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The Critical Points: Hotels Have Forgotten What a Suite Is

Jan. 11, 2019
10 min read
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Each week in his column "The Critical Points," TPG Senior Points and Miles Contributor Richard Kerr presents his opinion on a loyalty program, card product or recent news that he believes is overlooked, unsung or the result of groupthink taking mass opinion in a direction with which he doesn't agree. His goal is not necessarily to convince you to agree with his position but rather to induce critical thought for each of the topics and positions he covers.

In January of 2017, I had a fantastic family vacation to Arizona where we spent a few nights at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, a Hyatt Unbound Collection property. As a Globalist member, I used a suite upgrade certificate to get my family into a Mountain View Suite, the designated room category for suite certificates. The 800-square-foot suite has a separate bedroom from the living room and spacious balcony, giving my wife and I plenty of space to put the kids to bed and still enjoy our evenings and nap times without sitting in the dark.

Last week, I found out I am headed back to the area, and since I enjoyed my 2017 stay at the property so much, I wanted the same room type. I headed to the website to look for suite availability, but I noticed that a Mountain View Suite is now classified as a premium suite:

I reviewed all the rooms with "suite" in their name that were displayed on the website and came to a stunning discovery: every one is designated a premium suite. Confused, I called up to the Hyatt Globalist line to ask which room was now a standard suite and was told a "1 King Bed, XL" room is now the "suite" for upgrade certificates. Back on the website, I scrolled up through the various accommodations, and sure enough, this room is listed a standard suite:

We're kidding right? I called up the property and asked for a description of the room. According to the front desk agent, what is shown in the picture is what you get. The king bed, a sitting area in front of the bed and a bathroom make up the room. The front desk agent politely added that the rooms don't have a view. I asked why the room was called a suite and the agent said the sitting area was an addition to their standard king room.

I did not book the Royal Palms for my return trip to Phoenix.

This problem of hotels designating standard guest rooms — or rooms with two sitting chairs — as suites is becoming pervasive and has caught more than a few travelers by surprise when they enter their room. It's time for hotels to recalibrate on what they deem a suite.

Let's Define What Constitutes a Suite

I did a completely unscientific straw poll of readers to come to a consensus definition of a hotel suite. We came up with the following:

A suite is a single guest room where a solid separation between bedroom and living area exists.

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This isn't just about bragging rights on social media ("Hey, look at this AWESOME room I got!"). It can materially impact the quality of a stay.

For traveling families, the separation is the entire purpose of trying to get a suite. I need a door to close between the bed and my little ones so that when it's nap time and bed time, the family can coexist in the room. For the road warrior, a separation between working in the living space and relaxing in the bedroom eases the stress of travel and makes for a more typical home feel.

Unfortunately, many properties are undermining this by tagging a room type with the word 'suite' that in no way, shape or form deserves said classification. This not only devalues upgrade benefits for elites; it also immediately justifies a higher room rate, even though the room may not actually be different. It's then up to the consumer to research and decipher whether the room is a true suite.

In my opinion, there are two distinct cases of the "faux suite" to research: the value chain suite designation and the luxury property dupe.

Value Chain 'Suites'

There is a vast array of portfolios within the large chains that often carry the term 'suite' in their name.

Applicable Marriott brands include:

Hilton's brands are:

IHG's portfolio includes:

Choice's brands are:

When looking at these properties and the designated suites, you need to be very careful about the room you are picking if you are in need of a separation between living area and bedroom. Some websites do a great job of giving you the floor plan of room types, while others show a single picture, leaving it up to you to research or call the property.

For example, TownePlace Suites by Marriott has an excellent website with all the details you'd like. A studio suite has no hard separation, making it (in my opinion) no different than a standard guest room:

On the other hand, a one-bedroom suite is an actual suite, complete with a door to the bedroom:

If all hotels had websites like this where you knew exactly what you were getting, life would be a lot simpler. Unfortunately, what you'll often find at a property like a Hampton Inn & Suites are no floor plans and a single photo for room descriptions. Many of the suites are actually studio suites, which just contain a sleeper couch and perhaps a sitting chair. The Hampton Inn & Suites Reagan National Airport in DC is a great example, with the majority of rooms designated as suites at the property are queen bed and king bed studio suites. Of the 162 rooms with the word suites in the name, only 16 are legitimate suites.

When you are looking at these value properties and hoping for a suite, make sure you complete your due diligence so you know exactly what type of room you are booking.

Now, many of the above brands don't allow elite upgrades as a published benefit, so it's the next category that can seriously impact an award traveler.

Luxury Property Dupe

The second type of faux suite to research are the room types that four- and five-star hotels are designating as suites. I'm most familiar with the World of Hyatt program because of the many hours I've spent looking at standard suites for Globalist suite upgrades, but all chains are guilty to some extent. There's a multitude of properties designating rooms as suites with sitting areas in the same physical space as the bedroom, thus creating no separation.

Here are a few examples of these higher-end properties designating rooms as suites that are not true suites:

Grand Hyatt New York Corner Suite — Yes, the below picture is the entire room.

Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport Junior Suite — This is the standard suite for Globalist upgrades; the word "junior" is much more valid than "suite" in this example.

Venetian Las Vegas Luxury Suite — Really nice standard guest room, though it's still not a suite.

Hyatt Regency Westlake California Suite — Nope, this is not a suite, and its description even calls it a "studio style set up".

Borgata Fiore Suite — It has a couch and chair, but this is about as standard a guest room as possible.

Find Real Suites

So what can you do to combat this epidemic of false suite classification? I have a few strategies to finding actual hotel suites at a discount if I need a separation between living and sleeping areas:

  1. Hyatt House — The one-bedroom rooms have a door every time, and I know exactly what I am getting. As a Globalist, with a tiny bit of planning, I have a 100% success rate booking a base studio room and getting a one-bedroom suite.
  2. Vacation Properties — Booking Marriott Vacation Club, Hilton Grand Vacation, Wyndham timeshare or Hyatt Residence Club properties with points is a great way to find rooms with one or multiple bedrooms.
  3. Residence Inn — These Marriott properties are located both in large metropolises and smaller towns and offer large rooms with separate sleeping and living areas, many of which are even classified as standard rooms for award purposes. These are great hotels to research for the traveling family.
  4. Call the property — If I am booking a four- or five-star property and looking to use a certificate to upgrade to a suite, I don't care what a website says or shows. I call and ask for a room description so there is no doubt. Hotels frequently upgrade their spaces and not their website, or they may divide their rooms into even more subcategories to boost room rates. I want to know the exact room and its layout if I am going to upgrade into or book a suite outright.

Bottom Line

Not all hotels are following this trend, but I am certainly noticing an uptick in the number of times I click on a suite's description and picture only to be less than impressed. For Marriott loyalists, it's still unclear which way Suite Night Award certificates and designated rooms in the new Marriott program are going to turn out, but I hope corporate holds properties a little bit more accountable to what is actually a suite compared to the recent trends with Hyatt.

To all programs: Stop playing games and classify only true suites as suites.

Featured image by The Hyatt Centric Gran Madrid has large suites, great for families. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
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  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees