Everyone has their own reasons for why they have a preferred loyalty program. Even though we may love our preferred programs, chances are there are still things we’d like to see them change. There are practical things we’d like to see them change (things that allow them to catch-up with the competition), and then also more aspirational changes (like unlimited presidential suite upgrades and spa treatments).
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to look at five of the most popular loyalty programs, and changes they should make to catch up with the competition. This list isn’t intended to be about the greatest changes I’d like to see them make, but rather about fairly minor yet substantial changes they could make to catch up with the competition. In other words, what’s one area where the major hotel loyalty programs are lagging?
In no particular order:
Hilton: guarantee late check-out
Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood offered guaranteed late check-out for Gold and Platinum elite members. It’s time that Hilton matches, at least for their Diamond members.
Marriott: offer a more consistent breakfast benefit
Perhaps my biggest frustration with Marriott is how elite benefits vary significantly by brand and property. As a policy, Marriott Gold and Platinum members only receive breakfast at JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Delta Hotels, and Marriott hotels. Marriott has almost 20 brands, so at the rest of the brands (like Ritz-Carlton and Edition), Gold and Platinum members don’t receive a breakfast benefit.
On top of that, even at the above five brands, Gold and Platinum members don’t receive complimentary breakfast at resorts. It’s time that changes.
IHG: provide elite benefits on award stays
IHG is the only major loyalty program to have a policy of not providing elite benefits on award stays. For the most part members are earning points towards free nights through their stays, so it’s sort of ridiculous that they’re not treated the same when they redeem their hard earned points.
Admittedly this isn’t a huge deal since IHG doesn’t offer much in the way of elite benefits to begin with, which is why it’s even more infuriating that they don’t honor those benefits on award stays.
A much more substantial addition of elite benefits would be complimentary breakfast, though I’m guessing that would be more of a stretch.
Starwood: include all hotels in promotions
Starwood is far from perfect, but on paper it’s tough to pinpoint one area where they really lag behind the competition when it comes to elite benefits — they offer unlimited suite upgrades, guaranteed late check-out, complimentary breakfast, room upgrades, honor all benefits on award stays, etc. The execution of those benefits often isn’t perfect (ie, when you have to argue with a hotel about a suite upgrade, or when your complimentary breakfast is simply a pastry basket).
I suppose the one big area where they lag behind the competition is with one aspect of their promotions. Specifically, Starwood consistently has hotels that are non-participating for the purpose of promotions. This used to be common among hotel loyalty programs in the past, though other chains are getting better about this. Hilton used to also have non-participating hotels in their promotions, but changed that in the past couple of years.
It’s time Starwood joins the bandwagon.
Hyatt: provide elite credits for award nights
Hyatt is one of the only major hotel loyalty programs that doesn’t award elite stay & night credits for award nights. They do for paid stays and even Points + Cash stays, but for whatever reason exclude award nights. While I know it’s something they’re looking into, it’s not a benefit they’ve even announced with the introduction of World of Hyatt.
The intent of this post wasn’t to make a comprehensive list of all the changes I dream of seeing from hotel loyalty programs. Instead I figured it would be fun to look at one area where each of the major hotel chains is lagging behind the competition, and could improve benefits without too much effort. For several of the above loyalty programs I could think of several more points, though to keep things simple stuck to just the above.
I’m curious how you guys feel on the above. What one elite change would you most like to see from your favorite hotel loyalty program?