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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.”