Since last year, I have heard so much from bloggers and travel enthusiasts about this wonderful booking hack for Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore which allowed guests who book the highest category Garden Wing room (i.e. the Garden Wing Pool View Room) to be upgraded to the entry level room in the exclusive and much more expensive Valley Wing (i.e. the Valley Wing Deluxe Room). This hack was possible by using certain luxury travel advisors (e.g. HoteLux) to access special Luxury Circle rates which accord an upgrade to the next room category at the time of booking, subject to availability. Usually, guests who book the Garden Wing Pool View Room will be upgraded to the entry Tower Wing room. However, as the entire Tower Wing is being operated as a dedicated Stay Home Notice (SHN) facility, this creates an interesting scenario in that the “next room category” after the Garden Wing Pool View Room for this period is now the Valley Wing Deluxe Room. The cost savings of using this hack to secure a Valley Wing room as opposed to directly booking the room itself amounted to at least S$250 (usually more).
The Valley Wing commands a high room rate because all Valley Wing guests enjoy access to the exclusive Summit Room for a la carte breakfast as well as the Champagne Lounge for all-day champagne, wine and a selection of cocktails from Origin Bar. Yes, even in the morning.
One important fact to note is that people book the Valley Wing room for the above privileges and most certainly not for the room itself, which remains a product of its time back in the 1980s in terms of hardware.
On 30 April 2021, I made a reservation for the Garden Wing Pool View Room under a Luxury Circle rate, expecting to be upgraded to the Valley Wing Deluxe Room. After I made the reservation, I received an auto-generated reservation confirmation letter from the luxury travel advisor platform. Since then, I did not receive any further correspondence from either the platform or the hotel in relation to my upcoming reservation. I should also highlight that unlike other hotel chains such as Marriott or Hilton, bookings for Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore made using third parties will not be reflected in the hotel’s Golden Circle loyalty platform, so there was no way for me to obtain information about my room reservation independently.
At around 9.50am on the morning of my stay on 6 May 2021, I placed a call to the hotel to enquire as to my room status and what time I was able to check in. The agent told me she would call me back with the necessary details. At around 10.23am, the same agent called me to inform me that while I will be accorded an upgrade to the Valley Wing Deluxe Room, this upgrade will expressly exclude all Valley Wing privileges (i.e. access to the Summit Room and Champagne Lounge).
This was a very curious upgrade which I would compare to upgrading me from an Economy to a Business Class seat but then saying I would not be able to order from the Business Class menu even though I would have to frequently walk past all these Business Class folks enjoying their Book The Cook meals and sipping all-day champagne on my way to and from my room in the Valley Wing. When I asked for an explanation as to why I would be given the room but not the usual accompanying privileges, she kept repeating that she was “unable to advise” and thus I requested for an explanation in writing, which she agreed to forward to the relevant teams.
When I waited for 3 hours but did not hear back as of 1.30pm, I wrote an email to the hotel’s General Manager and the reservations team to follow up on my situation. In my email, I set out my understanding of the usual upgrade policy for this specific room category and highlighted what I believed in good faith to be a legitimate and reasonable expectation to receive the same privileges as all those before me who were upgraded to the Valley Wing and managed to enjoy the accompanying benefits. Of course, I clarified that I understood all room upgrades are subject to availability, and that all I sought was an explanation as to why my upgrade was so unusual and what their current policy was vis-a-vis Valley Wing upgrades. I then ended my email by requesting for a penalty-free cancellation of my booking should the hotel’s final position be that I am not able to enjoy the full Valley Wing privileges, since that was the main reason of my stay in the first place and that staying at the Valley Wing Deluxe Room without the accompanying privileges will be doing the Valley Wing experience an injustice. (After my less than ideal stay back in 2019 in one of the refurbished Tower Wing rooms, I wanted an opportunity to obtain a different perspective of the property, and have been waiting for the right time – and room rate – to stay at and write about the Valley Wing, which is a much fabled destination based on online reviews.)
I continued waiting anxiously, not sure whether or not to start packing for my stay. It was then I found one or two online sources (e.g. MileLion) which confirmed that the hotel no longer gives the Valley Wing upgrade. In addition, various people reached out to me on social media sharing their experiences and confirming the same. However, I also understand that the inability to be upgraded to the Valley Wing due to the policy change was usually communicated in advance to guests who booked the Garden Wing Pool View, and I was shown screenshots of emails received by guests which informed them that they will not be upgraded to the Valley Wing Deluxe Room. As I mentioned, I did not receive any such clarification from anybody, and if I did, I would naturally not have proceeded with the booking as-is. In addition, to my understanding, these former Garden Wing Pool View bookings were usually not upgraded further, as opposed to being told they could have the room but not access to the Valley Wing privileges.
Finally, I received a reply from the hotel’s reservation team at 3pm. The gist of the email was that the Valley Wing upgrade was honoured for bookings made last year, which includes stays in 2021, but that the hotel has since changed its policy and no longer accorded the Valley Wing upgrade as before. They stated that to be fair to those who booked the Garden Wing Pool View this year and did not receive the Valley Wing upgrade, I would similarly not be able to receive the upgrade. They ended the email agreeing to the cancellation of my stay without penalty should I choose to proceed. Since it was already past check-in time, I decided to just call the whole thing off and cancel my stay – I just wanted this nightmare to end as soon as possible.
As a consequence, I also had to cancel my reservation at Shang Palace, which would have been where I would have spent my US$100 dining credit which accompanies all Luxury Circle bookings.
So my hours of distress, confusion and frustration from 10.30am to 3pm ended on a limp note, just like that. To be honest, even if the property had relented and gave me the Valley Wing privileges at 3pm, my mood by then was already considerably dampened and my weekend essentially ruined. I need to stress that the issue was not about not getting the Valley Wing privileges per se – if the reservations agent had simply told me I would not receive any room upgrade at all (no room, no privileges) as a matter of existing policy, I would have been annoyed but a lot less confused, and much of the afternoon’s drama could have been prevented. Come to think about it, the curious executive decision to give me the Valley Wing room but not the perks (which was what gave rise to my questions in the first place) was never actually addressed.
As you can imagine, I am very disappointed by the lack of any form of service recovery for all that has transpired, especially from a hotel of Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore’s standing.
There is a somewhat funny epilogue to this horrible nightmare experience. After receiving confirmation that my stay was successfully cancelled, I received the following note from the team:
C’est la vie.
[Editor’s Note: Some readers who read this article subsequently left feedback to the effect that the hotel should not be penalized for quashing the hack, “you pay for what you get” and “(it is) a lesson to us all not to be entitled”. These readers, who likely do not have the requisite understanding or background knowledge about hospitality or luxury advisor bookings or who are unfamiliar with the concept of “hacks”, appear to have fixated on the Valley Wing hack itself and its merits – which is a topic for another day and not one for me to cover since hacks are most certainly not my speciality – but did not seem to have successfully grasped the various points I was trying to make with the article, none of which have anything to do with not being accorded the full Valley Wing upgrade. For the avoidance of doubt, this article questions, among other points: (i) the appropriateness of the decision by the hotel to offer a technical upgrade of the room but not the perks instead of just keeping the guest at the Garden Wing due to the very unique nature of the Valley Wing; (ii) the process flows in place for third party bookings for the hotel, in view of how the guest is unable to access reservation details independently on the hotel’s direct booking platform; (iii) the process flows in place when a guest requires clarification of hotel/upgrade policies; and (iv) the lack of service recovery or recovery follow-ups (e.g. offering the option to top-up and pay for the Valley Wing privileges). The article most definitely does not attempt to argue or insist that the hotel should have honoured its prior policy to allow upgrades from the Garden Wing to the Valley Wing.]