself below:
Once you have found the lowest rate, I recommend you to book via either hotels.com (and submit a best rate guarantee in case that hotels.com would not offer the cheapest rate) or Virtuoso (in case the discounted rate found via the aggregator website does not outweigh the free Virtuoso perks).
2. Book the room via Hotels.com
- You collect credits towards free hotel nights via Hotels.com’s Rewards program. When you book and stay 10 nights at eligible hotels, you’ll get 1 night free to redeem at another. Hotels.com works out the average value of all the 10 nights you’ve collected and gives it back to you as a free night. All you need to do is make a free Rewards account and login into your account before making any bookings.
- You can often apply 10% discount coupons. Unfortunately, almost all of the world’s major hotel chains are excluded from the list of hotels for which you can use a discount coupon (except for Four Seasons; more on that below).
- Hotels.com also has an excellent Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) program: If you find a cheaper price, Hotels.com will match that rate (and refund you the difference) after you submit an online BRG claim. The Hotels.com BRG is available only for exact itinerary matches, including property, room type, and dates of travel (as is the case with all other BRG programs). The BRG also includes an identical cancellation policy (which can make it harder for your BRG claim to be approved).
Those three advantages work very well when booking a stay at a Four Seasons hotel. As mentioned above, Four Season does not have a loyalty program, so you may as well book the room via Hotels.com instead of the official website so that you will get some of your money back in the end (by investing it towards free hotel nights). In addition, as mentioned above, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is the only major hotel brand that is most of the time eligible for discount coupons on Hotels.com, almost guaranteeing you a 10% discount on every Four Seasons booking. For example, right now, Hotels.com is offering a 10% discount for bookings made via its UK website by applying the code EML1109UK. However, the coupon is only valid when you click through from your Hotels.com coupon email to the website (so you must have subscribed to the Hotels.com newsletter) or use the Hotels.com mobile app, and you need to book by October 1st 2017 and travel by April 1st 2018. Keep in mind that when you use a 10% discount coupon, your stay will not earn credits in the Rewards program.
3. Book the room via Virtuoso
Virtuoso is not your classic hotel booking engine website. It’s the industry’s leading network of luxury travel advisors, spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors. So when you book your holiday with Virtuoso, most of the time, you will be in touch with a Virtuoso travel agent and not make the booking online yourself. There are some Virtuoso travel agencies though that offer an online booking tool, such as Classic Travel, which has an excellent website and is my overall preferred Virtuoso travel agency.
Booking a room at a Four Seasons hotel via Virtuoso instead of via another hotel booking website has the following advantages:
- The single best reason to book a Four Seasons stay through a Virtuoso travel agent is that it means value for money as it will get you access to special, complimentary VIP amenities and perks, such as room upgrade, free dinners, spa treatments and/or unique luxury travel experiences. almost all Four Seasons properties are covered by the Virtuoso perks.
- In most cases, the Virtuoso rate is identical to the Best Available Rate (BAR) found on the official Four Seasons website, which is a flexible rate that can be cancelled without penalty. For that reason, you’re leaving money on the table if you book a paid stay at the best available rate (BAR) via the Four Seasons website and not via Virtuoso.
It’s important to emphasize that early booking discount rates, special promotional packages, corporate rates, group rates, and other discounted rates do not qualify for Virtuoso benefits. Therefore, I always recommend to check the lowest, often discounted rate on the aggregator websites Trivago and Hotelscombined, and then weigh up the pros and cons before deciding whether to book via Virtuoso (best available rate with free benefits) or not.
4. Book the room via your credit card company
When you own an American Express credit card, you can book almost any Four Seasons hotel via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. This will offer you the same benefits as when you would book a Four Seasons hotel via a Virtuoso travel agent:
- Room upgrade upon arrival when available
- Daily (continental) breakfast for two people
- Guaranteed late 4pm check-out time
- Noon check-in when available
- A spa, food, and/or beverage credit (valued at a minimum of US$ 100 USD)
Holders of a Visa Signature credit card can also benefit from Virtuoso-like extra perks at most Four Seasons hotels & resorts when they make the booking via their credit card travel office and/or pay with their credit card. Contact your local VISA credit card company to find out whether they offer this travel service.
When you own a Citi Prestige Card (USA citizens only) you can make use of the fourth night free benefit: when you book a four night stay at a Four Seasons property, you get reimbursed the cost of the fourth night, minus any taxes and service fees. The fourth night benefit is calculated based on the average nightly rate of your complete stay. Reservations must be made through Thankyou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge and you must pay for your stay with your Citi Prestige Card, ThankYou points, or a combination of the two.
5. Don’t book the room via the official Four Seasons website
You’re leaving money on the table when you book a stay at a Four Seasons hotel directly via the official hotel website, and here’s why:
- Four Seasons doesn’t have a revenue based loyalty program, so you cannot earn credits with the company towards free hotel nights. The lack of a loyalty program was explained by Four Seasons’s CEO Allen Smith as a decision based on customer feedback that showed that “Four Seasons guests are far less concerned about accumulating points to be redeemed for rewards as they are being in a position where they’re recognized and we understand their preferences and can serve them in that highly personalized way they’ve come to expect”. Well, they certainly never asked for my feedback when staying at Four Seasons hotels (and I stay at them a lot). The only way to make your stays at Four Seasons hotels count for some kind of loyalty scheme is by making the bookings via Hotels.com, where you can invest into a free hotel night for every ten nights booked (which can be spent at other Four Seasons hotels).
- IMHO, Four Seasons offers the worst Best Rate Guarantee program in the industry. If you find a lower qualifying rate within 24 hours of making your reservation on the official Four Seasons website, Four Seasons will match the lower rate but you won’t receive any additional discount (which is standard policy with most other hotel brands). You may as well book via Hotels.com, which offers the same kind of BRG and at least allows you to participate in a great loyalty scheme.
- Never book a flexible ‘best available rate’ on the Four Seasons website. Once again, as explained above, you’re leaving money on the table if you book a paid stay at a Four Seasons hotel that is a Virtuoso member via the hotel website and not via Virtuoso, because you can’t receive Virtuoso benefits (such as breakfast, free upgrade, and a resort credit) by booking directly with the hotel.
It’s utterly weird that Four Seasons isn’t rewarding loyal consumers who book directly via the company’s official website, but that you can score free stays at Four Seasons hotels by booking via Hotels.com or get very nice benefits at Four Seasons properties (as if you would have elite status) by booking through Virtuoso or your credit card company. The only exception to the rule are holders of the ‘Four Seasons Card’. These guests are invited by Four Seasons into a program where they are given a personalized card with a unique 9 digit ID – as well as a supplemental card for their luxury travel advisor – that provides an exclusive phone number and email address to use when making Four Seasons hotel reservations. It’s not a reward credit card nor does it allow you to earn or redeem hotel points. The Four Seasons Card program was developed to ensure that the brand’s most loyal guests consistently receive an exceptional level of care and attention when they travel to any of the Four Seasons properties around the world.
That said, it is rumored that Four Seasons will launch a reward based loyalty program soon.
Enjoy the weekend and stay tuned for Monday when I reveal a new top 10 travel list.