Update: The terms of the Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee have been updated, as Hyatt’s intentions with the changes weren’t as I had interpreted. See my follow up post for more on that.
The major hotel chains have been putting a lot of effort into getting you to book directly with them rather than through online travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia, etc. That’s because the major hotels have to pay a commission of ~10% when you book through an online travel agency, which they don’t have to pay when you book directly with them.
This is one of the main reasons that hotel chains have begun offering “members only” rates for those who book directly with them. These rates offer up to 10% off the best available rate, and are intended to get you to book with the hotel directly rather than through an OTA. We’ve seen these rates introduced lately by Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, etc.
Hilton even recently launched their biggest ad campaign in history dedicated to this cause, called “Stop Clicking Around.” Here’s how Hilton describes the campaign:
“Our customers don’t need to worry about sorting through a dizzying array of websites, enduring hundreds of clicks and wasting hours of time. They can be assured that booking a room directly with us at any of our hotels doesn’t require extensive searching and price checking to find the best prices online,” said Geraldine Calpin, chief marketing officer at Hilton Worldwide.
On top of that, the major hotel chains all offer best rate guarantees. The intent is that they’re guaranteeing you’ll find the lowest rate for their hotels when booking direct, in an effort to get you from booking elsewhere. If you find a lower rate elsewhere, they’ll not only match the better rate, but also give you something to sweeten the pot (either bonus points or a further discount)..
What’s puzzling — and counters the industry trend of doing everything possible to get consumers to book direct — is that Hyatt has been slowly chipping away at their Best Rate Guarantee. With Hyatt’s BRG they promise they’ll offer the best rate for their own hotels; if they don’t, they’ll match the better rate and discount it by 20%.
In the past week Hyatt has made a change to their BRG which makes it almost worthless.
To demonstrate what has been changed, here’s the relevant part of the old terms:
If you find a publicly available and immediately bookable room-only rate on the Internet for a Hyatt hotel (“Competing Rate”) that is lower than the room rate available for the same reservation on http://www.hyatt.com (i.e., same hotel, same type of room, same number of guests, same dates of stay and same length of stay), then within 24 hours of booking the reservation on http://www.hyatt.com, please submit your claim request online via our online claim form.
Then here are the new terms relating to the booking requirements (bolding mine):
If you find a publicly available and immediately bookable room-only rate on the Internet for a Hyatt hotel (“Competing Rate”) that is lower than the room rate available for the same reservation and booked by you on Hyatt.com (i.e., same hotel, same type of room, same number of guests, same dates of stay, same length of stay, and same booking conditions), you can submit your claim request online via our online claim form in English (or call 1-888-96 HYATT (1-888-964-9288) or your local Hyatt reservation center to submit a claim in a language other than English). When multiple publicly available and immediately bookable room-only rates for the same hotel, same type of room, same number of guests, same dates of stay and same length of stay are available through a Hyatt website you must reserve the lowest rate to be eligible for Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee. To be eligible, you must submit your claim request within 24 hours of both booking on Hyatt.com and finding the Competing Rate.
Hyatt is now saying that only the lowest type of rate is eligible for the Best Rate Guarantee. In other words, if a hotel has a pre-paid rate, that’s the only type of rate which is eligible for a BRG. That’s ridiculous, since it means Hyatt is no longer offering a BRG on flexible rates. Many OTAs primarily offer flexible rates, so…
On top of that, keep in mind you have to book before submitting your BRG claim, so now you’ll have to book a pre-paid rate in order to even be eligible to submit a BRG claim. If it’s not approved (which often happens, since hotels find ways out), then you’re stuck with a pre-paid rate.
That sort of eliminates the peace of mind you get out of booking with Hyatt directly, since Hyatt isn’t really guaranteeing the best rate anymore.
I know there are people who use BRGs all the time. Personally I’ve never used a BRG, but I still find this change on the part of Hyatt to be really disappointing. Their BRG has been watered down to the point that I don’t know why they bother anymore.
I’ve always respected Hyatt for being a brand which does the right thing. Even as someone who has never used this promise, this change really makes this “guarantee” unethical, in my opinion. A majority of people want to make flexible bookings, and the Hyatt BRG no longer works for those types of bookings.
This guarantee now has more asterisks than a mail in rebate on a toaster oven…