I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a hotel loyalty program make an announcement about a change that was only positive. Even if they try to market it as such and create anticipation among members, there’s typically a downside to the “enhancement.” We’ve seen this in the past few months with Marriott, Priority Club, and even Starwood.
Well, Hyatt announced some changes this morning, and shockingly enough, they’re all positive! Basically Hyatt has no more blackout dates on awards (which just catches up with the competition), they provide free internet to elites (a first in the industry), elites get lounge access or breakfast AND 2,500 points, and best of all, Diamond members now get four suite upgrades which appear to be much more flexible than the old upgrade vouchers Diamond members received, which required booking a rack rate room (it’s kind of like comparing American’s systemwide upgrades to Delta’s). Gary at View From the Wing provides a more detailed description of the changes.
So why are these changes so significant? Well, for a long time Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott really provided minimal benefits to elites, at least compared to InterContinental and Starwood. You were basically rewarded as a top tier member with free breakfast and/or free club lounge access, which isn’t all that great. Offering free upgrades and confirmed upgrade certificates really changes the game, and it will be interesting to see how Hilton and Marriott react.
This might just be the year I switch to Hyatt. Their yearly Faster Free Nights promotion is by far the best promotion in the hotel industry, and that alone is good reason to switch to Hyatt. These benefits make them an even better choice, though. Best of all, they match Priority Club status if you can prove enough stays.