How often to do you see a major hotel chain running its own “flash sales” for properties where occupancy is obviously hurting?
Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched its own hotel flash sales site this week rather than sheepishly having its properties use third-party sites such as Jetsetter or Groupon Getaways for their flash sales.
SPG Hot Escapes offers discounts of at least 20% for select properties in sales running from Wednesdays to Saturdays. And members of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program can get an additional 5% savings on these supposedly exclusive offers.
So where is the weirdness?
It comes on several fronts.
The whole reason that hotels usually use so-called opaque sites such as Priceline Express Deals or Hotwire, and the reason individual properties offer their rooms on flash sales sites is that the don’t want to hurt their brands by advertising to the world that they have to offer these discounts off regular rates because they can’t fill their rooms at published prices.
Doing otherwise, or openly revealing your pricing problems, is known as “brand dilution.” It’s a hit to your brand.
Starwood issued a press release yesterday to state, and its first round of flash sales this week openly show, that its W New York-Times Square; The Westin Diplomat; the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Bangkok; St. Regis Deer Valley; W Scottsdale; Le Meridien Etoile, Paris, and the Sheraton Libertador Hotel aren’t filing their beds at published prices.
Other Starwood properties will be featured in upcoming weeks.
The manner in which SPG Hot Escapes is operating its “flash sales” is also weird, or unconventional, to say the least.
Flash sales are usually limited-time offers running a day or two until the property gets the required number of bookings, and that here-it is, now-it’s gone, sporadic nature of the sale usually provides the context that the potential guest had better book now before the flash sale ends, and the rooms are gone.
But SPG Hot Escapes runs its sales for a full four days every week — Wednesdays to Saturdays — and all of its sales run simultaneously and for the same duration, until Saturday midnight.
Looking at SPG Hot Escapes today, there were a dozen ongoing “flash sales,” and excluding time zone differences, all of their countdown clocks pointed to the sales expiring at the same times.
It turns out, though, that sometimes the alleged savings and “exclusive” content aren’t.
For example, SPG Hot Escapes today was offering a stay at the W Retreat & Spa-Vieques Island for $289 per night, a 43% savings off the $509 published rate.
But Kayak was showing the same $289 rate for a stay at the same property on October 16 through Kayak itself, Hotels.com, Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotelclub, and Orbitz.
That’s not quite the point of flash sales.
SPG Hot Escapes is very clumsy — and there isn’t much flash in the weirdest hotel flash sales on the Internet.
UPDATE: Chris Holdren, senior vice president of SPG, says SPG Hot Escapes indeed offers exclusive content because of the 5% discounts that SPG members can get off the flash sales rates.
However, Holdren had no argument with the article’s reporting that the rates listed as discounts on the new flash sales site can often be found on numerous other third-party websites.
Holdren says these types of sales “resonate” with guests. He noted that Starwood has offered limited-time discounts on room rates for various brands for years, but saw value for guests in putting them on a single platform.