Is Alila Ventana Big Sur Becoming The New Maldives?
I had planned on writing this article for a week. A buddy inspired it when he said he “finally” booked Alila Ventana Big Sur. That, plus all of the coverage of availability and bookings with the property going to the diabolical category 8 got this ball rolling.
The article I intended to write has shifted some after the response to my article yesterday about me dropping Hyatt Globalist status. People, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, seemed to have their feathers ruffled by the post. To be honest, I was surprised by that. I wrote the piece more as a reminder for people to constantly be reevaluating their choices. Their choices on credit cards, status levels, programs etc. on a regular basis. I said ABC means always be crunching! What made sense for you last year, or the last five years, may not make sense for you this year. And, just because something is the best there is, which I think Hyatt Globalist is, and said as much, it doesn’t mean it makes sense for YOU.
Our buddy Paul S. said it best in our Facebook Group.
Back To Big Sur
I think all of this plays into what I wanted to discuss with Alila Ventana Big Sur, group think. In our little niche, well, all niches out there fall victim to this honestly, we have an issue with group think. A narrative is started and then people tend to fall in line with that narrative. Dissenters are stoned at the gates. While this is happening we create this sort of FOMO, or feeling that certain things need to be accomplished to be able to fit in with the pack. Almost like travel hacking is a video game and we need to unlock these badges along the way to be accepted.
We have seen this play out time and time again. Whether it be frequent flyer programs like American Airlines miles 5-6 years ago or Alaska Airlines shortly after that. Certain airlines first class seats or business class protects must be ridden. Hotel status, like Hyatt Globalist, has definitely reached that level. We have seen it with locations like the Maldives. Hotels have fallen into the trap like Park Hyatt NYC, Park Hyatt Vendome and now Alila Big Sur. The SLH property on Calala Island was totally heading there before the pandemic hit.
I talked about this same thing a few years back with the Maldives and how people felt like they had to go there because that is what you do when a miles and points elite. The next day I also touched on how social media, and influencers, have systematically changed the way we travel.
I Have Nothing Against Any Of These Places Or Programs
Don’t get it twisted here, I have nothing against these hotels, programs or locations. I also don’t have a problem with the people that visit or use them. All of these places look amazing. I was even considering checking out the Alila Big Sur when on my California baseball trip. I would be driving by anyway, going from LA to San Francisco, so why not stay a night and see what it is like. Assuming there was award space etc.
No, this is more about the culture that we have created in our space. A culture we at Miles to Memories have even played a willing roll in. Heck, we had our buddy Derrick from Travel on Point(s) on the podcast a few weeks ago to talk about his stay at this very hotel. Why? Because people are interested in it and it is a popular property. Even my buddy Adam, aka Travel Fan Boy, hit me with a killer joke on Twitter when I put a Maldives article in Around the Web:
— Adam Bauer (@TravelFanboy) February 3, 2022
I don’t think covering these things, or sharing experiences, is a bad thing in and of itself but it seems to snowball out of control at times. Just with certain programs, properties and destinations. It creates this travel hacker badge people feel like they need to unlock. Once that aura phenomenon is created around something it is hard to break from. Watch out for the pitchforks if you say anything against it too! That is what I have a problem with. That is what I want to remind people of.
Travel Where You Want, How You Want, But Make Sure It Is For YOU
My entire point yesterday, and again today, was that you need to do what is best for YOU! You need to remember that blogs and travel websites write to the masses. When we say Hyatt Globalist is the best hotel status that is saying it is the most rewarding for the masses. That doesn’t mean it is the best option for you. Maybe you can’t get an Ultimate Rewards earning card, or the places you want to travel doesn’t have Hyatt hotels etc. Alaska Airlines has a great program for certain redemptions, and some of the most valuable airline miles out there. If you aren’t planning a trip to Asia any time soon, and you can’t maximize their value, should you even care about the program though?
I know people are reading this right now and thinking, duh, I can see what works for me and what doesn’t. I’d bet that every single one of us has probably fallen trap to this at some point. I know I have. I booked the Park Hyatt NYC, not because it was the best option for our trip, but because of “the insane value you could get” and how revered it was. In the 10 trips to NYC since I haven’t stayed there again. That tells me it wasn’t a good choice for ME.
So I stand here on my pulpit now and say, go wherever you want however you want. Just make sure it is because YOU want to. Don’t fall victim to the aura phenomenon, or the feeling that you need to go somewhere, or collect something, simply because everyone else is. It is okay to stand alone sometimes if it is not really for you. Well, you won’t be alone…I’ll be standing there with you a lot of the time.
Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Staying at Ventana Big Sur is not experiencing Big Sur. Camping in Big Sur, hiking inland to the hot springs, and hiking along the coast, is experiencing Big Sur. People come from all over the world to experience Big Sur. Many stay at Ventana Big Sur but never actually experience Big Sur.
Thanks for the article Mark. You’re right on point. I’m continually amazed at people who think you’re not really traveling if you’re not flying internationally in a first-class cabin and staying at the most luxurious property known to mankind. Although we sometimes travel internationally, our favorite travel is short, domestic trips (usually 1 to 4 nights) on AA and Southwest. We do just fine in coach… and sometimes we even drive! As for hotels, we usually use Hilton, Hyatt and IHG points, and we’re just as happy at a Holiday Inn Express as we are at an Intercontinental. We’ve got about a dozen trips planned this year using the above plan (7 flying / 5 driving), and we’re looking forward to each one. I realize our approach isn’t right for everyone, but it works great for us. Thanks for the reality check.
It is sad that anything feels that way about the way they travel but it happens in this space for sure. We talked about this comment on this week’s podcast 🙂
Mark, bingo. Another term is “jumping on the bandwagon.” It’s *the* thing everyone is doing . . . especially the beautiful people . . . the hipsters. And, if *you* want to be one of the beautiful . . . one of the hipsters . . . you’ll do what they are doing. And, tier status plays into this — people feel compelled to achieve this or that tier status to be one of the beautiful people . . . one of the hipsters. But, as you ask: Is this really a fit for *you*? And, what are you really getting? As 2808 Heavy asks: Is this a place they really want to go?
This has been a big part of my (never ending) criticism of hotel loyalty programs and recommending that people find a solution that is best for oneself. And, not stay on the hamster wheel expecting more kibble and ain’t coming.
It is this type of article that best serves the community. Thanks.
Big Sur is or absolutely no interest to me. It’s not my style of travel. When I travel I like to enjoy myself…I’m not trying to spend time in what looks to be some sort of secluded area trying to get in touch with my “inner self”.
I’m a city guy who can appreciate gas stations and Walgreens within walking distance. I’d rather have a good pizza from a local joint than some food I can’t appreciate or pronounce. I want to be able to swear within the everyday use of words such as “shit, damn, etc” without raising eyebrows of those within earshot.
Kudos to those who are into such spaces as I’m sure the places I enjoy are of no interest to them. I’ve never been to Big Sur and have no desire. However I was talked in to the Park Hyatt Aviara once…it was the most boring 3 day weekend I’ve ever spent in California, never again.
That is the key for sure – going places that match your style.
We went to Ventana for 3 nights. It was a beautiful resort but to be quite honest I didn’t find the food to be anything special. Lunch was by the pool and was boring and the dinner menu didn’t change from night tonight. Maybe I will attribute that to Covid. I’m not particularly picky so I’m surprised when I see all the raves about that property. They were very nice there but I can’t say I would go back.
I won’t spend almost 2 days to travel to/from the Maldives to speak to it, but as the property itself will tell you “Ventana is a state of mind.” It is not a stopover spot (2-nt min) & requires time physically & emotionally there to understand its importance & magic.
There is certainly an element of group think with Ventana Big Sur (VBS), and I’m guilty of promoting it to a friend in California who has been considering it. But the biggest driver of Big Sur’s skyrocketing popularity has as much to do with the captive domestic U.S. audience as word of mouth/blogs. With all of the Covid requirements making it so difficult to travel overseas (which are only now starting to lift), VBS is/has been the only game in town (in the country, actually) that offers a beautiful property and semi-exotic location, plus ALL MEALS FREE/INCLUDED. I love free food, whether at Hyatt Place or Big Sur, but the level of food at VBS is obviously at the other end of the scale. Name ANY OTHER points-redeemable Hyatt property in the continental United States that offers all meals, a pristine natural environment, etc. like Ventana Big Sur. I’ll wait to see if anyone has an answer.
Oh for sure. This really wasn’t about Big Sur, it looks amazing and everyone reports as such. It is more about our little world finding and focusing on certain things, place, cards, miles etc. Then people feel compelled to jump in just because everyone else is. I think the pandemic made that light shine more on Big Sur than it would of for sure. But if not it would have been something else, like Calala Island which is a much bigger time, and cost, investment.
In 2 past years COVID restrictions played a big role in most people travel plans, including mine. I wanted to go abroad, but some places were closed and some trip were cancelled. Nonetheless I visited 9 states in the USA just in 1 year – places I wanted to see for some time that previously did not fit into the vacation schedule. So there were some positives, including smaller crowds and great opportunities to save miles. Most of the times, a person does not need to go far to discover what really matters!
Happy travel everyone, and don’t let the mob dictate what places to go – listen to your heart and soul.
It was cool to see people rediscovering areas in their own state or within the US over the last few years for sure. It may have been a little forced upon us but it wasn’t all bad.
The only think worse that travel group think is blog think.
Blogs fall into the trap for sure too.
One of my pet peeves in this business is people conflating price with value. If you book a $10k first class ticket for 100k points, you didn’t get 10c of value per point if you wouldn’t have paid the $10k to begin with. If the economy ticket on that flight is $500, maybe the first class ticket is worth $1k or $1.5k to you. Then that’s the value you got for your points. If the airline doubles the price of the first class ticket for the exact same flight, did the value actually double? Obviously not.
That is true. As well as inflating status. I saved $100 on breakfast with my status. But was there a comparable hotel down the street that was $50 cheaper a night?
I’ve had the opportunity and luck (and money or points) to stay at nice hotels, and fly up front and travel internationally. Not as much as many of your readers, but much more than the average person. And travel blogs have provided a lot of info on how to do that. But I won’t see everything. There will always be another must see/do. At some point blogs will be talking about the best planet to visit. When my end comes, I’m sure I will want more time with family and friends. Won’t need anything else. Just my opinion, of course.
I think that is a good perspective to have John
Big Sur and the California Coast has orders of magnitude more to do than the Maldives. The two are not comparable.
Saying Globalist isn’t worth it for you but adding you can have the benefits any time you want for free through Guest of Honor bookings is disingenuous at best.
In the 3 years previous to earning Globalist and being an Explorist I used GoH I think 2 times and got it once for my wife out of around 100 nights during that time frame. I only used it when it made a lot of sense like Baha Mar. Otherwise, I was perfectly happy using a lounge access cert if I needed breakfast at a full service property. When I was traveling by myself it didn’t mean much to me so not worth the effort to save $10 in the morning etc.
My point was for those times when it is a big saver there are other options. You could always book into a club room with points too etc. If you aren’t using your status often then you are better off going this route…and I think quite a few people that chase Globalist fall directly into that bucket.
A domestic trip to CA will never have the aspirational value of “exotic” locations imo, but I very much agree people are treating Big Sur that way recently. To be honest I think a lot of trips have the value for some people of saying “Oh I’ve been there” and I guarantee no one outside of the Hyatt points world will ever exclaim “wow what was Big Sur like” the way they do to the Maldives lol. So, like your article suggests, I think it’s pretty funny to see people clamoring to blow 25k/30k points per night in California of all places, like I know covid has lowered expectations to some degree but….That said, if you have a family, don’t want to travel far, have limited vacation days, etc. I can see the outsized value, perhaps.
100% agree, certain locations and hotels are all about checking the box for meet ups etc. Not for everyone but for enough of people to be noticeable.
Great point. Big Sur definitely got that vibe now. And the Hyatt’s of the world are increasing redemptions at popular redemption places to reflect that it’s a win to them to get people to redeem there vs redeeming at, say, the Hyatt Regency Dulles. It’s also a reason that I “don’t tell” about my favorite redemption options simply because if they get enough of a following, everyone will do them and the sweet spot will be no longer!
It does seem like everything people talk up gets bumped. I think that is because it was undervalued by Hyatt originally but the traction that was added to it aided in the process of them figuring that out for sure.
Really good point about groupthink. It seems like this community does something similar with frequent flyer programs as well. ANA, virgin, avianca, and others get a ton of attention, and with good reason, but if you’re flying to/from Europe flying blue has some of the easiest and reasonably priced redemptions, even without a reward chart, and they are a transfer partner for nearly every transferrable currency, but you rarely see an article about them.
Shhh Paul, you don’t want people jumping on it 🙂 Let them focus on Turkish instead haha