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RESTING YOUR HEAD ON A NEW YORK BED
By Joe Brancatelli
March 21, 2013 -- As a born and raised New Yorker, I'm always a little surprised when someone wants to visit the Big Apple. It's loud and smelly, crowded and cranky, really, really expensive and native New Yorkers have too much hubris for our own good.
Yet as Gordon Jenkins once wrote, New York does have the opera and the Met and a famous string quartet. It has two football teams (neither of which actually plays in the city), two baseball teams (both of which are gonna be awful this year), two basketball teams (that never win anything) and, for reasons known only to the creator and Canadians, three hockey teams. And we do have the Bowery and the Bronx and Harlem honkey-tonks. In fact, there's even a hotel in Harlem now.
Coincidentally, it's New York hotels I want to talk about today. Specifically, how much it costs to score a free night in Manhattan hostelries. As discussed three weeks ago, some large chains are jacking up nightly award rates. And you let me know that when I did a comparison of the new rates last week, it was a mistake not to include New York in the charts.
Pretty pricey to rest your head on a bed in the Big Apple, huh? And if you don't want to plow through the chart, let me explain the devaluations in a very simple way.
Right now, if you happen to be a Hilton HHonors player, 50,000 points will get you a free night at the Conrad, putatively the best of Hilton's 25 Manhattan hotels. In fact, the Conrad was specially designed to cater to picky and status-conscious visiting partners of Goldman Sachs, which owns the building and whose global headquarters is only a few paces away.
Come the March 28 devaluation of Hilton HHonors, however, the 50,000 points will get you the Hampton Inn located next to the on-ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge. And you'll be lucky to get it, too, since it'll be the only Hilton property in Manhattan that will be available for 50,000 points a night. All the others will cost between 60,000 and 95,000 points a night.
Hilton, of course, is the worst devaluer in the history of hotel programs. But any of you playing Starwood Preferred Guest for free rooms had best reconsider your loyalty, too. Yes, SPG has a good elite program and a very nice affiliated credit card. But, lordy, the spend it requires for a free night in Manhattan is obscene.
Marriott Rewards falls in the middle of the pack, although its two Manhattan Ritz-Carltons (one near Central Park and one in Battery Park) are bargains compared to SPG's rates. Priority Club Rewards is middling, too, but I'm not a fan of either of its New York InterContinentals. And the Holiday Inn in midtown is the poster child for everything wrong with New York hotels.
Club Carlson looks like a bargain, doesn't it? Yeah, well, it ain't. Its only Manhattan hotel, the Radisson Martinique, is a converted welfare hotel that had a brief post-welfare life as a Holiday Inn. A posh palace when it opened in 1910, the Radisson Martinique has gotten a top-to-bottom makeover, of course. But rooms are still tiny and bathrooms are miniscule even by New York standards.
Hyatt Gold Passport looks excellent now because it opened a Hyatt Place just off Fifth Avenue last week and priced it reasonably for an award night. But its best Manhattan hotels (an Andaz across from the New York Public Library and an Andaz on Wall Street) are not for everyone. I like 'em personally, but Andaz is not every business traveler's idea of a comfortable hotel.
What does it all mean? To be honest, I don't know. I'm still trying to fully comprehend Hilton driving us from a Conrad to a Hampton Inn in a New York minute and claiming its frequent-guest devaluation is happy news for business travelers.
That's hubris, even by New York standards.
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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.