Hotel Upgrades: Insider Tips
Cara Nonnenberg, former concierge at Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, has heard a lot of guest requests over the years. “I once had a nocturnal guest ask us to cover every window in her suite with tin foil and cardboard so that she could stay up all night and sleep all day,” she recently remembered. Her team made that request happen.
Byron Pihuave, director of operations at Cedarbrook Lodge just south of Seattle, recalls his own unusual request. “We did have a guest who wanted a picture of two bears fighting over a hot dog placed in the room prior to arrival. One of our valet staff members hand drew the picture. The guest loved it!”
Whether you seek a similar unique accommodation, an extra amenity, or a more mundane room upgrade, industry experts weigh in on how best to hear “yes” after your request.
It never hurts to ask. Independent Travel Agent Amy Frank of Farmington, Connecticut, emphasizes that “most hotels will do their best to accommodate requests whenever possible.” Particularly for room upgrades, most hotels are happy to honor a request if they have the inventory.
Anthony Del Gaudio, head of commercial at the InterContinental New York Times Square, says guests should “absolutely” ask. “We welcome guests to ask for upgrades, as we want to ensure all of our visitors have the best experience possible at our hotel.”
“Even if an upgrade is not possible due to room availability,” Nonnenberg says, “a good reservations or front office team will note the request and perhaps send a thoughtful amenity or make sure you have the nicest view possible in your room category.”
In making a request, Pihuave recommends informing staff of any special needs early, by email and phone. Del Gaudio suggests emailing requests in advance “to ensure the hotel is able to track the status of your request in the system.” Special requests can be added during the booking process by using the drop-down menu of common requests in the Etta booking app. Nonnenberg and Frank also recommend calling ahead of your arrival date to speak with someone personally. “You can always make a request in person when you check in,” Frank says, “but waiting may decrease your likelihood of having the request honored.”
Nonnenberg suggests asking for the reservations team, as they are the ones who block rooms and consider upgrades. For Del Gaudio, the Business Travel Manager or Director of Sales and Marketing are the best contacts to fulfill an upgrade request.
Certain issues, however, do surface only upon arrival. A fresh coat of paint that is giving you a headache or an Ocean View room that overlooks the parking lot may need to be escalated on the spot. Engaging the front office manager or hotel manager can help.
Sure wins and no-gos
“It is completely appropriate to ask for an upgrade to a different room category if you find that your room is near a service elevator or bustling housekeeping closet,” explains Nonnenberg. Other commonly-granted requests include upgrades based on view. Del Gaudio concurs, noting, “An upgrade one or two levels above the current room type booked is completely appropriate to request, however, how hotels are able to accommodate is ultimately based on room availability.”
“Any upgrades are appropriate to request,” encourages Pihuave. “Typically, we can accommodate a balcony upgrade fairly regularly.” According to Frank, “early check-in, late check-out, connecting rooms, toiletry items, robes, slippers, and specific room types or upgrades” are all appropriate and regularly accommodated requests. “Keep in mind,” Frank cautions, “that not all special requests are complimentary. You might ask for a room upgrade at check-in and be offered one for an additional cost.”
Conversely, certain requests are not appropriate. “Expecting to jump several room categories free of charge – going from a standard room to a luxury suite, for example – or taking an ADA room when you’re don’t have a disability, is inappropriate,” Nonnenberg says. Frank further notes that “requests for something that goes against the hotel’s policies, such as bringing your pet when pets are not permitted,” are neither appropriate nor typically honored.
“Be gracious and kind in your interactions,” Nonnenberg counsels. “I tried my very best to assist every guest I met to the best of my ability, but I definitely went way out of my way for the guests who were kind and appreciative.” Frank’s advice is the same. “Make your requests in advance and remember that kindness goes a long way. A free room upgrade is more likely to be granted to someone who is unexpecting and kind versus someone who is entitled and rude.”
Del Gaudio recommends being a loyal guest of a specific hotel and brand for better upgrade success. “Hotels want to ensure all visitors have the best stay possible, and will show appreciation to returning guests,” he notes. Adding any loyalty membership numbers to your online booking tool profile will ensure that your loyalty status is automatically noted in new reservations. In addition, four and five-diamond hotels tend to be better suited to accommodate requests due to their higher room inventory and availability to make room changes.
Finally, it pays to travel in the off season. “If a hotel has a lot of inventory, they will typically comply with an upgrade request,” Nonnenberg notes. Even minor upgrades or small extras can go a long way to making business travel feel more like pleasure.
Get the latest pro tips for your corporate travel program when you attend Miles Ahead: The Next Decade of Business Travel virtual event on March 2, 2022.