SAV­ING IN STYLE

Club 1 has fash­ioned it­self into the mar­ket lead­ing mem­bers-only dis­counter for lux­ury travel

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - WORDS HAR­VEY CHIP­KIN

Club 1 is the mar­ket lead­ing lux­ury travel dis­counter

Club 1, a mem­bers-only lux­ury travel club, has man­aged to be­come a dom­i­nant force in sell­ing four and five-star ho­tels in the two years since it was launched, pro­vid­ing sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings to fre­quent trav­el­ers in par­tic­u­lar. The com­pany claims to be the world’s largest sup­plier of whole­sale ho­tel rates and boasts an in­ven­tory of over 870,000 ho­tels and re­sorts in 162 coun­tries and 15,000 des­ti­na­tions. Mem­bers in over 200 coun­tries can save up to 70 per­cent on travel, even when com­par­ing prices to on­line travel agen­cies like Ex­pe­dia and Book­ing.com.

Ac­cord­ing to Pierce Hutch­ings, se­nior vice pres­i­dent and part­ner, Club 1 was founded by a team of in­dus­try vet­er­ans who were able to use their con­nec­tions to gen­er­ate at­trac­tive deals with sup­pli­ers all over the world. The com­pany has more than 30 in­ter­na­tional B2B and B2C part­ners and a to­tal part­ner­ship au­di­ence of over 160 mil­lion.

Hutch­ings says Club 1 of­fers lower rates than any other dis­counter in the mar­ket­place. The com­pany says it is able to of­fer these rates be­cause it pre-pur­chases over $650 mil­lion in room nights an­nu­ally at part­ner ho­tels. Club 1 rates are not avail­able any­where ex­cept on the com­pany’s own web­site and app.

As a re­sult of its vol­ume pur­chas­ing, Club 1 can of­fer whole­sale rates not made avail­able to the pub­lic, no black­out dates, guar­an­teed sav­ings on book­ings made out­side of seven days of ar­rival and last room avail­abil­ity (in most cases). Be­cause of its abil­ity to of­fer “in­sider” prices and ben­e­fits, Club 1 has the lofty am­bi­tion to be the Costco or Ama­zon Prime of travel.

EASY DOES IT

The plat­form is easy for mem­bers to use. Once a trav­eler iden­ti­fies the ho­tel they are in­ter­ested in they sim­ply log in, then en­ter their des­ti­na­tion along with their ar­rival and de­par­ture dates. When the avail­able ho­tels are shown, the mem­ber types in the name of the ho­tel and the sys­tem dis­plays all of­fered room types at the best avail­able rates.

Club 1 makes a prom­ise it calls Guar­an­teed Sav­ings, stat­ing that it will beat lower rates found by mem­bers by spe­cific amounts. In the event a mem­ber finds a bet­ter rate for the same ho­tel, room type and rate type (re­fund­able or non-re­fund­able), Club 1 will beat that rate by: $10 per night at 3-star ho­tels up to $40; $20 per night at 4-star ho­tels up to $50; and $25 per night at 5-star ho­tels up to $100. Mem­bers who find a lower rate need only e-mail the link to the lower rate to mem­berser­vices@ club1ho­tels.com and the book­ing will be con­firmed the same day. Guar­an­teed Sav­ings are avail­able when trav­el­ers can find the ex­act room at a lower price for a book­ing seven days out­side of ar­rival. Also, mem­bers should com­pare rooms in the same cat­e­gory – re­fund­able vs. non­re­fund­able, a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor for busi­ness trav­el­ers. Most of Club 1’s avail­able rooms are re­fund­able.

The Guar­an­teed Sav­ings pol­icy ap­plies to on­line rates cur­rently avail­able to the pub­lic and ex­cludes rates or dis­counts that are not avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic such as cor­po­rate or group dis­counts; or rates on “opaque” sites where a trav­eler does not know which ho­tel they are book­ing. Un­like some pub­lic dis­count sites that don’t dis­close the ho­tel name un­til a pur­chase is made, Club 1 Ho­tels al­lows mem­bers to shop by city, air­port, brand and/or ho­tel name to get ex­actly what they want.

A stan­dard an­nual Club 1 mem­ber­ship is $95, Hutch­ings ex­plains, and there are no ad­di­tional costs for mem­bers ex­cept for a small book­ing fee for the use of credit cards. The big­gest sav­ings are on four- and five-star ho­tels though there are also sav­ings on three-and-a-half-star ho­tels, ac­com­mo­da­tions fre­quently used by busi­ness trav­el­ers.

BE­YOND THE STAY

And there’s more in the way of ben­e­fits: dis­counts on large lug­gage pick-up and de­liv­ery ser­vices in over 130 coun­tries, up to 60 per­cent off on tee times at over 3,000 in­ter­na­tional golf cour­ses, whole­sale rates on rental cars with dis­counts of up to 35 per­cent, whole­sale rates on 16 lux­ury cruise lines and dis­counts on travel in­sur­ance. Club 1 of­fers a free 30-day risk-free trial. Sub­scribers to Busi­ness Trav­eler mag­a­zine can get their first year free at club1ho­tels.com/BTM.

By opt­ing for a pre­mium mem­ber­ship cost­ing $695 a year, mem­bers can earn air­line miles and en­joy dis­counts on flights and dis­counted ac­cess to over a thou­sand air­port clubs and VIP lounges, Other perks in­clude a $30 eGift Card to­ward in­ter­na­tional large lug­gage ship­ping and $200 off the first book­ing of $2,000 or more. Mem­bers can up­grade to pre­mium at any time to start earn­ing air­line miles with every book­ing.

All mem­bers, stan­dard and pre­mium, have ac­cess to all ba­sic in­ven­tory, ac­cord­ing to Hutch­ings. The only dif­fer­ences are ben­e­fits like air­line lounge dis­counts that are avail­able only to pre­mium mem­bers.

Rooms can be booked on­line, on the phone or on the Club 1 app. For cer­tain ser­vices like check­ing on whether a ho­tel is pet friendly, a call might be nec­es­sary. Mem­bers can book and man­age travel plans with their mo­bile app.

Club 1 mem­ber­ship ben­e­fits ex­tend well be­yond in­di­vid­ual trav­el­ers. The com­pany, says Hutch­ings, works with many ma­jor travel man­age­ment com­pa­nies and smaller travel agen­cies who use it to book rooms for their clients with the op­tion of mark­ing up the rates. Agents can book through the Club 1 web­site and use their client’s names. In those cases, they will get two sep­a­rate e-mails: a book­ing con­fir­ma­tion and a sec­ond e-mail for billing. Clients never see the orig­i­nal rate.

Travel agents with high vol­ume may qual­ify for ad­di­tional dis­counts. Those in­ter­ested should con­tact Mem­berSer­vices@club1ho­tels.com to learn more.

In ad­di­tion, many smaller com­pa­nies, says Hutch­ings, of­fer Club 1 mem­ber­ship as an em­ployee ben­e­fit, ideal for as­so­ci­ates like sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Mem­ber­ship also makes a great hol­i­day gift or cor­po­rate perk, Hutch­ings adds. Fi­nally, Club 1 of­fers white la­bel ser­vices to other dis­count sites.

“When you’re a fre­quent busi­ness trav­eler,” con­cludes Hutch­ings, “mem­ber­ship in Club 1 pays for it­self quickly. And if you travel ex­ten­sively you will watch the sav­ings re­ally add up.”

Club 1 rates are not avail­able any­where ex­cept on the com­pany’s own web­site and app

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