Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

My Photo
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Tale Of (Two Hotels In) Two Cities

This week I had business in two Indiana cities: busy big city Indianapolis and sleepy little city Greensburg. Thus I have two hotel experiences to ponder.

Though a new Honda plant is going up in Greensburg, the huge changes that Honda's presence will bring have not yet come to this delightful town (see previous post). Thus I was happy to pay $50 per night (before tax) for a very large room at Marriott's modest Fairfield Inn in Greensburg, a rate which included a typical but decent limited breakfast, free newspaper, free parking, and free Internet service.

Even better, when I asked the genuinely friendly staff at the Fairfield front desk if they had any travel-sized toothpaste or shaving cream for sale, they reached into a drawer and gave me one of each, free of charge. "We routinely keep a supply for any guests who need them," the manager told me.

Great bargain; nice people; thoughtful services.

Traveling just an hour northwest to an equally humble brand of the Hilton chain, the Hampton Inn, in prosperous and busy Carmel, however, and I had to pay $147.60 (before tax) for the same size room and same basic services. Several nearby big company corporate headquarters in Indianapolis' ritzy northern suburb keep demand for rooms high, and hence, I guess, the rates. But $150 at a Hampton Inn?

And the Hampton had no extra courtesies, a la gratis toiletries.

This seems to be a typical hotel story in 2006: Jack up the room rates as high as the local market will bear, even at the supposedly bargain brands like Hampton, the very bottom tier of the Hilton offerings. Honestly, except in Manhattan, who ever heard of paying $150 a night for a Hampton Inn? What added value am I getting for the extra $100 every day compared to the Greensburg Fairfield Inn? Answer: not any.

I am of two minds about this. As a business person, I'm pleased that at least the hotel companies are making money, even if the airlines continue to juggle bowling balls in the dark. But the whole idea of tiered brands was to impart some kind of rational pricing bands around the tiers. Top brands like Marriott's Ritz-Carlton charge hundreds per night while the Fairfield Inns at the other end of the price and service spectrum target guests of modest means with modest rates. You knew what to count on when booking; that's what I thought "rational" meant.

Not any more, I guess. Now I have to shop for hotel rooms the same way I do for airline fares, looking for hidden bargains and ignoring brand tiers and regardless of chain. This dilutes my desire and tendency to be loyal to Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, or any other major name. It also lowers my satisfaction with any one chain and erodes my trust in their branding strata.

Too bad. Just when I was getting used to the perks of Hilton HHonors Diamond status, something that makes my life on the road a little easier to bear, Hilton makes it hard to stay at their properties frequently enough to earn annual status.


Post a Comment

<< Home