Today: How to book & save money at Belmond Hotels?
Belmond ranks among my favorite hotel brands in the world. The company manages an ultraluxe collection of iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries, bringing together some of the world’s most sensational journeys and destinations. With Belmond, you can stay in timeless hotels in Venice, Rio and St. Petersburg, embrace the spirit of adventure at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, glide along the rails through the Swiss Alps, soar across the Andes, or explore the mystifying rivers of Myanmar. The Belmond story began in 1976, when the company received the keys to the legendary Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice. A year later, they began collecting the carriages for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which launched in 1982 to whisk intrepid travelers to La Serenissima in style. Since then, Belmond has grown to a carefully curated collection of travel adventures, each with a rich story to tell.
But with the group’s stellar reputation also comes a heavy price tag as staying at a Belmond property often requires deep pockets (with entry room rates well above $1000 USD per night at several properties). Unfortunately, Belmond currently lacks a formalized points loyalty program – probably because their wealthy guests keep returning anyway – although they manage an invitation-only program called “Belmond Bellini Club” which offers exclusive rates and perks to the clients of the world’s top travel agents. However, there are some tips & tricks that can save you a few bucks on costs when staying at one of the brand’s properties. I hereby share the best strategies for booking a room (or even suite) at a Belmond property.
You can share your own tricks in the comments below.
1. BOOK VIA VIRTUOSO
Almost all Belmond properties belong to the portfolio of Virtuoso. Virtuoso is not your classic hotel booking engine website. It’s the industry’s leading, invitation-only network of the world’s best luxury travel advisors, spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors. So when you book a Belmond hotel via Virtuoso, most of the time, you will be in touch with a Virtuoso travel agent who will make the booking for you. 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 for booking a Belmond (or any other luxury) hotel.
Booking a Belmond hotel via Virtuoso instead of via the Belmond website has the following benefits:
- The single best reason to book a Belmond hotel through a Virtuoso travel agent is that it means value for money as you’ll get access to complimentary VIP perks, such as room upgrade, flexible check-in and check-out times, daily breakfast and a resort, spa, or food credit (or something else). While the exact perks differ from hotel to hotel, they can easily be worth a few hundred dollars per night.
- In most cases, the Virtuoso rate is identical to the Best Available Rate (BAR) found on the official Belmond 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 Belmond 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 rate on the Belmond website, and then weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether to book via Virtuoso (best available rate with free benefits) or not.
2. BOOK VIA BELMOND BELLINI CLUB
Belmond has established an invitation-only program – called Belmond Bellini Club – for top producing travel agents, in order to foster a relationship with these agent and to increase sales. Belmond Bellini Club offers clients of these travel agents complimentary amenities and VIP status at Belmond hotels, trains and river cruises worldwide. These benefits are a bit similar to the perks offered by Virtuoso, although Belmond Bellini Club covers more properties than those offered by Virtuoso, and for some properties, the Belmond Billini Club perks are more rewarding than the Virtuoso perks. The Bellini Club is named after the famous cocktail from Harry’s Bar at Belmond’s Hotel Cipriani.
When you book a Belmond hotel through a travel agent that is member of the exclusive Belmond Bellini Club, you will get the following benefits:
- Complimentary upgrade upon arrival at time of check-in, based on availability
- Buffet or full breakfast for 2, daily
- Fully flexible hotel or resort credit up to $200 USD per stay
- $500 USD gift voucher for future travel when purchasing an experience of $5,000 USD
- VIP Recognition by property management and staff
- Special in-room welcome amenity
- Top-of-the-waitlist priority for high demand properties and experiences
- Complimentary Internet
Travel agents that are members of Belmond Bellini Club enjoy a level of contact and service when working with Belmond that’s not accessible to other agencies or through booking direct. As a Bellini member, these travel agents work with Belmond’s VIP desk for any special requests, concierge services, and waitlist clearance. Additionally, they have access to special promotions and rates not available to the general public. My preferred Belmond Bellini Club travel agency is Classic Travel, which also allows travelers to book the Bellini Club rates online.
3. BOOK VIA YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANY
When you own an American Express credit card, you can book almost any Belmond hotel via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. This will offer you similar benefits as those offered via a Virtuoso travel agent:
- Room upgrade upon arrival when available
- Daily (continental) breakfast for two people
- Guaranteed late 4pm check-out time
- Noon check-in when available
- A spa, food, and/or beverage credit (valued at a minimum of US$ 100 USD)
Holders of a Visa Signature credit card can also benefit from Virtuoso-like extra perks at most Belmond 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 Belmond 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.
4. BOOK 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 (although I have been able to use discount coupons for booking Belmond properties in the past)
- 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 Belmond hotel. As mentioned above, Belmond does not have a loyalty program, so you may as well book the room via Hotels.com instead of the official Belmond website so that you will get some of your money back in the end (by investing it towards free hotel nights).
5. BOOK VIA THE BELMOND WEBSITE
Except for the Best Available Rates (BAR) – which are always best booked via a Virtuoso travel agent – it makes sense to check the Belmond website for the presence of any offers, packages or special deals. You can check these deals by clicking on the “offer” tab on the top of the home page of each Belmond hotel. Several types of deals are offered:
- Single hotel package deals require a multi-day stay at one property and usually include a discount on the room rate and a few benefits such as airport transfers and complimentary wellness treatments.
- Multi-hotel package deals are offered in destinations where Belmond manages multiple properties in close proximity to one another (e.g. Italy, Peru). The package deals usually offer a discounted stay when you visit multiple hotels during one itinerary in addition to complimentary transfers between the hotels and few other benefits (e.g. spa treatments).
That said, booking directly via the Belmond website is my least preferred method of booking, and here’s why:
- Belmond doesn’t have a revenue based loyalty program, so you cannot earn credits with the company towards free hotel nights. The only way to make your stays at Belmond 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 Belmond hotels).
- Most hotel brands offer a best rate guarantee: if you find a lower qualifying rate on the internet, the hotel will match the lower rate, and often throw in an additional discount. Unfortunately, Belmond does not offer a best rate guarantee (as they claim that they offer the lowest available rates anyway).
- Never book a flexible ‘best available rate’ on the Belmond website. Once again, as explained above, you’re leaving money on the table if you book a paid stay at a Belmond 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.
IMHO, it’s utterly weird that Belmond isn’t rewarding loyal consumers who book directly via the company’s official website, but that you can score free stays at Belmond hotels by booking via Hotels.com or get very nice benefits at Belmond properties (as if you would have elite status) by booking through Virtuoso or your credit card company.
6. MY REVIEWS & YOUTUBE VIDEOS OF BELMOND HOTELS
- Review: Belmond Cap Juluca, Anguilla (Caribbean)
- Review: Belmond La Samanna, St Martin (Caribbean)
- Review: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily (Italy)
- Review: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo (Taormina, Sicily)
- Review of Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino (Italy)
- Review: Belmond Hotel Caruso (Amalfi Coast, Italy)
- Review: Belmond Hotel Cipriani (Venice, Italy)