2.04.2016

exclusive experiences at FS Oahu at Ko Olina



Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina will be opening soon. If you enjoy having exclusive experiences to talk about with your friends, consider the following:

Airport transfer by yacht or helicopter (or just a regular 4-wheel vehicle). Arrive in style!

Private yacht journeys for bespoke adventure excursions during the day ... or dining al fresco at night under a starry sky.

Private jet touring opportunities of the Hawaiian Islands. Want to visit the Big Island's active volcano? Play 18 holes on The Challenge at Manele? Make it to Molokai? Four Seasons guests can plan totally unique day tours from their home base on Oahu.

You can sleep under the stars in an open-air bed on the Presidential Suite's Sky Terrace.

Palehua is a sacred historical and cultural site closed to the public, but Four Seasons guests have the exclusive ability to enjoy the experience. Located just three miles from the resort, the five mile trek is led by revered cultural practitioners who will point out the wildlife, fauna, and views you'll encounter along the way.

Adults-only pool and beach. Have you enjoyed the Serenity Pool at FS Maui? Experience the same seclusion from the sunset-facing Adults Pool and adult-only beach. Evian mist spray, anyone?

Ko Olina Golf Club, an 18 hole championship course designed by Ted Robinson and featuring ... views of the sea.


I can make reservations for you beginning May 27, and you'll also receive the exclusive value-added Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities at FS Oahu. Due to contractural constraints, I can't publish the FSPP amenities on this blog, but drop me an email for the complete details.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.30.2016

how to be the best client!



How to be the best client, an admittedly unusual topic for a travel blog. I want to take you behind the scenes of being a travel consultant. My major focus is luxury hotel bookings. The purpose of this blog post is to help you understand my work process when I receive a booking request. My goal is always to provide you with the best and most efficient service possible.

Hotel booking requests are not created equal. Take a look at three representative samples:


1. The best requests are very specific about what the client wants.

"I'd like to book a Deluxe City King for the two of us at Four Seasons New York for a three night stay, 5FEB-8FEB. I see from the hotel's website that it's an average $497 per night with Third Night Free. Assuming the third night free rate comes with Preferred Partner amenities, go ahead and book it using my Amex card ending in xxxx."

This request scores an "A" in every way! You researched our hotels and their amenities on Virtuoso.com (or our google maps) and did some price checking on the internet. Your request clearly indicated the desired hotel, dates of stay, room category, bed type, and number of guests. All I have to do is make the booking and email you the confirmation. You get what you want, often within 5 minutes of your request.

Note: my best clients are often amazed at how quickly I can fulfill their booking requests — but you get a lot of the credit!

Even were a request like this to come in last minute, we always love to get this kind of email.


2. Some clients have a good idea what they want but just want our help to help them find it.

"I'd like to spend next weekend in New York, 5FEB-3NT, and I'd like to book a boutique hotel on the Upper East Side. I can pay about $500 per night, and I want a hotel that provides Virtuoso amenities.

This request scores a solid "B+" because you're giving us enough information to help you right away. I enjoy consulting with my clients, sharing my expertise, and helping you find the right hotel. When you're this clear about what you want, things go much more efficiently. This request communicated unambiguous dates, the neighborhood you want, the style of hotel you prefer, and your desired price point.

With one quick email, I can list some possibilities for you. You can select one of the options, and you can often get a confirmed booking within the hour!


3. Some requests frustrate me because they're extremely vague.

"We might be going to New York next weekend. What do you have?"

How much time do I want to invest in the kind of request? This question requires a massive amount of time, and I might never make a sale (because they're not even sure if they're traveling). Believe it or not, I get emails like this all the time. The starting grade is "C," and it can go down from there.

Fact: We get amenities at about four dozen hotels in New York — 24 Virtuoso hotels and another couple of dozen hotels with Starwood Luxury Privileges and Travel Leaders Select amenities.

Fact: I will not quote all the rooms and suites at four dozen New York hotels and list our amenities. That's too much work for me and too much data to be useful for you.

I'll respond by asking some questions:
  • What are your exact dates?
  • Do you have a particular neighborhood in mind?
  • Do you prefer the larger luxury chains? Are you looking for a smaller, boutique hotel?
  • How many guests will be in the room? How many beds?
  • Do you want a room or a suite?
  • Do you have a price point in mind?
If I get a reply answering those questions, my next email will outline two or three options.

Hopefully, I'll get a quick reply, choosing one of those options. Because so many emails were required to get to this point, it could be several hours from your initial email before you get your reservation.

If I don't get a timely reply (i.e., it takes hours or days to get back to me with a booking request), the grade definitely goes down to "D."

If the client never makes a booking request after I've invested all this time in research and communication ... that scores an "F." You'd be surprised how often that happens.


Hopefully this provides insight into how to be the very best client! Great communication on your part helps me provide you with the great hotels values I specialize in.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.24.2016

why to book your hotel early | reason # 5

The Carlyle where I once booked room for a PI to conduct a sting!

This is the final post in my five-part series on why you should make your hotel booking early. Here are the first four reasons:

1. it puts a ceiling on your room rate
2. the room category you want will be available
3. we have plenty of time to VIP your stay
4. the cancel deadline is your friend when you book early

Reason # 5: there's time to work on your special requests

Sometimes we have to work our relationships to get you what you want.

Requests to clear space. No availability is showing on the hotel's website or in our system (due to popular dates), but you want a reservation. By phoning our contacts, we can sometimes get space cleared for you. But our ability (and their ability) to do this for you is severely hampered when you book late.
Tip: Be strategic in timing your requests. Hotel reps typically leave the office at 5 p.m. and have weekends off. Avoid late afternoon requests, as they won't be handled until the following morning (at the earliest). Avoid last minute Friday requests, as they won't be seen until Monday morning (which is the most hectic time of the week). 
Requests for upgrades. I request an upgrade for you every time I make a reservation. While upgrades depend on availability, it does matter when the request is made. When you book far in advance and the sales manager sees a lot of unsold rooms, sometimes we can get your upgrade confirmed at the time of booking.

Standard requests. If you have a set of preferences for any hotel stay, we keep those on file, and we pass them along in our VIP emails. If you make your booking at least one week before check-in, that provides adequate time for us to convey your requests to the hotel ... and for the hotel to provide the experience you want.

Unusual requests. Anything out-of-the-ordinary takes more time. Need connecting rooms? Special arrangements? Planning to pop the question and want your room set up with candles, flowers, and chilled champagne? Want a suite with a piano so that you can conduct a sting? I'm not kidding! I actually got this request once, and the Carlyle arranged the suite for a successful operation).

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.23.2016

why to book your hotel early | reason # 4

Mount Juliet, Ireland — a Virtuoso hotel in Ireland

















You've already read the top 3 reasons to make that hotel booking as soon as you know you want to travel. But there's more! Here's reason #4 (of my top five reasons).

Reason # 4: the cancel deadline is your friend when you book early

There are two specific issues to consider with late bookings inside the cancel deadline.

1. Correcting mistakes. We're all human. All of us occasionally make typographical mistakes. A finger hits a wrong key, and you end up with a reservation for the wrong set of dates, the wrong room, or the wrong promotion.

Outside the cancel deadline, mistakes can be corrected quickly and easily ... with just a few keystrokes in my system.

Inside the cancel deadline, I am unable revise your reservation in my system. I have to phone the hotel, and that can take 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or longer. The correction may require a favor, and sometimes a hotel will not give me the favor I'm trying to get you.

If it's after hours, and sales managers have gone home for the day, the fix may need to wait until the next day... a frustrating and time-consuming situation for you and for me.


2. Acknowledging cancel deadlines

Late bookings require an extra measure of caution. I will not spend your money without your explicit approval. When you make a last-minute request, I'll respond with cautionary language:
I want to make sure you know that this reservation is within the cancel deadline. I need you to let me know you're OK with this before I make your booking.
If you've stepped away from your computer and don't get right back to me, I'll wait to hear from you. If it's the end of my work day, your reservation may not get made that day.

If, by the time I do hear from you, availability has changed or rates have gone up, yet another round of emails is required, further delaying your reservation.

With a last-minute booking, a normally simple reservation can become an extremely time-consuming transaction.


These are among the reasons your travel consultant may charge a late booking fee. Now you understand why. This fee compensates your travel advisor when your last-minute request becomes needlessly time-consuming. Plus, realize you are assuming a measure of risk when mistakes are made due to the last-minute nature of your request.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.22.2016

why to book your hotel early | reason # 3

sunset over the pool at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

I've previously written about the top two reasons for making your hotel booking early, but the advantages go on and on. Here is reason #3 (of the five reasons I'll be providing):

Reason # 3: booking your room early gives us plenty of time to VIP your stay

Our standard hotel booking service includes a follow-up to on each reservation we make. We email or phone our contacts at any of the hotels in our Virtuoso and other preferred partner networks. We inform the hotel that our very important guest is coming coming. We convey your special requests. We let the hotel know your arrival time (if you told us), valuable information for the hotel to have. And, most of all, we personally request that you receive an upgraded room. We provide this service without any fees!

Late bookings disrupt the process. As you can imagine, my team is caught up in current work, and we simply may not have time to make a VIP contact on your behalf. If your request is urgent and we have to interrupt our work, we may charge a late booking fee to compensate for the disruption of our work flow.

Last-minute after-hours or weekend requests are especially problematical. Our contacts are out of the office, not to return until Monday morning (which are always a super-busy time). This severely handicaps our ability to VIP your stay.

Bottom line: book early! This gives us the time we need to work our magic and hopefully get your stay upgraded.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.21.2016

why to book your hotel early | reason # 2



Yesterday's blog post provided the #1 reason to make that hotel booking early, as soon as you know you might need a hotel room for several nights. Here's reason # 2 (of the five reasons I'll be providing):

Reason # 2: the room category you want will be available

Say you're planning a vacation at Four Seasons Hualalai, the fabulous beach resort on the Big Island of Hawaii, and you have particular room preferences. Consider the following scenarios:

You need connecting rooms. There is a limited number of connecting room possibilities. The earlier we make your reservation, the greater the chance that we can get you the connecting rooms you want.

You want a lead-in room. Some guests want to book an Ocean-Golf View room because it's the most reasonably priced room category. Guess what? That category is the first to sell out. Six months ahead, you're very likely to be able to book what you want. Six weeks out, especially during a busy period, you're likely be out of luck.

You want an Ocean View or Prime Ocean View room, say in the Palm Grove crescent. While no hotel can absolutely, positively guarantee a specific room location, we can usually get you what you want ... if you make your request early. One week before arrival? It's a lot more difficult.

You want a room with an outdoor lava rock shower. One of the special things about the ground floor rooms at Hualalai is that they come with an outdoor shower (in addition to a regular indoor shower). While views are better from the second floor rooms, there's something very special about an outdoor shower, and it's a common request.


When you shop for rooms early, all of the room categories are there, and you get to choose the room type you want. When you wait until the last minute, your only choices are "what's left." The room you want may not be available — and with dynamic pricing, you may end up paying more than if you hadn't left your hotel booking to the last minute.

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.20.2016

why to book your hotel early | top 5 list



I've frequently been asked the following question:
I'm thinking about booking a hotel stay. Should I book it now — or should I wait to see if the room rate goes down, or a promotion gets introduced, or make sure I won't have to change my dates. What should I do?
My next several blog posts will provide a tutorial on booking hotels. Today's topic: reason # 1 (of 5) on why you should make your booking early.

Reason # 1: it puts a ceiling on your room rate!

The confusion comes from our experience purchasing airline tickets. Unless you buy a full fare F or Y class ticket, you'll pay a hefty fee for canceling or changing your ticket (on most airlines ... thank you, Southwest, for your customer-friendly change policy).

But booking a hotel is nothing like buying a plane ticket. If you book a flexible rate, you have the freedom to revise or cancel your reservation as long you're outside the hotel's cancellation deadline —typically 1 day before arrival at city hotels, longer for resorts.

If you see the room rate go down, I can change your rate with a few keystrokes in my GDS or with a simple phone call to the hotel.

If rates should go up, you've already locked in the lower rate (unless you change your dates).

If a promotion gets introduced, I can get it applied exactly the same way as I would lower your rate.

If you need to change your dates, this is quick and easy for me to do.

P.S. — Never say "please cancel and rebook." That is double the work. The correct terminology is to "revise your existing reservation."


Reason # 2 coming in my next post...

copyright (c) 2016 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.