Today: How to book & save money at Mandarin Oriental hotels?
Mandarin Oriental is one of my favorite hotel brands in the world. The hotel company has a rich and proud history which began with the opening of the brand’s flagship property, The Mandarin, in 1963 in Hong Kong. The hotel, which was the tallest building on the island when it opened, soon built up an enviable reputation for service excellence, and instantly became a historic landmark – a status it still holds today. In 1974, The Oriental in Bangkok, which was already acknowledged as one of the world’s most legendary hotels was partially acquired by the group, making the company unique in the way that it has two flagship hotels whose names represented the very best in hospitality. Today, the group is firmly established as a truly global luxury player and operates more than 30 hotels worldwide, with each property featuring a distinctive oriental design (reflecting its heritage) and a unique sense of place.
I have previously published reviews of the following Mandarin Oriental hotels:
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, Spain
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Prague, Czech Republic
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Thailand
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, China
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Munich, Germany
- Review: Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, Turkey
But with the group’s stellar reputation also comes a heavy price tag. Staying at a Mandarin Oriental property requires deep pockets, with entry room rates well above $1000 USD per night at the brand’s most expensive hotels. However, here are some tips & tricks that can save you a few bucks on costs when staying at a Mandarin Oriental.
You can share your own tricks in the comments below.
1. BOOK VIA VIRTUOSO
Most Mandarin Oriental hotels are members 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 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 which is my overall preferred Virtuoso travel agency for booking luxury hotels. The single best reason to book a 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).
Although it varies from hotel to hotel, the Virtuoso rate at most Mandarin Oriental hotels includes:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
- $100 USD hotel credit to be utilized towards dining, wellness or activities
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
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.
2. SIGN UP FOR MANDARIN ORIENTAL’S LOYALTY PROGRAM, ‘FANS OF MO’
Launched in 2018, the name of the loyalty program – Fans of MO – is in line with Mandarin Oriental’s award-winning advertising campaign, which connects the group’s well recognized symbol – the fan – with international celebrities who regularly stay at the hotels and are true fans of Mandarin Oriental (e.g. Helen Mirren, Jane Seymour, Vanessa Mae, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman). The Fans of MO program is simple and easy to use and subscription is free (you can subscribe here). Contrary to other loyalty programs, you don’t earn point or credits that you could exchange for free hotel nights, but you rather get benefits as long as you are a member and book directly your hotel stay on the Mandarin Oriental website. So it’s more a guest recognition program than a true loyalty program. Benefits are quite nice and include:
- Complimentary WiFi
- A welcome amenity
- Dining benefits, such as a Chef’s treat
- A personalized stay (you need to share a little about yourself in your online ‘Fans of MO’ profile to help the hotel anticipate your needs)
- Member only offers (e.g. unique experiences, special events and exclusive offers)
- Exclusive discounts in the Mandarin Oriental online store.
On top of that, Fans of MO members can choose two exclusive privileges with each hotel stay (as long as they made the booking online on the Mandarin Oriental website):
- Early check-in (before noon)
- Late check-out (until 4pm)
- Daily breakfast
- Dining or spa credit
- Room upgrade
- Streaming WiFi
- Celebratory treat
- Pressing services
The exact benefits vary from hotel to hotel and are listed during the online booking process (right before you confirm the booking). Since signing up for Fans of MO is free and since the benefits are quite substantial, I highly recommend to become a member of Fans of MO when you plan to stay in a Mandarin Oriental hotel in the near future. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend to book via Virtuoso and not via the Mandarin Oriental website directly, since the first will get you most of the exclusive privileges while Fans of MO will get you only two).
3. BOOK VIA YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANY
When you own an American Express credit card, you can book almost any Mandarin Oriental 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 Mandarin Oriental 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 Mandarin Oriental 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 pre-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 Mandarin Oriental 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 Mandarin Oriental hotel. As mentioned above, Mandarin Oriental does not have a real loyalty program where you collect points, so you may as well book the room via Hotels.com instead of the official Mandarin Oriental 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 MANDARIN ORIENTAL WEBSITE
Reserving a room or suite directly via the Mandarin Oriental website is my least preferred method of booking, and here’s why:
- Mandarin Oriental 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 Mandarin Oriental 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 Mandarin Oriental hotels).
- Never book a flexible ‘best available rate’ on the Mandarin Oriental website. Once again, as explained above, you’re leaving money on the table if you book a paid stay at a Mandarin Oriental 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.
Nevertheless, there is one scenerio in which booking a room directly via the Mandarin Oriental website might make sense, and that is when you want to make use of the group’s Best Rate Guarantee program. Should you find a lower rate for one of Mandarin Oriental hotels anywhere online after booking on the official Mandarin Oriental website, the company will match it and give you a further 10% discount. In the unlikely event that you do find a better rate elsewhere, you need to submit a claim within 24 hours of your booking. Terms & Conditions apply.