Category Archives: Hotels


The squeaky wheel gets the grease

I don’t really think much of Hilton, ever since they gutted their loyalty program in an act that rivaled the sacking of Rome. But man, their customer service is something else altogether. And I mean that in a good way.

I stayed at the Hilton Shilim Estate Retreat & Spa in Pune, India, for 2 nights during my company’s offsite. This property is located on one of the many hill stations in the area. According to the photos on the site, it’s a idyllic little retreat with nature and greenery all around you.

HL_stespapoolvillavw01_5_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_poolvillaliving_4_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_shillimspa02_5_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_valleybardeck01_2_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_villaking_6_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center

Looks nice. Now here’s reality. Amazing what photoshop can do, eh?

tears in the curtains around the bed
spots. lots and lots of spots
glass not cleaned properly
more stains
water (i hope) stains
dirty curtains and bedsheets

That’s not even to take into account the surroundings, which were full of construction and the associated bugs you’d get from having pools of stagnant water nearby. Service was hit and miss- so big is the property that you need to call for a car just to go from the villa to any of the facilities, but this ended up taking 20-25 mins to arrive each time.

Now, I don’t believe in complaining for the sake of it, but given the expectations surrounding a Category 7 property like this (10 being the maximum for Hilton) I thought it warranted some feedback to Hilton which I duly did.

I didn’t hear anything from them for 2 weeks, but when I followed up with them via their Facebook team, I received the following message

Hello Aaron,

We would like to express our sincere apologies for falling short of our commitment to extend a rewarding experience due to the overall hotel and room condition, lack of diamond benefits, insects, and car service during your stay. In an effort to make amends for your experience, a total of 120,000 points have been posted to your Hilton HHonors account. The Voice of our Customers is critical to ensuring our guests receive a rewarding experience when staying at the Hilton Portfolio of Brands. Thank you for bringing this concern to our attention. Please let us know if we can look into anything else.

Thank you. -Alex

Full disclosure: I am a Hilton Diamond member through a credit card tie up offer, although I don’t make enough stays there to even qualify for Silver. I imagine this must have helped somewhat.

120,000 points is not to be sniffed at by any means. That’s the equivalent of a 2 night stay in the Hilton or Conrad Singapore, or enough for a 1 night stay in one of the “dream” Hilton properties in Koh Samui or the Maldives. Was I expecting this much? Not at all. I appreciate the gesture though.

I think the lesson here is that if something isn’t the way you think it should be, you really need to voice it out to management. Keeping quiet doesn’t help anyone, not least yourself. Of course, that’s not an excuse to be entitled and demand for compensation, but at the very least you’ll know (or hope) that the feedback makes things slightly better for the next guest. And if you get something out of it, consider it to be a bonus.


150 Free Starwood Points for Updating Security Questions

I believe that Starwood is one of the last remaining hotel programs  with any significant value left. Starwood points are generally considered to be worth about 2 US cents each. So here’s an opportunity for free US$3 for 10 seconds of work.


Simply update your SPG account’s security questions by 31 Oct and you’ll get 150 points for your troubles. Although there is no official acknowledgement of this bonus, it’s been mentioned by the official SPG social media rep on Flyertalk

Too bad I’m currently on a long case in Abu Dhabi with no prospect of earning any Starwood points the rest of this year….


Get a free night at any IHG property with IHG Dining Rewards

Credit for this article goes to Athen, without whom I wouldn’t have learned about this interesting opportunity for arbitrage.  That’s one of the blessings of running this site- I get to learn stuff I wouldn’t otherwise have found out about!


So IHG has introduced its Dining Rewards Program to Singapore. For a US$264 (you can only pay in USD if you enrol online) or S$348 (if you enrol via phone- clearly a better deal at today’s exchange rates) annual fee, you enjoy

  1. A free night at any of IHG’s 4,800+ hotels
  2. 25% off dining and beverages
  3. Status upgrade in IHG® Rewards Club
  4. 25% off IHG’s Best Flexible rate (single use)
  5. 10% off IHG’s Best Flexible & Advance Purchase rates
  6. S$70 pre-loaded into your account
  7. Premium local offers at individual participating hotel

Now, let’s make one thing clear. We’re not doing this for the dining discount. It’s a paltry 25%, the only participating property in Singapore is the Holiday Inn Orchard, hardly the capital of fine dining, and I’d never join a program that wants me to pay them money in order to get the privilege of spending more money with them (I’m looking at you, FAR)

I’d like to focus on (1), because to me, that’s the main attraction of this offer. Suppose you’re planning a dream vacation or honeymoon and you’ve got your sights set on a really fancy place. So long as the BAR at this property is upwards of S$348, you’re already making money purely by having this membership.

Where can you find such opportunities? Here are 3 ideas

Intercontinental Koh Samui


It’s actually more expensive to fly to Samui from Singapore than to find a hotel, but any savings are always welcome. The rooms at Intercontinental Koh Samui retail upwards of S$600, making the S$348 you pay for this membership a good deal.


Intercontinental Times Square New York

ihgnewyork  New York is ridiculously expensive, so you’ll be thanking yourself you bought a membership and saving off the S$1200 + room rates during peak periods.


Intercontinental Bora Bora


And of course, the grand daddy of them all, Bora Bora (or Bora Bora Bora, if you’re watching OITNB). Rooms at this all-villa property start north of S$1,400, which makes the S$348 outlay for the IHG Dining Rewards Program seem like a relative pittance.


Of course, the underlying assumption here is that you’re able to afford the remaining nights at the same property (because I don’t imagine you’d fly to Bora Bora or Koh Samui for just one night) or don’t mind the inconvenience of moving to a separate property to finish out your stay. But if you’re determined to experience one of IHG’s premium properties, this is a way to take something off your total bill.

Remember that you also get a S$70 dining credit pre-loaded on your card, and a status upgrade in the IHG Rewards program (to a maximum of Platinum). I’ve not stayed enough at IHG properties to know how they treat elites, but if anyone has please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

So to summarise, this is an interesting opportunity if you have a high value property in mind to burn the free night.