Best backup chain?

 
Old Mar 9, 13, 8:00 am
  #1  
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Best backup chain?

Hello all,

Very loyal SPG member here. In Q3 I'm going to be traveling around Eastern Europe for 3 months. Except for Poland, Starwood doesn't have much a footprint in those countries. As such, I'm thinking ill get a status match (or fast track) with another chain. However I'm quite unfamiliar with the others.

Does anyone know if Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Carlson, BW or Hyatt have a large footprint in Easten Europe? And if so, does that chain have similar rates to Starwood? And then assuming multiple chains do - which would be the best chain to choose as my backup?

I love the Platinum benefits especially, upgrades, late check out, free breakfast and free Internet. I like lounge access and free drinks, but its secondary to the other benefits for me. I'd prefer to have a backup that offered similar benefits but was also a similar price (e.g., if four seasons offered this it would be nice, but I can't afford 3x the price).

Thanks for the help!
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Old Mar 9, 13, 11:46 am
  #2  
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In central europe Kempinski is not bad (part of GHA) and also Club Carlson. Hilton has a few very good hotels also such as Bucaresti.
Where are you going?
Bratislava and Vienna as well as Budapest are good with SPG.
If you are off the major city path a bit Best Western may be the only chain option such as in Lucinec.
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Old Mar 9, 13, 3:04 pm
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Best backup chain?

I would use Hilton as a backup. Their gold is the best mid tier status and cones with breakfast, Internet etc. they are also quite large comparing to Hyatt.

Otherwise Marriott would be good if they status match you. Maintaining it is an challenge through.

Hyatt diamond has great benefits but not sure about their coverages in EU. It's quite small...

And PC doesn't give you much besides bonus points....
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Old Mar 9, 13, 3:11 pm
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The main reason I even HAVE a backup is because Starwood coverage can be spotty in some places. Hyatt being even smaller than Starwood, it makes for a poor backup IMO. In spite of the devaluation, I think Hilton is a nice #2 as it has broad coverage and somewhat more attractive redemption rates at the highest tiers.
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Old Mar 9, 13, 8:27 pm
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Originally Posted by yucci18 View Post
I would use Hilton as a backup. Their gold is the best mid tier status and cones with breakfast, Internet etc. they are also quite large comparing to Hyatt.

Otherwise Marriott would be good if they status match you. Maintaining it is an challenge through.

Hyatt diamond has great benefits but not sure about their coverages in EU. It's quite small...

And PC doesn't give you much besides bonus points....
Problem with Hilton and Hyatt is that there is very little coverage outside of capital cities and even in capital cities can be spotty at best.
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Old Mar 10, 13, 1:38 am
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Thanks all. Seems like Hilton is the choice here... Although it sounds like their footprint isn't so large either. I'm going to St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuiania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and possibly Croatia. Oh and Turkey at the end.

I did a little research and I can get Hilton gold just by getting their credit card, so that's nice. Although I wonder how valuable the benefits can be if anyone can get gold level so easily.

I will look into Club Carlson further as well. I recall many Radisson Blu's in Western and Northern Europe. Not sure how many exist in Eastern though.

Thanks for all the advice. Def helped! I sure wish Starwood would stop their mad focus on China and expand a bit more elsewhere.
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Old Mar 10, 13, 3:00 am
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Originally Posted by TravelinSperry View Post
Thanks all. Seems like Hilton is the choice here... Although it sounds like their footprint isn't so large either. I'm going to St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuiania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and possibly Croatia. Oh and Turkey at the end.

I did a little research and I can get Hilton gold just by getting their credit card, so that's nice. Although I wonder how valuable the benefits can be if anyone can get gold level so easily.

I will look into Club Carlson further as well. I recall many Radisson Blu's in Western and Northern Europe. Not sure how many exist in Eastern though.

Thanks for all the advice. Def helped! I sure wish Starwood would stop their mad focus on China and expand a bit more elsewhere.
If you are looking at the upper end of SPG- in the countries you have listed LHW is very worthwhile- if the properties work for you I recommend purchasing their entry level leaders club card which gets you free continental breakfast for 2 everyday, free internet access (which still can be very expensive in Europe), a free night for every five paid stays, and from time to time some very good upgrades (and sometimes nothing at all). In Riga and Tallinn I stay at LHW hotels.

While I do agree with you about Starwood- from a strategic perspective it does make a lot of sense to concentrate on China.
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Old Mar 10, 13, 4:09 am
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Originally Posted by TravelinSperry View Post
Thanks all. Seems like Hilton is the choice here... Although it sounds like their footprint isn't so large either. I'm going to St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuiania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and possibly Croatia. Oh and Turkey at the end.
SPG has properties in St Petersburg, Lithuania (Vilnius, not in the city centre), Bulgaria (Sofia), Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, some place I can't remember), Croatia (Zagreb, Split) and Turkey (Istanbul). So you might want to concentrate the backup on those other countries. Radisson sounds like a good bet.
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Old Mar 10, 13, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by TravelinSperry View Post
Thanks all. Seems like Hilton is the choice here... Although it sounds like their footprint isn't so large either. I'm going to St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuiania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and possibly Croatia. Oh and Turkey at the end.

I did a little research and I can get Hilton gold just by getting their credit card, so that's nice. Although I wonder how valuable the benefits can be if anyone can get gold level so easily.

I will look into Club Carlson further as well. I recall many Radisson Blu's in Western and Northern Europe. Not sure how many exist in Eastern though.

Thanks for all the advice. Def helped! I sure wish Starwood would stop their mad focus on China and expand a bit more elsewhere.

Was in similar boat when last year travelling in Baltics & then Poland: opted for Club Carlson, and extremely happy about them (easy match from SPG plat to CC gold, and from there nice hotels, great service & a couple of pretty wild upgrades, even if the latter is not considered as a guaranteed benefit of CC). SPG will remain primary & well on track for requal, but actually trying to maintain the CC status as well thanks to nice experiences
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Old Mar 10, 13, 4:50 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelinSperry View Post
Thanks all. Seems like Hilton is the choice here... Although it sounds like their footprint isn't so large either. I'm going to St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuiania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and possibly Croatia. Oh and Turkey at the end.

I did a little research and I can get Hilton gold just by getting their credit card, so that's nice. Although I wonder how valuable the benefits can be if anyone can get gold level so easily.
Hilton Gold will get you free internet access. That can be ~$25/night at full-service European properties. There are other brand-specific benefits.

http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/explor...its/index.html

Frankly, since you don't appear to be looking for a long-term backup, I'd be focusing on the best properties (location, amenities, rates) and would give only tertiary consideration to loyalty programs. (That's not my first FT heresy, but I'm pragmatic.)
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Old Mar 11, 13, 4:24 am
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Best backup chain?

Why not just do a status match to whoever you can and pick the properties you want to stay at? It's going to be a bit messy with points as you may end up not having enough points for free nights in any of them... But it's a holiday - pick which hotels you will enjoy, instead of which chain you should choose...
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Old Mar 11, 13, 4:27 am
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Originally Posted by TRAVELSIG View Post
If you are looking at the upper end of SPG- in the countries you have listed LHW is very worthwhile- if the properties work for you I recommend purchasing their entry level leaders club card which gets you free continental breakfast for 2 everyday, free internet access (which still can be very expensive in Europe), a free night for every five paid stays, and from time to time some very good upgrades (and sometimes nothing at all). In Riga and Tallinn I stay at LHW hotels.
Thanks Travelsig, this was a unique idea and gave me food for thought. I decided to forgo joining this however, as I have stayed in their properties before however they are usually too pricey for me. As such I didn't want to pay $125 when I may not use it (unless there is a great deal).

However, your suggestion made me recall another similar site (so thanks!) And after perusing it i did join their loyalty program. It's called slh.com and it was free. They give room upgrades on first stay, and then internet and breakfast thereafter. They seem to have a bunch of properties in Eastern Europe. Although they also may bee too expensive for me, at least there was no upfront cost if I don't end up staying with them.

Originally Posted by KittyCat View Post
Was in similar boat when last year travelling in Baltics & then Poland: opted for Club Carlson, and extremely happy about them (easy match from SPG plat to CC gold, and from there nice hotels, great service & a couple of pretty wild upgrades, even if the latter is not considered as a guaranteed benefit of CC). SPG will remain primary & well on track for requal, but actually trying to maintain the CC status as well thanks to nice experiences
Thanks, after checking the properties on most of the large chains I've decided to do the status match with Club Carlson. It's good to know that you like their benefits. One question, are status matches good 1x only? Per what term? Life? Also, do you choose to collect their points or redeem for airline miles. Seems like they offer a choice.

Originally Posted by 3Cforme View Post
Hilton Gold will get you free internet access. That can be ~$25/night at full-service European properties. There are other brand-specific benefits.

http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/explor...its/index.html

Frankly, since you don't appear to be looking for a long-term backup, I'd be focusing on the best properties (location, amenities, rates) and would give only tertiary consideration to loyalty programs. (That's not my first FT heresy, but I'm pragmatic.)
I would consider Hilton my third backup but I'd hate to waste a status match unless I can do it again at some future point. Is this a one time thing with Hilton? Or can i repeat in later years?

Also, it would be nice to have a long term backup, its just that it really depends on location. For example, next year ill be traveling through South America and Australia for 6 mos. Not sure my current choice of Club Carlson will suffice for those areas. That's why I'm trying to not waste my status matches (unless they can be repeated).
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Old Mar 11, 13, 5:31 am
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Originally Posted by yucci18 View Post
Why not just do a status match to whoever you can and pick the properties you want to stay at? It's going to be a bit messy with points as you may end up not having enough points for free nights in any of them... But it's a holiday - pick which hotels you will enjoy, instead of which chain you should choose...
I'm not doing this for the points, I'm doing it for the elite benefits (upgrades, free breakfast, free Internet, etc). Points would be nice, but I agree, won't end up with too many. And it's not just a one off holiday. I travel about 3-4 mos of the year on holiday. I love the way I'm treated at Starwood. Just trying to keep it close when Starwood doesn't have a hotel where I'm going.
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Old Mar 11, 13, 2:10 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelinSperry View Post
I'm not doing this for the points, I'm doing it for the elite benefits (upgrades, free breakfast, free Internet, etc). Points would be nice, but I agree, won't end up with too many. And it's not just a one off holiday. I travel about 3-4 mos of the year on holiday. I love the way I'm treated at Starwood. Just trying to keep it close when Starwood doesn't have a hotel where I'm going.
Something you may want to consider (and I don't have any experience with the Eastern Europe), is Best Western. They will status match you (there's a link on the website) and some of the European properties can be quite nice, and a relative value (so that you don't mind paying for the better room or for your breakfast if it is not included, etc.) Note - this advice is coming from someone who has been SPG Platinum for most of the life of the program.
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Old Mar 11, 13, 11:37 pm
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Originally Posted by Eastbay1K View Post
Something you may want to consider (and I don't have any experience with the Eastern Europe), is Best Western. They will status match you (there's a link on the website) and some of the European properties can be quite nice, and a relative value (so that you don't mind paying for the better room or for your breakfast if it is not included, etc.) Note - this advice is coming from someone who has been SPG Platinum for most of the life of the program.
Agreed.

With or without status match- in some cities within Central Europe the best (possibly only) choice will be Best Western.
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