If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I have mentioned Virtuoso travel agents before. This article explains not only about Virtuoso, but also about other hotel programs that give you similar additional benefits. We have a partnership with Debonair who can provide all these services. You can find our booking page here.
You may not of heard of Virtuoso travel agents, but for those that have an American Express Platinum card, the benefits are similar to Amex’s Fine Hotels program. If you book your hotel through a Virtuoso agent, you will probably not pay the cheapest advance rate around. However, you will get a number of added perks which normally add up to a considerable saving.
The benefits usually include a free upgrade subject to availability, free breakfast for 2 and a spa, dining or shopping credit of around $100-150 per stay. The hotels featured are all high-end 5* hotels such as Ritz Carlton, Shangri La, Four Seasons etc. In America, breakfast in these type of hotels is not often included in the price and can easily be between $30-40pp a day. However, the featured hotels are not all ridiculously expensive. For example, in Las Vegas they feature the Signature MGM which is often only around $150 a night. You also still get all your usual hotel loyalty benefits and points.
It is not particularly easy to find a Virtuoso agent in the UK. Until recently I had been using a US based one. I am now using Debonair which you can access using the online booking form.
Here is an example of what you can get in Vegas. Las Vegas hotels are a bit of a law unto themselves and as usual I had to pay a 1 night deposit for the room. However, in most cases you would not have to pay anything up front. You would simply pay at the hotel. The rates for Virtuoso are generally fully flexible and cancellable, which is really useful.
Here is a summary of one of the hotels I booked with a Virtuoso agent:
Four Seasons Las Vegas
- Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
- Spa credit of $100 once during stay
- Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in
Cost for 1 night with Virtuoso agent = $279
Cost on Four Seasons website = $279
Cost on Expedia = $279 (obviously I could have got some cashback on this rate)
The room was cancellable until 2 days before. I also booked a Hawaii hotel via Virtuoso. On my trips I had a 100% success rates of upgrades to the next category. In Hawaii the benefits of the free breakfast was particularly useful as the average price was around $35-45 per person.
Preferred Hotel programs and Amex Fine Hotels
As well as Virtuoso, many premium hotel companies have their own similar schemes. These are only available to book via a travel agent such as Debonair. Benefits vary from hotel to hotel but can include room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check in and late check out, resort and spa credit among others. Most of them are combinable with your loyalty benefits for the hotel and available on all rates such as advance purchase and packages. The programs include:
- Four Seasons Preferred program
- Starwood Luxury Privileges program
- Mandarin Oriental FAN program
- Dorchester Collection Diamond Club
- Pen club with the Peninsula hotels
- Ritz Carlton STARS
- Bellini club membership with the Belmond hotel group
Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
The other program which covers many of these is the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program, which is available to Amex Platinum card holders. Again, this offers additional benefits similar to Virtuoso.
Out of the two programs Virtuoso and FHR, Amex FHR is usually the better as the late check out is guaranteed. Virtuoso only offer early and late check out and certain hotels and it is not guaranteed.
- Noon check-in when available
- Room upgrade on arrival when available
- Free breakfast for two people
- Guaranteed 4pm check-out
- Free in-room wi-fi
- An additional benefit, usually $100 of food and beverage or spa credit per stay
To book Amex FHR hotels simply log into your Amex Platinum account, go to the Amex Travel tab and then search for hotels as usual. It will show both the usual and FHR hotels with the FHR ones clearly marked. Amex regular hotels are often on great value rates too which you can access without a platinum card.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World Club
SLH “Invited” Club is completely free to join. So it is pretty much a no-brainer to join before you book if you are staying at one of their hotels. It is also worth joining if you think you may stay at one in the future so that you get access to any special offers. I have stayed at many SLH hotels which include some of my all time favourite hotels – The Sanchaya (above), the Naman Retreat in Vietnam, and Blanket Bay. You can read all the reviews here.
When you first join you get a range of benefits as follows:
You can join SLH Club here.
Many hotels are members of more than one of the programs or even all of them. With benefits and prices varying between the programs it is worth doing a comparison based on costs, benefits and whether you would actually get the full value out of the perks offered.
Ask our specialist luxury agents, Debonair, what benefits you could get on your next hotel booking here.