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PhoCusWright 2010 Innovator: Stash Hotel Rewards

I spent three action-packed days in Scottsdale recently at the PhoCusWright 2010 conference. While some of the companies that were at the conference have products that are so behind-the-scenes the average traveler may never know about them, some are very much consumer-oriented – so I thought I’d highlight a few of them that might be of particular interest to business travelers.

Keep reading to find out how to get a special invitation to sign up for an account with this company and get 500 bonus points just for doing so!

Business travelers (and frequent leisure travelers) tend to be hyper-conscious of things like airline miles programs and hotel rewards programs. But what if you’re also the kind of person for whom travel is about experiencing new and different things? Always staying in big chain hotels because they’re the ones that offer rewards points can detract significantly from the travel experience when every single chain hotel looks essentially the same.

For those of us who don’t want to have to choose between staying at independently-run hotels or earning points for our hotel stays, there’s Stash Hotel Rewards.

Stash Hotel Rewards is a program with an ever-expanding network of independent hotels that allows travelers to earn points toward free stays. These are properties with character, sometimes in historic buildings and often described as “boutique hotels,” and they’re almost never on the radar of frequent travelers because there wasn’t a way to earn points toward free stays.

Now, “character” may not be something you care about when you’re traveling for business, but if it’s something that’s important to you when you travel for fun then consider this – by staying in hotels in the Stash Rewards network when you travel for work, you’ll be earning points toward free hotel stays for when you actually do go on vacation. And then you’ll have an array of unique properties to choose from that will help make your trip even more memorable and enjoyable.

Stash Rewards is new, and as such the list of hotels in the Stash network isn’t as extensive as a real road warrior would like. There are currently 100 hotels in the program, and there are 125 more set to be added within the first few months of 2011. Someone from Stash personally visits each and every property in the network, so adding a hotel isn’t as simple as pressing a button.

Expansion beyond the United States will also be key to Stash’s growth, especially as business travelers want to take the points they’ve earned on vacation overseas. Founder and CEO Jeff Low says they’re working hard on expanding into Europe and Asia in 2011, which will make the program even more appealing.

One critique of the Stash program is that it allows hoteliers to change the number of points that a room “costs” depending on the season. In other words, a hotel room may cost 5,000 points for a mid-week stay in April but cost twice that for a weekend trip over Thanksgiving or New Year’s. While this can be seen as a downside, there’s another way to look at it. With the big chain hotel rewards programs, a hotel room always “costs” the same number of points no matter what time of year it is. For those hoteliers, they would lose money on a hotel room that’s going to a rewards stay at a busy time, so they just make those blackout dates. With Stash, because the hotel can change the number of points required for a stay, there are no blackout dates for rooms.

As it is, there’s really no drawback to joining Stash Rewards – and the people at Stash have kindly provided a special invitation for WhyGo Business readers that starts you off with 500 points in your account just for signing up. Not only that, if you invite friends to join Stash you send them 500 points to start their accounts, and you get 500 points when they book a stay at a Stash hotel.

>> Join Stash Rewards with 500 points for WhyGo Business readers

>> Read about what we thought of the Stash Rewards presentation at PhoCusWright