One of the most popular platforms for booking luxury hotel stays is Virtuoso, the world’s largest independent network of luxury travel advisors and properties.
By booking your stay through Virtuoso, you’ll receive exclusive benefits during your stay that are on par with those offered to members with top-tier elite status – all at no additional cost to you.
What Is Virtuoso?
Virtuoso is a network of travel agencies, advisors, and providers that specialize in luxury travel. With 20,000+ travel advisors in the network and partnerships with 2,000+ travel companies, Virtuoso offers a lot of valuable opportunities when planning a trip.
For hotels, participating in the Virtuoso network and offering additional benefits to clients of Virtuoso travel advisors is a great way to attract more customers. As the traveller, you can book hotel rooms through Virtuoso at the same rate compared to booking directly with the hotel, but you’ll be granted additional perks and benefits.
Virtuoso is a great way to enjoy useful perks during your stay even if you don’t have any elite status in the hotel’s loyalty program – or indeed, even if the hotel doesn’t offer a loyalty program with meaningful benefits.
A point of comparison would be the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program, which gives cardholders of the American Express Platinum Card and the American Express Business Platinum Card extra perks when booking a hotel through the Amex travel platform.
Unlike Amex FHR, though, Virtuoso is open to the public and anyone can book through the program.
Why Book Hotels Through Virtuoso?
When booking hotels with points isn’t a viable option, Virtuoso offers a solid alternative for maximizing value. Indeed, it doesn’t always make sense to use points on hotel stays, because the redemption may not always meet your target valuations.
There also may be times where you’re travelling to more unique areas of the world, where there just aren’t any hotels available to book using points. Having access to Virtuoso hotels at times like these can prove to be very valuable, too.
In addition, Virtuoso allows you to experiment with different hotel chains outside of your usual chain where you may already have elite status and benefits. You’ll enjoy a taste of what independent hotels and other chains have to offer, without having to give up on the benefits and perks you’ve grown accustomed to receiving.
The main motivation for booking hotels through Virtuoso rather than booking directly, though, is because Virtuoso bookings come with exclusive perks at no additional cost.
While the perks and benefits may change from hotel to hotel, they almost always include:
- Daily breakfast for two guests
- Room upgrade, subject to availability at check-in
- Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
- $100 (USD) property credit (benefit may vary)
- Other amenities and experiences at select properties
Virtuoso’s network encompasses most luxury hotel brands from major hotel chains, such as Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis, Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria and Conrad, and Hyatt’s Park Hyatt and Alila brands.
If you use Virtuoso to stay at one of these hotels, you’ll still earn points and elite qualifying nights for that stay with your chosen loyalty program, like Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and World of Hyatt. Unlike when booking with third-party platforms like Expedia, you can enjoy all of the benefits of booking directly with hotels.
In fact, if you already have elite status with the hotel brand, you’ll also receive benefits from your own status in addition to the ones offered through Virtuoso.
In this case, booking through Virtuoso would give you free breakfast (which Titanium members don’t receive at Ritz-Carlton properties), while your Titanium Elite status would give you a chance at a nicer suite upgrade (compared to Virtuoso’s room upgrade benefit, which is typically only for one room category).
The Virtuoso Footprint
There are over 1,500 hotels that can be booked through Virtuoso, and not all of them belong to the major hotel chains. With Virtuoso, you’ll have access to many independent luxury hotels that you otherwise may not have been aware of.
There are also 13 private islands that can be booked through Virtuoso in some unique locations all over the world, such as Fiji, Cambodia, Belize, Madagascar, and the Maldives.
There are over 30 hotels and resorts in Canada, which may including many you’ve never heard of as they aren’t all tied to a major hotel chain, like the remote Sonora Resort Canada. At the Sonora Resort Canada, you’ll receive the expected Virtuoso perks, but in addition to that, guests will also receive a complimentary one-hour ocean tour.
On the opposite side of the country, you can book the unique Fogo Island Inn, where there are only 29 rooms with amazing views of the North Atlantic Ocean.
You can search for all hotels and properties available on the Virtuoso website.
How to Maximize Value on Virtuoso Hotel Bookings
If you’re considering booking a stay through Virtuoso, here are a few ways to maximize the value you get.
Compare the Virtuoso Rate and Public Rates
The Virtuoso rate is typically the same as the best flexible (i.e., fully refundable) rate available to the public. However, there may be other lower rates that you’d have access to for any given hotel booking, such as prepaid rates, member rates, or corporate rates.
Among these rates, paying the prepaid rate would leave you with minimal flexibility when it comes to changes or cancellations. However, member rates and corporate rates typically have more favourable cancellation policies that are on par with Virtuoso’s.
As you decide which channel to book through, you’ll want to weigh up these potential price differences against the additional benefits that you’ll get by booking through Virtuoso.
For example, if you already receive breakfast as a benefit through your hotel elite status, then the incremental value of getting breakfast via Virtuoso would be zero.
Conversely, if breakfast is otherwise going to cost you a hefty sum (which is often the case at luxury properties) and you plan on eating at the hotel in the morning, then paying the slightly higher Virtuoso rate might be cheaper than paying for breakfast separately.
As another example, if you don’t plan on spending too much time at your hotel, then you might not have the opportunity to use the $100 (USD) property credit that you get through Virtuoso, so it may not be as valuable to you.
On the other hand, if the hotel has a beautiful bar where you know you’ll want to stop by for a drink, then the $100 (USD) property credit could be the perfect way to elevate your stay.
Book Shorter Stays
Note that Virtuoso perks are offered daily, such as the free breakfast and room upgrade, while others are offered once per stay, such as the $100 (USD) property credit.
Because of this, you stand to gain more relative value, relative to your total booking amount, from shorter stays rather than longer stays.
This could also be a motivation to “hotel-hop” on the same trip, if you enjoy trying different properties and don’t mind the inconvenience of packing up your bags and moving to the next hotel.
Note that two consecutive bookings at the same hotel under the same name will be treated as one booking for the purpose of the $100 (USD) property credit.
Third, Fourth, or Fifth Night Free Promotions
If you have your eye on a specific property, or if you’ve already booked a specific property, you should check for special Third, Fourth, or Fifth Night Free offers that tend to pop up from time to time. The full list of ongoing promotions can be found on the Virtuoso website.
For example, if you book three nights at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver by December 15, 2022 for travel until August 31, 2023, you’ll get a fourth night free. This is in addition to the free daily breakfast, potential upgrade, and a $100 USD food and beverage credit offered through Virtuoso.
For a four night stay booked on the Fairmont website, the total cost would come to $1,489.90 (CAD) in a base-level room.
The same stay booked through Virtuoso, which offers daily breakfast, a $100 (USD) credit, a possible upgrade, and early check-in/late check-out, comes out to $1,382.98 (CAD).
Considering that adding breakfast to the reservation booked directly through Fairmont would bring the total cost to $1,769.90 (CAD), booking through Virtuoso is clearly the better value for the same booking here.
Compare with American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts
While Virtuoso is well-known for offering incremental benefits compared to booking the public rate, it isn’t the only booking channel that offers these benefits.
If you have access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, it may make sense to compare the price and perks offered between the two programs. While they are often the same price, there are instances when Virtuoso can be cheaper – Virtuoso rates tend to be the same as the best flexible public rate, but Amex FHR rates may not be.
On the flip side, Amex FHR’s benefits can sometimes outweigh Virtuoso’s. The prime example of this is guaranteed 4pm late checkout, which is included when you book through Amex FHR but not when you book through Virtuoso.
If this benefit would be valuable to you (for example, at a popular resort property during high season where a late checkout request is unlikely to be granted), booking through Amex FHR could be worthwhile even if the rate is slightly higher.
In the case of the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, the Fine Hotels & Resorts cost works out to be about the same. Of course, if you don’t have a credit card that gives you access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, then this wouldn’t be of much use to you.
Compare with Preferred Partner Programs
While Virtuoso is home to many independent luxury hotels, the program also encompasses many of the world’s major hotel brands, which are frequently part of these brands’ very own preferred partner programs.
Examples include Marriott STARS, Hilton Impresario, and Hyatt Privé for the high-end properties within Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt’s portfolios respectively. Other major luxury chains like Four Seasons and Rosewood also offer their own preferred partner programs that select travel advisors have access to.
The rates when booking through Virtuoso and a preferred partner program are generally the same, though the specific perks and promotions offered at each property can vary.
In most cases, a preferred partner program’s benefits will slightly outweigh Virtuoso’s; for example, Hyatt Privé and Shangri-La Luxury Circle allow upgrades to be confirmed at the time of booking, whereas Virtuoso only grants upgrades at the time of check-in (both subject to availability).
Furthermore, in my conversations with the a few hotel managers, I’ve gotten the sense that bookings made through their own preferred partner programs tend to be prioritized for upgrades above Virtuoso (which in turn are prioritized over guests who simply booked a public rate).
Virtuoso is a valuable tool that can help you unlock additional benefits at some of the top luxury hotels in the world. You’ll wind up paying around the same rate as the best flexible rate offered directly with the hotel, but you’ll enjoy a suite of additional benefits.
If you already enjoy status with a hotel chain, your stays booked through Virtuoso will earn points and nights, and you’ll be able to stack your elite status benefits with your Virtuoso benefits, too.
If you tend to book luxury hotels with cash, or if just want to save your hard-earned points for a better use, Virtuoso is a very useful booking platform to get the most out of your next trip.