Hilton HHonors’ Latest Award Category Change

In April I received an email from Mark Weinstein, the Vice President of HHonors and Partnerships at Hilton, announcing some slight changes to hotel categories, along with some insight into how the program would be handling category changes going forward (emphasis mine):

…In addition, we will be shifting away from the cycle of annual reward category announcements. I believe that through transparency in our communications, we can develop a greater level of trust, which is critical to a healthy relationship with our members. To that end, we want to give members full visibility into any hotel category adjustments – including the introduction of new redemption hotels – so we will be sharing an updated list of adjusted hotels on HHonors.com on a periodic basis. HHonors members will be able to see which hotels are changing categories, as well as the category assignments for new hotels. This list, the Standard Room Rewards Update, can be found on the HHonors.com Using Points page under Standard Room Hotel Categories…

So they’d be going from yearly category changes to more frequent ones, but would be publishing them “periodically” on a specific page.

In July, 39 hotels had category changes, with 24 moving up and 15 moving down. I still don’t get how posting hotels with category changes on a page that almost no one checks with less than a week notice increases transparency, but I digress…

At the time I assumed we were moving from yearly to quarterly category changes, given that the first changes happened in early April, and then in early July.

It seems like the category changes may be more frequent than that. While it’s only one property, it looks like the Standard Room Rewards Update page has been adjusted to reflect a category change which kicks in August 14, 2014.

Hilton-HHonors-Reward-Category

It’s only the Hampton Inn Florence-Midtown going from a Category 1 property to a Category 3 property, meaning it goes from 5,000 to 20,000 points per night.

Hilton-HHonors-Categories

And in this case it’s especially insignificant, since this isn’t apparently Florence Italy, but rather Florence, Alabama (I think we found a new potential arbitrage opportunity for US Airways awards, now that most US Airways agents know the difference between Frankfurt, Germany, and Frankfort, Kentucky). Who knew it was big enough to even have a “midtown?”

Hampton-Inn-Florence

Like I said, it’s not about the specific change in this case, since it’s minor, but the whole concept of this doesn’t sit well with me. Specifically I’m not sure how this change reflects the below sentiment by Hilton HHonors:

I believe that through transparency in our communications, we can develop a greater level of trust, which is critical to a healthy relationship with our members.

To summarize:

  • Now members aren’t being informed of category changes, minor as they may be
  • It seems like the trend is that we’re being given a week notice of changes
  • Is the expectation that HHonors members bookmark the category updates page and check it every morning when they wake up, or how exactly are more frequent category changes without contacting the members increasing the level of transparency in communication in order to develop greater trust?

Bottom line

If you’ve been saving points for that dream trip to Florence (Alabama), book now!

Comments

  1. I saw this on FT yesterday. The HH rep there had some boilerplate about it being extremely unusual but necessary to do now rather than wait for the next quarter. Which is a load of crap. Sounds like they forgot to include it on the July update or something.

  2. I’m diamond at Hilton and IHG Platinum Elite for about 9 years for both chains. Hilton should be careful because they are in a shape where IHG was years ago. Holiday Inn-s were in terrible shape. They went though massive re-branding/remodeling and it turned out to be quite nice. They got a clean sheet of paper and built on it. They sold old buildings and built new modern ones. Hilton/Hilton Garden building in terrible shapes now. I’m mean they are at a point of disgusting. They started doing re-modelling but every time I walk into a remodeled one, I ask, Really? It is like repainting a AMC Pinto and happy about that I have a “new” car. With all the HHoners games they are doing, I have to ask, does it really worth it? With IHG, I get to free rooms twice as fast if not faster (lots of offers for reward points) and I stay in a very modern property all the time.
    Endre

  3. I’d say this is somewhat significant because there are already so few Cat 1s in the US. I potentially could have actually stayed at this one for 5k points per night. I drive often from Atlanta to Memphis and this is in between. If I needed a hotel I could’ve gone there for 5k points.
    for 20k. . . that’s a joke.

  4. It gives Hilton the ability to change anything at any given moment. I don’t like it. And this would be a good example of too drastic an increase in price.

  5. Good thing I was saving up for a trip to Birmingham, Athens, Troy, York, Waterloo, or Oxford. (all in Alabama) Or maybe I should settle for Muscle Shoals… (mentioned in the song Sweet Home Alabama) 😛

    -RDP

  6. @ Muerl — Right, and that’s how I found out about this. But surely the expectation isn’t that all members are having to set up change detection alerts in order to figure out whether hotel categories are changing.

  7. Strange as it may sound, I was planning on doing 5 days each in all nine of the Category 1 Hiltons in Mexico next year. Hope they don’t start randomly disappearing in a way that screws up the itinerary.

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