Stay at boutique hotels and get money in your pocket with new site The Guestbook.
Unless you’re a business traveler or live in a hotel a la Eloise, earning enough points for a free night’s hotel stay can feel like a, pardon the pun, pointless effort. Typically, most repeat guests don’t reap the rewards of a hotel loyalty program until after they’ve completed 10–15 stays. (Fine print: That’s stays, not nights.) While there are many ways to earn points aside from booking a room—by having a hotel-branded credit card or by signing up for the program’s earning promotion of the month—you’ll still have to deal with blackout dates, expiration dates, and unexpected “restructurings” of the points-earning system. Playing the points game also forces you to stick to chain hotels that look indistinguishable from one another, even though they might be at opposite ends of the world. But booking a cool boutique hotel that doesn’t offer perks for your repeat visits can also leave you feeling empty inside.
Enter The Guestbook. Each time you make a reservation at one of the nearly 450 independent and boutique hotels in their collection, you’ll get 5 percent cash back in the form of either a credit to your PayPal account, a Visa e-gift card, or gift cards for retailers such as Amazon and Target. The money will appear after you’ve completed your stay.
“Traditional hotel loyalty programs give you the idea of value, but they never actually give it to you,” James Gancos, CEO and founder of The Guestbook, told Condé Nast Traveler. “We want to give it to you upfront.”
Gancos spent several years in various positions at Starwood Hotels, even creating a points-earning initiatives for the Starwood Preferred Guest program. That’s where he learned that points and rewards can change guest behavior. Now, he’s hoping the lure of cash-back rewards will spur guests to book at independent hotels. Hotels found on The Guestbook must be three stars or higher, but notable names include most of the Morgans Hotel Group, several SBE properties like the SLS Hotel South Beach, Miami Beach, and the The Redbury in Los Angeles, and many independents like The Renwick in New York.
Getting immediate rewards from a booking site is not new. Orbitz, which is owned by Expedia, has long given customers “Orbucks,” cash rewards that are based on a percentage basis of their bookings (five percent if you book through the site, three percent if you book on your desktop); they can be applied for future trips and stays. But those are rewards that have to be put toward future travel bookings at Orbitz, while The Guestbook’s cash can be used anywhere. Gancos says his site “is not trying to be an OTA [online travel agency]” like Expedia or Travelocity, but rather an extension of the hotels themselves. The Guestbook shows rates listed on other sites like Hotels.com or Travelocity for rate parity purposes, and in a most unusual twist for a booking site, allows guests to book directly with the hotel—maintaining a personal relationship with the hotel, while still earning their cash back. All they need to do is sign up to The Guestbook with their email address.