Travel tip: how to book Ritz-Carlton hotels at the cheapest rate?

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (October 12, 2018): how to get maximum value when booking a Ritz-Carlton hotel?

Ritz-Carlton is an American hotel company, founded in 1983, that is now part of the Marriott group. The company manages more than 90 luxury hotels and resorts across 30 countries and territories in the world, including famous properties such as Hotel Arts in Barcelona, the Mandapa Reserve in Bali, and the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong. Ritz-Carlton has been recognized with numerous awards for being the gold standard of hospitality.

Although the Ritz-Carlton hotels greatly vary in room rates, ranging from relatively cheap to insanely expensive, there are several tips & tricks to save hundreds of dollars when staying at one of the brand’s hotels and resorts. I hereby share with you the 4 best strategies – at least in my opinion – for booking a room (or even suite) into a Ritz-Carlton property. You can share your own tricks in the comments below.

THE RITZ-CARLTON, KOH SAMUI, THAILAND
THE RITZ-CARLTON, KOH SAMUI, THAILAND


1. BOOK VIA THE OFFICIAL RITZ-CARLTON WEBSITE

You may think that booking via the official Ritz-Carlton website is a good idea, and that’s partly true because of the following benefits:

  • You earn Marriott Rewards points every time you stay at a hotel of the Mariott Group, including Ritz-Carlton properties. Marriott Rewards is the excellent loyalty program of the Marriott Hotel group, and allows you to earn points that can be redeemed for free (or heavily discounted) hotel nights at Ritz-Carlton hotels (read my review of Marriott Rewards here). You earn 10 base points for every US dollar spent on all qualifying charges with stays at the Marriott group. Marriott Rewards elite members automatically receive a bonus on all the points they earn: Silver Elites earn a 10% bonus, Gold Elites a 25% bonus, Platinum Elites a 50% bonus, and Platinum Premier Elites a 75% bonus.
  • Ritz-Carlton offers a best rate guarantee (BRG) when you book via the official hotel website. If you find a lower rate for the same hotel, room type and dates within 24 hours of making your reservation, you need to submit a BRG claim form. A Ritz-Carlton representative will review the claim, and if approved, Ritz-Carlton will match the rate and give you an additional 25% discount on the room or 5,000 Marriott Rewards points (up to your choice). Finding a better rate is not difficult at all, as I explained in my tips for booking a luxury hotel at the cheapest price. The BRG does not apply to The Ritz-Carlton Residences or partner hotels, including Ritz-Carlton Montreal, The Ritz London, and Hotel Ritz Madrid.
  • Elite members of Marriott Rewards are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – complimentary room upgrade, early check-in, and late check-out (when available). To enjoy those benefits, the room has to be booked though through an official Ritz-Carlton booking channel or a luxury travel agent involved in the Virtuoso or Ritz-Carlton Stars programs (more on that below).

However, I advice you to think twice before you book via the official Ritz-Carlton website because of the following reasons:

  • Ritz-Carlton’s most exclusive properties – The Reserves – do not participate in Marriott Rewards, so you cannot earn hotel points at Ritz-Carlton Reserves nor use them for a free stay here.
  • While Marriott Reward elite members also receive a welcome gift and free breakfast at other hotels within Marriott’s portfolio, this is – unfortunately and somewhat inexplicably – not the case at Ritz-Carlton Hotels. A complimentary breakfast is only included at selected Ritz-Carlton properties when you book via Ritz-Carlton Stars and Virtuoso (more on that below).
THE RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG, CHINA
THE RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG, CHINA

2. BOOK VIA RITZ-CARLTON STARS

The Ritz-Carlton hotel group launched a invitation-only benefits program for luxury travel agents (such as Lance and Ania from Classic Travel, who I partner with and use for my own travels).  It is called Ritz-Carlton Stars, and when you book a stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel via one of these agents, it will get you a far better deal than booking directly via the official Ritz-Carlton website. Ritz-Carlton Star rates are similar to the best flexible rates on the official Ritz-Carlton website and will earn points and stay credit in the Marriott Rewards loyalty program. Booking via Ritz Carlton Stars comes at no extra costs and the following benefits are valid for stays at all hotels within the Ritz-Carlton portfolio:

  • Complimentary daily breakfast for 2
  • Preferred status for room or suite upgrade at time of check-in
  • 4 pm late checkout – priority request
  • First priority for your room type, location, bedding and connecting rooms
  • Top priority waitlist in sold out situations
  • No walk policy in sold out situations
  • Warm welcome from hotel management
  • Pre-registration and express check- in upon request

So basically, you are leaving money on the table if you book directly via the Ritz-Carlton website and not via Ritz-Carlton Stars, since the latter costs the same and comes with complimentary breakfast in addition to other perks (e.g. upgrade and late check-out).

THE RITZ-CARLTON BALI, INDONESIA
THE RITZ-CARLTON BALI, INDONESIA

3. BOOK VIA VIRTUOSO (= MY PREFERRED METHOD OF BOOKING)

More than half of the Ritz-Carlton hotels belong to the portfolio of Virtuoso. Virtuoso is not your classic hotel booking engine website. It’s the industry’s leading, invitation-only network of the world’s best luxury travel advisors, spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors. So when you book a Ritz-Carlton hotel via Virtuoso, most of the time, you will be in touch with a Virtuoso travel agent who will make the booking for you. There are some Virtuoso travel agencies though that offer an online booking tool, such as Classic Travel, which has an excellent website and is my overall preferred Virtuoso travel agency for booking a luxury hotel.

Booking via Virtuoso instead of via the Ritz-Carlton website has the following benefits:

  • The single best reason to book a Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel through a Virtuoso travel agent is that it means value for money as you’ll get access to complimentary VIP perks, such as room upgrade, flexible check-in and check-out times, daily breakfast and a substantial resort, spa, or food credit (or something else). While the exact perks differ from hotel to hotel, they can easily be worth a few hundred dollars per night.
  • In most cases, the Virtuoso rate is identical to the Best Available Rate (BAR) found on the official Ritz-Carlton website, which is a flexible rate that can be cancelled without penalty. For that reason, you’re leaving money on the table if you book a paid stay at the best available rate (BAR) via the Ritz-Carlton website and not via Virtuoso.
  • You will earn points and stay credits in the Marriott Rewards loyalty program.

At first sight, Virtuoso looks very similar to the Ritz-Carlton Stars program. Personally, I find the Virtuoso program a much better deal because it includes a resort credit of up to $100 USD at most Ritz-Carlton hotels (something not offered by the Ritz-Carlton Stars program), although the Ritz-Carlton Stars program covers more Ritz-Carlton properties compared to Virtuoso.


4. BOOK VIA YOUR CREDIT CARD CONCIERGE

When you own an American Express credit card, you can book selected Ritz-Carlton properties via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. This will offer you the same benefits as when you would book these hotels via Virtuoso (although Virtuoso includes much more Ritz-Carlton properties):

  • Room upgrade upon arrival when available
  • Daily (continental) breakfast for two people
  • Guaranteed late 4pm check-out time
  • Noon check-in when available
  • A spa, food, and/or beverage credit (valued at a minimum of US$ 100 USD)

When you own a Citi Prestige Card (USA citizens only) you can make use of the fourth night free benefit: when you book a four night stay at a participating Ritz-Carlton property, you get reimbursed the cost of the fourth night, minus any taxes and service fees. The fourth night benefit is calculated based on the average nightly rate of your complete stay. Reservations must be made through Thankyou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge and you must pay for your stay with your Citi Prestige Card, ThankYou points, or a combination of the two. There are a few things to be aware of, though:

  • You can only use the fourth night free benefit when booking the best available rate (BAR).
  • You can’t combine the Citi Prestige fourth night free with the benefits offered via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Prive and/or Virtuoso. The latter often represent a much better deal.
THE RITZ-CARLTON, SHANGHAI
THE RITZ-CARLTON, SHANGHAI

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