Hotel subscription service Safara offers “bleisure” travelers deep discounts, free stays

Posted: 12 February 2020 12:54 pm
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Smiling female receptionist giving credit card to businessman while standing at hotel reception

New travel service Safara is seeking to cash in on millennial travel by offering a subscription service for business hotel stays.

Increasingly, companies are embracing the subscription model as a way to both offer deep cost savings and bring in new customers. The latest company to try this approach is luxury travel booker Safara, which allows subscribers to earn points that can be used toward free hotel stays.

At a glance
Who: Safara
What: Membership site for discounted hotel stays
Price: $195 per year
Highlights: Earn points toward free stays or upgrades, hand-picked hotels based on user experience, designed for frequent travelers

An example that Safara shows on its home page is a stay in a San Francisco luxury hotel — the San Francisco Proper — for three nights. Safara quoted other bookers as offering a room with two double beds for $1,147. Safara offered the same room at $984 with $124 in hotel points earned.

This price is only available to members who pay an annual membership fee of $195. Safara guarantees that its members will save more than the cost of the subscription; those that do not can ask for the difference back.

“Did you know that most of the big hotel booking sites pocket up to 30% of hidden commission fees built into the cost of your room?,” Safara asked in its blog. “Safara is a travel membership – the first of its kind – that gives you all this commission back in points, whether you’re traveling for work, play or a bit of both. We don’t take one cent in hidden fees. Nada.”

The philosophy of “bleisure” travel

Safara works on the premise that business travelers are traveling more and are more likely to extend business trips into vacations — a phenomenon known as “bleisure” travel. Points can be used either to secure free travel or to score free room upgrades. Subscribers must stay in a preselected slate of hotels in order to gain points. Revenue for the business supposedly comes from membership fees and not from commissions, however.

This approach of focusing on just a select number of hotels may be more of a philosophical choice than a financial one. Safara seeks to extend value to its subscribers; In an environment where it’s competing with a large number of corporate hotel rewards programs, Safara is aiming to offer something more straightforward — no blackout dates, mo minimum stays, honesty in room descriptions and no flashy perks. “We like to say that Safara is black and white and the other loyalty programs are all gray area,” Co-Founder Maya Poulton told Travel + Leisure.

“It’s either a race to the bottom — who’s got the lowest price? — or a race to the top: who’s got the biggest ad budget?” Poulton said. “Neither of those are conducive to great user experience, and neither caters at all to frequent travelers.”

Safara compared to other similar rewards programs

Most hotel rewards programs are either hotel-based, where a hotel rewards you for staying on their property after a number of visits, or credit card-based, where part of the amount paid in hotel fees is refunded back as a cashback bonus. One of the few non-branded loyalty programs available that offers free hotel stays is the Hotels.com reward program. For every 10 nights booked through Hotels.com, you earn a free night. The value of that free night is averaged from the cost of the 10 nights, so you can choose to use your free night wherever you’d like.

Another hotel rewards program of note is Invited, which is associated with the independent boutique hotel association Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Members get discounted stays, free room upgrades, birthday gifts and a free night stay voucher for $300 or less after five qualifying stays or $66,000 spent over one year.

Picture: Getty Images

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