- Real loyalty: After listening to a lot of talk about points programs, it was clear to me that in the hotel sphere, Wyndham’s programs give the best return on investment. Not only are there some 8,000 properties where you can stay to accrue points, but you can get those points on a cheap stay and use them for upscale ones. Wyndham Hotel Group is the mother company for 18 different brands—Days Inn, Dolce, Tryp, Wyndham Grand, and Howard Johnson’s, to name just a few—and unlike other chains, Wyndham doesn’t ask travelers to spend more points on a fancier hotel than they would on a cheaper one. That means the same number of points that gets you a free stay at, say, Microtel will work at a much cushier Wyndham Grand.
- Nice apologies: At the MGM Grand family of resorts—the company owns roughly half the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, plus a handful of properties elsewhere in the United States and China—every single employee can be a glad-hander. The company has deputized all staff, from maids to dealers in the casino to waiters in the restaurant, to step in to soothe customers when they witness things going wrong. That soothing will take the form of small freebies: a nice cocktail here, a pass for the buffet there. I’m not suggesting that travelers take advantage of MGM Grand’s largesse. But it does mean if something is going wrong for you at an MGM Grand Hotel, you won’t have to go the front desk to complain. You’ll be able to walk up to the nearest employee, ask for help, and maybe get a little mood soother in return. Good to know, right?
- RoomKey.com gaining traction: All of the major hotel chains have been reserving their best rates for loyalty members. That has made searching for a hotel room difficult since you might not be getting the best rate at the likes of Expedia, Priceline, or Trivago. In order to see the lowest price, you'd need to go the website of the specific hotel, and then to the page for loyalty members. Enter RoomKey.com, the website created by a consortium of chain hotels to allow users to search loyalty points for multiple properties, all on one site. When it debuted, RoomKey.com had been too clunky to use, but according to a number of industry watchers at the conference, it has been improved and is now a real source for discounts—good news for us penny pinchers.