Last month, my husband and I stayed at the Occidental Grand Xcaret. We had booked a low level room because it was actually less expensive to book this room than to request a travel agent rate. After booking the vacation package as a regular consumer (just as what I would do for any of my clients), I emailed my contact at Occidental Resorts and asked for the email address of the general manager. I emailed him and told him I was a travel agent staying at his resort. I asked for a full travel agent site inspection and asked if there was any way that I might be upgraded to their Royal Club (concierge class rooms).
Please realize that we booked at a time when the hotels were still reeling from the aftermath of the swine flu hysteria and no one was traveling to Mexico. The hotels were all relatively empty and they were desperate to get guests to their resorts. The general manager promptly replied that they would be happy to upgrade me. I told my husband not to expect the upgrade but if it did, indeed happen, it would be great. Well, we did get the upgrade to the best suite in the Royal Club. I put a review on Trip Advisor, mentioning the upgrade and have gotten no less than 2 dozen private messages asking for the general manager's name so they can also get the upgrade.
I reply to each and every one that I will not give out the email address since it is for travel agents only and that they should contact their travel agents to assist them in contacting the hotel to alert them of any special requests and ask that the clients be considered for any complimentary upgrades that might be available. That is what I do for my clients but I guess I am not your ordinary travel agent.
My clients have received upgrades based on these emails. I always tell my clients to book the room category that they will be happy with and IF they get upgraded, it will be a pleasant surprise.
Geri and group got upgrade to the 1 bedroom suites at Dreams Punta Cana (then Sunscape the Beach) because I met the manager and emailed him of their arrival.
Jessica and Danny honeymooned at Excellence Riviera Cancun and booked the honeymoon suite. They were upgraded to the Presidential suite!
Two couples went to the same resort and were upgraded to the excellence club rooms. A honeymoon couple went last month and didn't get upgraded but got a corner oceanview junior suite in the excellence club- same category they booked but the best location.
Many of my clients going to Hawaii get upgrades since I have great contacts at many of the resort there.
Can I ever guarantee an upgrade? NO.
Will you have a better chance of an upgrade if you book online? NO
In one article in a travel agent magazine, the writer spoke with many hotel managers who said that they will give a complimentary upgrade to guests who book through travel agents faster than the ones who book on the online booking sites because there will be more loyalty from the guest and travel agent.
Makes sense to me. The morale of the story- book the category of room that you will be ok with and use a travel agent who provides personalized service.