TPG to start awarding seals of approval to our top-reviewed hotels

Sep 15, 2021

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Here at The Points Guy, we strive to provide detailed guidance on how to be a better, smarter traveler — without spending a fortune. Our advice runs the gamut from useful tips on maximizing loyalty programs to suggestions on how to make the most of your first cruise. And a large part of our content focuses on airline, hotel and credit card reviews.

Today, we’re excited to announce a new initiative to help make it easier for our readers to decide whether a particular hotel we’ve reviewed is right for their next trip.

You’ll soon begin to see two different seals appear on some of the hotel reviews we’ve already published as well as some future reviews: TPG Top Pick and TPG Recommended.

Either of these designations means our editorial staff has given the individual property a stamp of approval. However, the “Top Pick” seal will be reserved for only the best of the best.

Here’s some more information on each seal and the methodology we use to classify them.

“TPG Recommended” hotels

After a TPG writer submits a review, they are asked to complete a short survey about the stay that’s submitted to the leadership team. Initially, there are three, simple questions:

  1. Was the price you paid (in points or dollars) a good value for the property?
  2. Did you experience any major issues during your stay?
  3. Would you recommend that a reader stay at this property?

If the answers to these questions are yes, no and yes (in that order), the property is flagged as a candidate for the “TPG Recommended” designation — then reviewed and approved by editorial leadership.

When you see this seal on a review, you can book with confidence, knowing that you can expect a solid stay that meets the expectations of a typical TPG reader.

“TPG Top Pick” hotels

In some cases, simply “recommending” a hotel isn’t enough. What if the property was so over-the-top outstanding that it deserves a higher classification?

If a writer believes a hotel is worthy of the “TPG Top Pick” classification after a review stay, the above survey continues with the following questions:

  • Would you recommend that readers go out of their way to stay at this property?
  • Do any of the following apply to this property? (Select all that apply.)
    • It is a destination in and of itself.
    • You would pay a premium to stay there over similar properties.
    • It offered a truly unique experience.
    • There was something else special or memorable about the property.
  • Please write a one-paragraph summary of why you feel this property is deserving of a “TPG Top Pick” seal.

Once again, these answers are reviewed by the editorial leadership team — and here, we’re truly looking for those top-notch hotels and resorts for which you might plan an entire vacation around.

This isn’t just about luxury, nor is it solely about value for your points and miles (though both of those are a part of it). Instead, our Top Picks are places that we would recommend to anyone we know — and to which we’d want to return time and time again.

Examples of these seals

To show this process in action, let’s take a look at a pair of recent reviews we published.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

First, let’s consider The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, which TPG’s Summer Hull visited earlier in the year. Overall, she had a solid stay — the location is terrific, and during ski season, it can be a fantastic value for redeeming Marriott points. She also had a noteworthy meal at Sakaba, one of the on-site restaurants.

Read more: How to plan your ski trip with points and miles

However, there were many amenities on pause due to the pandemic, and she noted that the property was showing a bit of wear and tear. In addition, the $50 daily resort fee (notably not waived on award stays) and $60 overnight parking fee can add up.

Verdict: TPG Recommended

Now let’s look at Hyatt’s Ventana Big Sur, a luxury resort reviewed by TPG’s Zach Griff. Unlike a “standard” property that’s part of a major loyalty program, Ventana Big Sur has a lot of exceptional features:

  • It’s all-inclusive — complete with delicious meals, a selection of drinks and many resort activities and amenities.
  • It’s a fantastic deal on points, with room rates that typically start around $2,000 per night — or just 30,000 points.
  • The property is located in a gorgeous setting — the coastal redwood forests of California.
  • The rooms are luxuriously appointed, all with private decks and many of them with features like fireplaces or private jacuzzi tubs.

Put simply, this is not your run-of-the-mill property. It is truly world-class — and the seal it’s earned reflects that very uniqueness.

Verdict: TPG Top Pick

Nick Ewen's daughter in her bunk bed at Pirate Island Hotel, next to Legoland Florida
We loved our stay at Pirate Island Hotel near Legoland Florida earlier this year — but as a comped stay, it’s not eligible for a seal. (Photo by Nick Ewen/The Points Guy)

Important notes

There are a few final notes to accompany this new approach to recognizing the hotels we review.

These only apply to hotels that are fully paid for by TPG

Here at TPG, our editorial policy allows us to accept free or discounted travel in very select circumstances — when an airline is launching a new aircraft type and seats are limited to media, or when we have the chance for a sneak peek at a renovated hotel (as examples). However, we will indicate this with an editor’s note at the top of the article.

Along these lines, a hotel that provided a free or discounted stay is not eligible for either seal based on that write up. The only properties that can earn a “Top Pick” or “Recommended” designation are those for which we write a full review after a stay where the hotel didn’t know we were coming.

For example, TPG’s executive editorial director Scott Mayerowitz was recently able to check out Hammetts Hotel, one of the newest in Newport, Rhode Island. The property offered a complimentary stay, so even though Scott wrote up his experience (and loved it), the property is not eligible for a seal.

These seals are not for sale

On a related note, a property can’t offer to “purchase” a seal from The Points Guy. An interested hotel or resort can send us an email expressing interest, but it’s ultimately up to our editorial team as to whether it makes sense for us to review the property. And if we do decide to review it, no one at the hotel will be informed ahead of time, ensuring that our writer won’t receive special treatment.

Note that a hotel will have the opportunity to pay to license the seal (and use it on its marketing materials) once it’s live. However, that purchase will happen after a review has been published.

We’re going back through 2019

The pandemic had a major impact on global travel, and here at The Points Guy, we paused most review travel in 2020. Given that readers (and our own writers) were unable to check out many of the properties we reviewed in the year prior to the pandemic, we’ll be going back and adding seals to any deserving locations starting Jan. 1, 2019.

These will be labeled as “TPG Recommended 2021” or “TPG Top Pick 2021” — though moving forward, the year of the seal will correspond to when the review publishes.

Bottom line

We’re very excited to launch this new initiative as we provide more clarity on the specific hotels you should consider leading up to your next trip. If you see a review with the “TPG Recommended” designation, you can book with confidence, knowing that you should have a great stay.

However, if you see a property with the coveted “TPG Top Pick” seal, you may want to go out of your way to book there — as we feel it’ll offer you an absolutely phenomenal experience.

Featured photo of the Andaz Mayakoba by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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