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Virtuoso VS FHR and the winner is ??

Virtuoso VS FHR and the winner is ??

Old Aug 14, 14, 4:19 pm
  #1  
Formerly known as cedricgerald
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Virtuoso VS FHR and the winner is ??

For a long time I considered Amex FHR as the worst TA and had numerous bad experiences,
I was (and still) hoping that on line booking will be available in France so I don't need to call them

I was however pleasantly surprised by American express lately, they bring me some nice upgrade for single night stay at the WA in Versailles, they called me after the stays
The concierge was also able to release a table in a full restaurant

I decided to ask them for rates for a Fountain view "bellagio suite" at the bellagio in Vegas
They were not able to find this suite with a fountain view
I told them that the suite is available on the Bellagio web site available for everyone
We exchanged several e-mails and they told me they don't have it in their system
Amex is not able to book something available to everyone on the hotel web site !!! (I can't believe what I'm writing)

At the opposite if you want to book a Penthouse fountain view suite this is not available on the Bellagio web site
My Virtuoso travel agent was able to book the PH if I want (booked a "bellagio suite" as money is short)

In other words :
- Virtuoso TA can book you something that you may not be able to book on your own
- At the opposite Amex can not book you something that you can easily book on your own

I'll always remember years ago that I wanted to have a booth table at robuchon in Las Vegas and tried all possible ways (includind Amex) and nobody can garantee a booth table and for some "stupid / silly reasons" I really wanted to have this booth table . (like a chilld who wants to have his toy)
I end up asking my TA if this is something if he could help me with (he booked my hotel stay but he's not supposed to book my restaurant)
He e-mailed his contact there and not only I had a booth table but we had a couple of free glass of champagne and treated like royalty
Why : because my TA knows the right person

The more I think and I found that the only real value of FHR is the guarantee late check out

Would love to have your thoughts
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Old Aug 15, 14, 5:00 am
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Can`t really understand the issue. In this constellation I would book via my TA every time.
Personally I prefer Virtuoso as ameneties are often better and I like the personal contact. I only use FHR if Hotel isn`t member of Virtuoso or the suite I like to book comes not with Virtuoso-ameneties. Although I know 1 Hotel were the LHR-benefit (one way Airport Transfer) fits better for me than Virtuoso (30 minutes foot massage by the pool)
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Old Aug 15, 14, 9:08 am
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We use FHR for four seasons hamshire and get £85 credit for food per stay which is a winner for us. otherwise we use Leading hotels club that seems to offer the same amenities as amex. I reconing virtuoso and FHR pobably offer very similar bennies
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Old Aug 15, 14, 12:31 pm
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Maybe I'm biased - but I felt this way before I became an agent: Virtuoso is far and away better.

A few reasons:

1) Soft amenities (in addition to those listed on hotel websites and Virtuoso.com): time and time again, V agents get perks that go above and beyond those listed online. Sometimes the reason is simple - hotels have personal relationships with Virtuoso as a whole. More often the reason is that individual advisors have relationships with individual hotel GMs. That 1 on 1 relationship, face to face, is important in an industry that is still very much 'you scratch my back I scratch yours'...

2) With Virtuoso, you're working with the same agent, booking after booking, year after year. Your agent knows who you are, you know who they are. They know what kind of wine you prefer, what kind of room you prefer, and what kind of experience you prefer. The relationship is above and beyond a simple booking. Before I became an agent, I'd go so far as to say I was a 'friend' of my V agent....they knew me, they had bottles waiting for me, and treated me as a VIP.

3) With AMEX, you're working with - more often than not - a new 'agent' every time you call. Yea, they follow up sometimes, and get you a perk here and there, but it's so manufactured/by the books that it loses its luster quickly.

Virtuoso: personalized VIP experience with hard and soft perks.

AMEX: spotty perks with a new agent every time.

FWIW, I just got back from Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. 88 meetings a day for 4-5 days. Met, face to face, GMs, owners, sales teams, etc. Meeting after meeting, I'd hear something along the following lines: "let us know and we'll VIP your client above and beyond the stated amenities"....that's not just a sales, pitch, that's the truth (just got a client a free night at a 5* hotel in BKK + rack rates...that's way beyond the 'listed amenities' on virtuoso.com).
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Old Aug 15, 14, 2:52 pm
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I always use Amex and I am fully satisfied with them.

I tried only once to book through a Virtuoso agent. I was told that the hotel was fully booked. So I called the hotel myself 5 minutes later and I was able to make a reservation for the exact suite at the exact dates I wanted.
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Old Aug 15, 14, 3:37 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by Pierre&Cédric View Post
I always use Amex and I am fully satisfied with them.

I tried only once to book through a Virtuoso agent. I was told that the hotel was fully booked. So I called the hotel myself 5 minutes later and I was able to make a reservation for the exact suite at the exact dates I wanted.
That may have been a product of poor communication on behalf of that particular V agent.

What they may have been saying was: the Virtuoso rate for that particular hotel was fully booked.

A Virtuoso rate can be 100% sold out with rooms still available.

Just an idea, could be wrong [he may have just not been a good agent]...
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Old Aug 16, 14, 3:35 pm
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have any agents here done commission sharing with client for bookings of a certain size etc?

re FHR and agents, US FHR allows any travel agent to book through them. seems other countries may not do this. (and sounds like amex shut down all the non-US online booking sites? they were available long before US site launched.)

Last edited by Kagehitokiri; Aug 16, 14 at 4:52 pm
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Old Aug 16, 14, 4:46 pm
  #8  
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Hi Cedricgerald - I think I have a tiny amount of notoriety here. Because of my long-standing reluctance to use any travel agents. To reprise...

I had a long time agent/firm in Miami - the same agent/firm that every other reasonably successful lawyer in Miami used - and he and I just often didn't see things the same way (for example - he was always into quaint - and I wasn't).

So - when I moved from Miami - and it became possible to book things on line - I dropped him. And was very vehement about not using a TA again. Then I landed here on FT. And lots of people tried to convince me I was a moron . The thing that changed my mind was that a Virtuoso or FSPP agent could book the same things I could book myself on line - plus I'd almost always get one or two extra benefits. Especially with a FSPP agent - where the included breakfast is often a big benefit. At worst - on any particular trip - I'd be no worse off booking through an agent.

My first agent was a Virtuoso/FSPP agent in another part of Florida who was ok at first. She started to have some personal issues - and I ultimately found her services unsatisfactory (she became unreliable in terms of returning phone calls and emails)

So I found another Virtuoso/FSPP agent here. Both of my Virtuoso/FSPP agents have always been able to book whatever deals I find on line - and to give me the benefit of any Virtuoso/FSPP perks that might apply to a property.

I've been a happy camper. Perhaps for a couple of reasons. First - I have realistic expectations. We often stay at luxury hotels for a week or close to it. So we're not likely to get upgrades. They're much more common when it comes to shorter stays. OTOH - once in a blue moon we luck out. When we stayed at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm - we had something like a quadruple upgrade to the Nobel Suite. Probably because the hotel was pretty much 100% booked with a dentists' convention - and it's better PR to upgrade a couple of solo travelers than one dentist attending a convention.

Also - I don't expect any travel agent - especially a busy successful one - to look out for me the way I look out for myself. I booked the FS in Singapore ages ago. And - is my practice - looked at any new deals that exist now as opposed to when we first made our booking a few weeks ago. Found there was now a new stay 2 nights/get 1 free offer. Called our agent - and - voila - 2 free nights were ours.

IOW - I think I'm getting the best of all possible worlds. The best offers available on line + (and sometimes ++) using a Virtuoso/FSPP agent. The mileage of other people may vary. I've never tried FHR. Think I'm eligible for it - but have never explored it. Simply because I'm a happy camper now.

Also - I know I'm not the most valuable client in the world - because I don't travel much these days. I try to keep my requests in line with what I think a travel agent is making off my business.

Finally - all of what I'm talking about applies to people who know where they want to go - where they want to stay - etc. If someone is using a TA for more traditional things - like recommending places to visit - places to stay - etc. - well I would expect to pay extra for those things in many cases. Robyn

Last edited by robyng; Aug 16, 14 at 4:58 pm
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Old Aug 17, 14, 1:55 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by pricesquire View Post
Maybe I'm biased - but I felt this way before I became an agent: Virtuoso is far and away better.

A few reasons:

1) Soft amenities (in addition to those listed on hotel websites and Virtuoso.com): time and time again, V agents get perks that go above and beyond those listed online. Sometimes the reason is simple - hotels have personal relationships with Virtuoso as a whole. More often the reason is that individual advisors have relationships with individual hotel GMs. That 1 on 1 relationship, face to face, is important in an industry that is still very much 'you scratch my back I scratch yours'...

2) With Virtuoso, you're working with the same agent, booking after booking, year after year. Your agent knows who you are, you know who they are. They know what kind of wine you prefer, what kind of room you prefer, and what kind of experience you prefer. The relationship is above and beyond a simple booking. Before I became an agent, I'd go so far as to say I was a 'friend' of my V agent....they knew me, they had bottles waiting for me, and treated me as a VIP.

3) With AMEX, you're working with - more often than not - a new 'agent' every time you call. Yea, they follow up sometimes, and get you a perk here and there, but it's so manufactured/by the books that it loses its luster quickly.

Virtuoso: personalized VIP experience with hard and soft perks.

AMEX: spotty perks with a new agent every time.

FWIW, I just got back from Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. 88 meetings a day for 4-5 days. Met, face to face, GMs, owners, sales teams, etc. Meeting after meeting, I'd hear something along the following lines: "let us know and we'll VIP your client above and beyond the stated amenities"....that's not just a sales, pitch, that's the truth (just got a client a free night at a 5* hotel in BKK + rack rates...that's way beyond the 'listed amenities' on virtuoso.com).
I fully agree with you.
Unfortunately the majority of my travels are for conventions which are hold in hotels in.... "Conventions hotels" i.e not virtuoso
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Old Aug 17, 14, 2:08 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by pricesquire View Post
Maybe I'm biased - but I felt this way before I became an agent: Virtuoso is far and away better.

A few reasons:

1) Soft amenities (in addition to those listed on hotel websites and Virtuoso.com): time and time again, V agents get perks that go above and beyond those listed online. Sometimes the reason is simple - hotels have personal relationships with Virtuoso as a whole. More often the reason is that individual advisors have relationships with individual hotel GMs. That 1 on 1 relationship, face to face, is important in an industry that is still very much 'you scratch my back I scratch yours'...

2) With Virtuoso, you're working with the same agent, booking after booking, year after year. Your agent knows who you are, you know who they are. They know what kind of wine you prefer, what kind of room you prefer, and what kind of experience you prefer. The relationship is above and beyond a simple booking. Before I became an agent, I'd go so far as to say I was a 'friend' of my V agent....they knew me, they had bottles waiting for me, and treated me as a VIP.

3) With AMEX, you're working with - more often than not - a new 'agent' every time you call. Yea, they follow up sometimes, and get you a perk here and there, but it's so manufactured/by the books that it loses its luster quickly.

Virtuoso: personalized VIP experience with hard and soft perks.

AMEX: spotty perks with a new agent every time.

FWIW, I just got back from Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. 88 meetings a day for 4-5 days. Met, face to face, GMs, owners, sales teams, etc. Meeting after meeting, I'd hear something along the following lines: "let us know and we'll VIP your client above and beyond the stated amenities"....that's not just a sales, pitch, that's the truth (just got a client a free night at a 5* hotel in BKK + rack rates...that's way beyond the 'listed amenities' on virtuoso.com).
Originally Posted by robyng View Post
Hi Cedricgerald - I think I have a tiny amount of notoriety here. Because of my long-standing reluctance to use any travel agents. To reprise...

I had a long time agent/firm in Miami - the same agent/firm that every other reasonably successful lawyer in Miami used - and he and I just often didn't see things the same way (for example - he was always into quaint - and I wasn't).

So - when I moved from Miami - and it became possible to book things on line - I dropped him. And was very vehement about not using a TA again. Then I landed here on FT. And lots of people tried to convince me I was a moron . The thing that changed my mind was that a Virtuoso or FSPP agent could book the same things I could book myself on line - plus I'd almost always get one or two extra benefits. Especially with a FSPP agent - where the included breakfast is often a big benefit. At worst - on any particular trip - I'd be no worse off booking through an agent.

My first agent was a Virtuoso/FSPP agent in another part of Florida who was ok at first. She started to have some personal issues - and I ultimately found her services unsatisfactory (she became unreliable in terms of returning phone calls and emails)

So I found another Virtuoso/FSPP agent here. Both of my Virtuoso/FSPP agents have always been able to book whatever deals I find on line - and to give me the benefit of any Virtuoso/FSPP perks that might apply to a property.

I've been a happy camper. Perhaps for a couple of reasons. First - I have realistic expectations. We often stay at luxury hotels for a week or close to it. So we're not likely to get upgrades. They're much more common when it comes to shorter stays. OTOH - once in a blue moon we luck out. When we stayed at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm - we had something like a quadruple upgrade to the Nobel Suite. Probably because the hotel was pretty much 100% booked with a dentists' convention - and it's better PR to upgrade a couple of solo travelers than one dentist attending a convention.

Also - I don't expect any travel agent - especially a busy successful one - to look out for me the way I look out for myself. I booked the FS in Singapore ages ago. And - is my practice - looked at any new deals that exist now as opposed to when we first made our booking a few weeks ago. Found there was now a new stay 2 nights/get 1 free offer. Called our agent - and - voila - 2 free nights were ours.

IOW - I think I'm getting the best of all possible worlds. The best offers available on line + (and sometimes ++) using a Virtuoso/FSPP agent. The mileage of other people may vary. I've never tried FHR. Think I'm eligible for it - but have never explored it. Simply because I'm a happy camper now.

Also - I know I'm not the most valuable client in the world - because I don't travel much these days. I try to keep my requests in line with what I think a travel agent is making off my business.

Finally - all of what I'm talking about applies to people who know where they want to go - where they want to stay - etc. If someone is using a TA for more traditional things - like recommending places to visit - places to stay - etc. - well I would expect to pay extra for those things in many cases. Robyn
First : I'm jealous of your upgrade at the grand hotel in Stockholm as I remember that my room there was very small, probably because I was part of a convention. Hahahahah

You're fully right : usually Virtuoso TA can book you the special deal you can found on hotels web site.

The "A" in TA should stand for "advisor" and not "agent" : My TA made me discovered some great places.(Great cities and great hotels)

FHR never...
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Old Aug 17, 14, 2:22 pm
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Originally Posted by cedricgerald View Post
First : I'm jealous of your upgrade at the grand hotel in Stockholm as I remember that my room there was very small, probably because I was part of a convention. Hahahahah

You're fully right : usually Virtuoso TA can book you the special deal you can found on hotels web site.

The "A" in TA should stand for "advisor" and not "agent" : My TA made me discovered some great places.(Great cities and great hotels)

FHR never...
In Virtuoso land, we call ourselves advisors....

People I meet, when I tell them I'm an travel advisor, laugh, usually making a remark along the lines of "that's just fancy talk for an agent"

I find that my work is 90% advising/consulting, and 10% bookings...I spend most of my time researching, doing property visits, giving advice/recommendations....and very little time actually calling hotels to book stays.
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Old Aug 17, 14, 3:34 pm
  #12  
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The GUARANTEED 4pm check out for FHR can be what swings me from Virtuoso.

I have, for eg, used Virtuoso in the past for Four Seasons Hampshire. On our last stay, though, our usual 342 rate was not available and the standard prices a bit scary. By booking for just 2 nights but knowing we would be guaranteed a 4pm check-out, we did much the same stuff as if we had stayed 3 nights.

('cos after 4pm on a 3 night stay, all we are doing is getting a snack with the kids, bath, early bed, wake up, breakfast, check-out!)
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Old Aug 17, 14, 4:07 pm
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Originally Posted by cedricgerald View Post
I fully agree with you.
Unfortunately the majority of my travels are for conventions which are hold in hotels in.... "Conventions hotels" i.e not virtuoso
I sometimes stay in "convention hotels" - especially in the US. For example - the Hilton Americas in Houston (very definitely a convention hotel) this year. Because it's getting harder and harder to find smoking rooms - especially in north America.

Don't think there's much (if anything) for me to gain using an agent for those bookings - and I don't think there's much (if anything) in it for the agent either (4 nights in Houston - at the AARP rate - wound up costing less than one night in just about any luxury hotel anywhere). If I'm wrong about this - perhaps an agent can correct me. I don't want to deprive my agent of a commission he finds valuable.

So I just book those places on line myself (no big deal - I don't mind). OTOH - we did get "amenities" in Houston (free breakfasts/internet) - because our hotel safe didn't work - and our TV didn't either. The hotel got everything fixed our first day - but wanted to compensate us for our "inconvenience".

FWIW - that upgrade at the Grand was a total one off for us (only other upgrade I can recall in like forever was a one category upgrade at the FS New York - which was no big deal). And - WRT that upgrade - that suite is in the older part of the hotel. Some things about it are pretty old fashioned (e.g., the furniture - the credit card type thing that turns off all the power in the room - and the heated floors - you have to call a house engineer to turn them on and off). It's on one of the top floors of the hotel and has "porthole" windows. Also - it's a "smoking accommodation" (if the people who win the Nobel peace prize and stay in the suite smoke - so be it ). OTOH - the suite is steeped in history (actually decorated with a lot of it) - and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there (we also enjoyed the hotel a bunch - the staff was great - have written up our stay there here). IOW - we were totally thrilled with that accommodation considering what we were paying (maybe $600/night or so?). At rack rate (who knows what that is?) - some people might be less than thrilled.

BTW - one of the biggest perks in my opinion for someone who eats breakfast (my husband does all the time and I do in Asia due to jet lag) is a full breakfast served either in a hotel dining room *or* through room service. A normal FSPP perk (not Virtuoso best I can tell - although we did have breakfast included in our Virtuoso stay at the Grand). This perk is usually worth about $100/night for 2 people IMO. And - although there are people who are up and ready to dine downstairs early in the morning - I'm not. And think it's a great luxury to have "breakfast in bed/bed clothes". Especially if it's a great "frokost" at the Grand (enough cheese and cold cuts and breads for a picnic for 4 ) or a traditional Japanese breakfast at FS Tokyo. Robyn

Last edited by robyng; Aug 17, 14 at 4:13 pm
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Old Aug 17, 14, 4:26 pm
  #14  
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now that FHR (at least in US) is doing noon checkin if available at all properties, has anyone noticed any increase in early checkins? or only cosmetic and no change from 'good' properties doing it, and 'bad' properties not doing it?
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Old Aug 17, 14, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by pricesquire View Post
In Virtuoso land, we call ourselves advisors....

People I meet, when I tell them I'm an travel advisor, laugh, usually making a remark along the lines of "that's just fancy talk for an agent"

I find that my work is 90% advising/consulting, and 10% bookings...I spend most of my time researching, doing property visits, giving advice/recommendations....and very little time actually calling hotels to book stays.
I think it very much depends on what different people are looking for. The first exceptional trip to London or Paris or similar - I think you can do a whole lot. OTOH - my brother likes to take dive trips in exotic destinations. He's been doing it for 3-4 decades - and often his "hotel" is a boat. You won't be able to book his trips like he does.

Also - unless you're charging for your advising/consulting (which many travel agents do these days) - you're not going to make it financially - at least not here where we both live in the metro JAX area. People will pick your brain - and then find the cheapest place to do/buy what you recommend. Especially older people (my father and his friends - 80+ - are ridiculously cheap IMO and not adverse to "milking the cow" for free - and then buying better deals elsewhere). FWIW - I am not into "show rooming" - or whatever the TA equivalent is. But most people don't share this ethical bias of mine. Robyn
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