6 reasons you should care about Sonesta Travel Pass
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Until 2020, I’d never heard of Sonesta or its Travel Pass loyalty programme. Granted, Sonesta only had 58 properties at the start of 2020. But over the last six months, Sonesta increased its hotel portfolio by 350% as hundreds of Marriott and IHG properties reflagged to Sonesta. Sonesta will boost its property count to more than 1,200 once several acquisitions are complete.
As I learned of this rapid expansion, I wondered whether I should care about Sonesta and its Sonesta Travel Pass programme. So, I took a closer look at the programme to see what value I could find. In doing so, I compiled a list of reasons travellers should care about the Sonesta Travel Pass programme if you travel frequently to the U.S., as well as several concerns I have about this hotel loyalty programme. Today, I’ll discuss these reasons and concerns.
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Top-tier elite status is easy to obtain and maintain
Sonesta Travel Pass has three benefit tiers: Member, Preferred and Elite. The requirements to reach each benefit tier are as follows:
- Member: Zero to five qualifying nights per calendar year
- Preferred: Six to 11 qualifying nights per calendar year
- Elite: 12 or more qualifying nights per calendar year
But, you don’t even need to stay 12 qualifying nights to snag top-tier Elite status. Sonesta offers elite members in other hotel loyalty programmes the opportunity to match their status. To request a status match, enrol in Sonesta Travel Pass and then email firstname.lastname@example.org with your Travel Pass Member ID and a copy of a current membership card or statement showing your status in another hotel loyalty programme.
Lounge access or breakfast at select brands for top-tier elites
When you have elite status and stay on a qualifying rate at Royal Sonesta or Sonesta Hotels & Resorts, you’ll get complimentary club lounge access when available. At hotels without club lounges, you’ll get complimentary continental breakfast each morning instead.
However, there are many other brands within the Sonesta portfolio. Although Sonesta Select properties often have onsite dining options, elite members won’t get complimentary breakfast at these hotels. Meanwhile, Sonesta Simply Suites properties offer simple ensuite kitchens but no onsite restaurant. And all guests get free hot breakfast at Sonesta ES Suites.
However, Sonesta Travel Plan members get a Sip ‘n snack credit at Sonesta Select, Sonesta ES Suites and Sonesta Simply Suites when staying on a qualifying rate. In particular, elite status holders get a $15 credit per stay, Preferred status holders get a $10 credit per stay and Member status holders get a $5 credit per stay. So, you may be able to use this credit toward breakfast at these brands.
Elite discounts on dining, resort amenities and suite upgrades at select brands
When you have Preferred or elite status and stay on a qualifying rate at Royal Sonesta or Sonesta Hotels & Resorts, you can get discounts on dining and resort amenities. In particular, Preferred members get a 10% discount while Elite members get a 15% discount. But, you’ll only get this discount at Sonesta-operated outlets.
Elite members who stay on a qualifying rate at Royal Sonesta or Sonesta Hotels & Resorts can also request a suite upgrade at check-in and get a 50% discount if an upgrade is available. The flip side of this benefit is that you’re unlikely to get upgraded to a suite for free, especially since Sonesta only provides Elite members complimentary upgrades to the next room category.
Free night awards range from 10,000 to 50,000 points per night
Sonesta Travel Pass has 11 award night tiers that range from 10,000 to 50,000 points per night. You can see all of the hotels that fall into each tier on Sonesta’s website. You can also see the tier and points required for a free night at each Sonesta hotel on a different page. However, you can only redeem points to stay at Sonesta hotels in the U.S., Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and St. Maarten.
The tiers and points costs per night are as follows:
|Tier||Points per night||Properties in tier|
|Tier 1||10,000||24 Simply Suites|
|Tier 2||12,500||24 Simply Suites|
|Tier 3||15,000||7 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
9 Sonesta Select
9 ES Suites
9 Simply Suites
1 Sonesta Posadas del Inca
|Tier 4||17,500||3 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
17 Sonesta Select
33 ES Suites
4 Simply Suites
|Tier 5||20,000||5 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
12 Sonesta Select
19 ES Suites
2 Simply Suites
1 Sonesta Posadas del Inca
|Tier 6||22,500||10 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
9 Sonesta Select
22 ES Suites
|Tier 7||25,000||1 Royal Sonesta
9 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
8 Sonesta Select
13 ES Suites
2 Simply Suites
|Tier 8||27,500||6 Royal Sonesta
3 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
3 Sonesta Select
|Tier 9||30,000||8 Royal Sonesta
1 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts
|Tier 10||40,000||1 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts|
|Tier 11||50,000||1 Sonesta Hotels & Resorts|
When I look at a new hotel loyalty programme, I start by considering low- and high-end redemptions. In doing so, I found that Sonesta only has one Tier 10 property and one Tier 11 property. And, both of these properties are all-inclusive resorts in St. Maarten.
I also found that all Royal Sonesta properties are in Tier 7, 8 or 9. Royal Sonesta properties are the most upscale properties in the Sonesta portfolio. But, since some Royal Sonesta hotels are located in less expensive regions, I expected we’d see some in lower award tiers.
While some Simply Suites properties are priced as high as Tier 7, Tiers 1 and 2 consist solely of Simply Suites properties. Many of the Simply Suites properties were previously Candlewood Suites properties. When staying at a Simply Suites property, you won’t get breakfast, but you will get simply-equipped kitchens, free coffee each morning, free on-site laundry facilities and free Wi-Fi.
Two all-inclusive resorts
Sonesta has two all-inclusive resorts located side-by-side in St. Maarten. You can book one of these resorts, the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, for 40,000 points per night. This beachfront resort is an av-geek favourite since it’s located minutes from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) and overlooks Maho Bay. The 420-room resort proclaims itself as St. Maarten’s largest all-inclusive family resort. Indeed, the resort has an oasis pool with a swim-up bar, kids club, aqua park, teen zone, five restaurants, a pizzeria and five bars.
And you can book the other resort, the adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, for 50,000 points per night. This 130-room resort offers an all-inclusive luxury experience with three pools, five bars, two restaurants and 24-hour room service.
Currently, both resorts offer paid packages that will likely provide more value than redeeming points. Both resorts also offer on-property rapid antigen testing for guests, although you’ll need to pay for this testing.
Ample extended-stay properties
Most of Sonesta’s hotel portfolio consists of Sonesta ES Suites and Sonesta Simply Suites. Many Sonesta ES Suites were formally either Residence Inn by Marriott or Staybridge Suites. And most Sonesta Simply Suites were formally either Townplace Suites or Candlewood Suites.
Especially when traveling during the coronavirus pandemic, extended-stay properties are appealing for their extra space and kitchens. But even post-pandemic, I expect extended-stay properties to grow in popularity as remote workers look to remain productive while on the road. After travelling for more than three years as a global digital nomad, I certainly appreciate the ample workspace and laundry facilities most extended stay properties provide.
Several of my go-to extended-stay properties in Austin, TX and Birmingham, AL, reflagged from IHG to Sonesta in late 2020. When my travels take me back to these cities, I may give Sonesta a try if I don’t find better options in my primary hotel loyalty programmes.
Areas for improvement
Despite all the reasons I’ve listed above, I’m still not all that excited about Sonesta Travel Pass. After all, I already have mid- to high-tier elite status with several other hotel loyalty programmes. So, unless Sonesta Travel Pass improves in several vital areas, I don’t see it being a serious contender to other hotel loyalty programmes for my hotel nights.
In particular, I’d like to see Sonesta Travel Pass improve in the following areas:
- Online award night redemptions: Currently, you must call to redeem or fill out an online redemption request form and then wait for confirmation from the Sonesta Travel Pass team.
- Consistent elite perks across brands: Many elite perks are only offered at Royal Sonesta or Sonesta Hotels & Resorts. Plus, internet may not be available at international hotels.
- Better top-tier perks: I’d like to see better perks for top-tier Elite members. For example, Sonesta could offer guaranteed late check-out at a specific time, space-available upgrades at all brands, upgrades to more than just the next level room type when available and complimentary breakfast at all brands that offer breakfast for purchase.
- Fourth or fifth night free on awards perk: Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards all offer a fourth or fifth night free when booking with points, although Hilton’s is limited to elites and IHG’s is limited to IHG Rewards credit cardholders.
- Lucrative promotions: Sonesta’s current promotions are mostly hotel-specific. Sonesta will need to offer compelling programme-wide promotions to attract travellers from other hotel loyalty programmes.
- Large global footprint: Despite Sonesta’s massive growth in the last year and upcoming acquisitions, Sonesta still won’t have a significant global footprint. And since much of my travel is abroad, I’m not going to put much effort into a programme that doesn’t provide compelling options overseas.
- Options to boost your points balance: Currently, Sonesta doesn’t offer buy-points promotions and isn’t a transfer partner of any major transferrable currencies. As such, the only ways to earn Sonesta Travel Pass points are through stays.
Some of the above issues are relatively minor. But, some of the problems are difficult to overlook. For example, Sonesta Travel Pass needs to allow its members to book awards seamlessly online. And until earning is improved on the Sonesta card or other ways to boost your points balance are added, it will be difficult for travellers to accrue points.
There are several interesting aspects to the Sonesta Travel Pass hotel loyalty programme. From easy-to-obtain top-tier status to all-inclusive resorts, the programme has some attractive elements. However, some of the most compelling elite perks are limited to just two of Sonesta’s brands. And several other limitations will likely keep me from staying with Sonesta frequently.
But I’ll certainly watch Sonesta and its Travel Pass loyalty programme as they grow. And, although I don’t plan to go out of my way to stay with Sonesta, I expect I’ll find that Sonesta hotels are my best option for some stays. I plan to status match to top-tier elite status before my first stay and will be interested to see how the on-site experience is as an Elite member.
Featured image by pixdeluxe/Getty Images.
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