If you're in the market for a hotel discount directory, here are some things to consider:
It's difficult to compare the number of hotels and the price of a book with other discount books until you have the publications in hand.Ask the sales representative if there's a trial period during which you can look over the directory.
It seems reasonable to assume that your chance of getting a discounted room is best with the book that lists the most hotels.
So ask how many hotels are listed for your favorite destination and what price ranges and categories (budget, standard, deluxe) they represent.
If you frequently travel abroad, ask about the number of hotels the book lists at your intended destinations and what the discount will most likely be.
We looked at what the major directories offer in Utah.
The Encore directory lists 41 hotels in Utah, including some in Park City - the Radisson Inn Park City, Shadow Ridge Resort Hotel & Convention Center and The Inn at Prospector Square, and one in St. George - the Holiday Inn St. George.
The Privilege Card offers slimmer Utah pickings. It lists 11 hotels; all but three are in the Salt Lake area.
The Great American Traveler International Hotel Directory, published by a Utah company, has 26 Utah listings. Most are along the Wasatch Front. One, Park Station, is in Park City. It also lists the St. George Hilton.
Entertainment's Ultimate Savings Guide lists 24 Utah properties, with more listings in Park City (six) than the others we looked at. It has one in St. George - the Holiday Inn St. George.
America At 50% Discount has five Utah hotels, all in Salt Lake City.
Hotels at Half Price has 32 Utah listings throughout the state, including three in St. George - the Green Gate Village, Ancestor Inn and Days Inn Thunderbird. It lists one, the Yarrow, in Park City.
Quest lists 18 properties in Utah including the Homestead Resort in Midway and the Olympia Park Hotel and Radisson Inn in Park City.
The Wyndham Hotel in Salt Lake City is in a number of the directories.
California, Florida and Hawaii are well represented in most of the directories we looked at. Some do better with New York City (Manhattan) than others. Most of them have tiptoed into foreign countries.
Entertainment, Privilege Card International and Encore, have extended their reach pretty much around the world. Others have limited foreign destinations to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Each directory comes with a membership card that's good for one year. Ask whether it's the calendar year or a year from the time you purchased it.
Make reservations in advance by calling the hotel directly and present the membership card when you check in.
A membership card is good for a discount on one room. That means you can't expect to get a discount on an adjoining room for the kids if you have only one card.
Also, as we pointed out in last week's column, the discount may not be the best rate. A hotel consolidator, or even the hotel itself, may give you a better deal.
And (this is AND with capital letters), the discount is not guaranteed. The discount directories make clear that if a hotel expects to be more than 80 percent full at the time you want to stay there, it does not have to honor the discount. It's a loophole you may not be able to get around.
People who are likely to get the most out of the directories are those who travel frequently, who can be flexible about their dates of travel and the hotels they stay in and who don't mind doing the leg work.
Here are details on the major hotel discount directories:
America at 50% Discount: A product of Taste Publications of Baltimore, Md., it lists more than 7,500 hotels in the United States, but it also has some in Canada and three in the Caribbean.
The directory costs $19.95. It also includes a miscellaneous assortment of value-added coupons, such as one good for up to 30 percent savings on a Royal Caribbean cruise and one good for up to $18 off at Busch Gardens Water Country in Williamsburg, Va. To order, call 800-248-2783.
The Great American Traveler International Hotel Directory: This is the hotel discount directory of Access Development Corp., of Salt Lake City. It lists more than 2,700 hotels, the majority of which are in the United States. California weighs in with an impressive showing. Approximately 16 pages are devoted to that state. Florida has about 12 pages. It also lists properties in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. Buy the directory over the Internet (www.memberweb.com) or call 800-331-8867. A one-year membership costs $49.95. The Web site has descriptions of all the hotels in the directory. Nonmembers may browse the site, but the hotel descriptions can be accessed only by members.
Encore's Travel Savings Directory: It lists more than 4,000 hotels worldwide. The majority are in the United States but there are listings for hotels in many parts of the world including Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Europe and Asia. England, particularly London, is well represented in this book. "We've got everything from Econo Lodge to Marriott," said Laura Dickson, the company's product manager for the Preferred Travel Club. "We also have a full service travel agency (for members). We're number two behind Entertainment as far as room nights we've booked." The directory costs $59.95. To order call 800-444-9800.
Entertainment International's Hotel & Travel Ultimate Savings Directory: The company, based in Troy, Mich., publishes discount directories for more than 130 cities and regions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, the Caribbean and Europe. It's the Godzilla of the industry, having been in business for 37 years. Its crown jewel is the Hotel & Travel Ultimate Savings Directory, which sells for $62.95.
It lists 5,500 hotels worldwide (all the hotels from the various local books). It has 25 hotels in Manhattan, alone. Approximately 56 pages are devoted to California. Forty-eight hotels are listed for San Francisco. About three pages contain listings for Washington, D.C. And Florida's listings take up more than 25 pages. Consumer Reports Travel Letter ranks Entertainment's program the best overall. As far as the number of hotels go, the newsletter said the directory ranked among the top two in 38 states and came close in most others.
"We found only five states (Maine, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming) where the Entertainment directory would severely limit your choices," wrote the newsletter. Most of the hotels listed for foreign destinations are the pricier ones, with regular rates ranging from $100 to more than $150 a night. The directory also includes extras, such as dollar value coupons for Continental Airlines, Canadian Airlines International, various cruise lines and car rental agencies. To order, call 800-445-4137, or send a check to Entertainment Publications Inc., 2125 Butterfield Road, Troy, MI 48084.
ITC-50's Hotels At Half Price Directory: It lists 4,400 hotels and motels worldwide, but most are in the United States and Canada. The company, based in Chicago, primarily markets its products through travel clubs such as those of Shell and Amoco. It has been selling to individuals for two years. The company considers its directory a good value for the money. It has been rated the best buy for international hotels, "but we think we're the best buy in most areas," said general manager Rudy Linke. "Entertainment has more hotels but it has a bigger price tag." Hawaii seems well represented. So do Florida, California and Mexico. It also has car rental coupons. The directory costs $52. Call 800-987-6216.
Privilege Card International: Company president John Gronvall believes the directory's strong suit is its international section. "We've worked hard at expanding that," he said. A majority of the properties seem to be upper-moderate or deluxe. Extras include a discount coupon for National Van Lines (up to 55 percent off an interstate move), and coupons for 10 percent discounts at some hotel or motel chains. The directory is primarily marketed through large organizations that use it as an incentive premium. (For example, if you join the organization, you receive the directory as a gift.) But it is also sold directly to the public. The book costs $74.95. Call 800-236-9732.
The Quest Directory: Although the total number of hotels can't compare with the big boys such as Entertainment and Encore, it has an impressive showing in California, Florida and Hawaii. "We're proud of our customer service," said Derek Smith, director of communications. "If there's any difficulty out there, they (members) can come back to us and we will do what we can to help them realize the savings." People who buy the book also have access to condominium discounts. Quest is based in Yakima, Wash. The directory, at $99, is the most expensive of the ones we reviewed. Order by calling 800-650-4100.