Thank You, Hyatt Gold Passport!

Tomorrow is March 1, which is the official launch of the World of Hyatt program. This is replacing Hyatt Gold Passport as Hyatt’s loyalty program. The program is no doubt a mixed bag, and how you feel about it probably depends on how much you stay with Hyatt. For those who stay 60 or more nights per year with Hyatt, the new program could be good news. For others, not so much.

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So while we’ve written about the new World of Hyatt program quite a bit on OMAAT, I wanted to take a second to acknowledge and reflect on what an incredible loyalty program Gold Passport has been. Hyatt Gold Passport was the program that got me hooked on hotel loyalty programs, but they delivered more than that.

This post isn’t intended to be a comparison of the old and new program, but rather just intended to focus on the positive and say thanks to Jeff Zidell and his team for their innovation and for a heck of a run. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane…

How I got hooked on hotel loyalty programs

I first got hooked on hotel loyalty programs almost a decade ago. Gosh, time flies. During the recession Hyatt introduced the “Faster Free Nights” promotion, which to this day is the most generous hotel promotion I’ve ever seen.

The premise of Faster Free Nights was that you got a free stay at any Hyatt hotel in the world after every two stays at any Hyatt hotel in the world. At the time I was in college in Florida, and the Grand Hyatt Tampa was consistently priced at under $100 per night.

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Grand Hyatt Tampa

In other words, two $100 stays got me a free night at the Park Hyatt Sydney, Park Hyatt Seoul, Park Hyatt Washington DC, Park Hyatt Tokyo, etc. These were hotels that retailed for up to $1,000 per night.

But it got better than that. Boy, did it ever. On top of getting a free night after every two stays, I did much better than that:

  • The Grand Hyatt Tampa closed their club lounges on the weekends, and when a hotel has a closed club lounge, you get 2,500 bonus points; I’d typically check-in twice each weekend, on Friday and Sunday night
  • Back in the day Hyatt offered”G” bonuses valid at certain properties; the Grand Hyatt Tampa had “G3” bonuses, which offered an extra 1,500 bonus points per stay
  • As a Diamond member I received a 1,000 point Diamond welcome amenity
  • I ordinarily earned 6.5 points per dollar as a Diamond member, meaning my $100 stay earned me 650 points
  • At the time, Costco was selling Hyatt gift cards for 20% off

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Grand Hyatt Tampa club lounge (which I rarely saw, since it was usually closed) 😉

So to do the math differently, two Hyatt stays cost me $160 (after the 20% discount). For that I received a free night at any Hyatt in the world plus 11,300 Hyatt Gold Passport points. I should also mention that at the time Hyatt’s most expensive hotels cost 18,000 points per night. So every two stays earned me roughly 1.6 free nights at any Hyatt in the world.

Of course the promotion wasn’t sustainable, and we haven’t seen anything like that in several years. But when the promotion was offered, it sure got heads into beds, or perhaps more accurately, heads to the front desk with credit cards, and then unoccupied rooms for the night. 😉

I don’t think the hotel industry will ever again see a promotion that motivates people to check into hotels so much. What a run that was, and to think that Hyatt offered that promotion several times…

Hyatt has mastered hotel elite recognition

Reflecting on Gold Passport, there are two things that have impressed me most about the execution of the program:

  • How consistent Hyatt is with the delivery of elite benefits; there’s not a more consistent hotel chain, and I find that they’ve done a great job of under promising and over delivering
  • How they’ve lead the industry when it comes to innovating with certain benefits, like confirmed suite upgrades, full breakfast, etc.

I think it’s easy to take certain aspects of elite programs for granted, but let’s not forget that the hotel chains don’t own most of their properties, but rather just have management contracts for them. I can’t even imagine what kind of phone calls Jeff Zidell made to individual hotels to get them onboard with his confirmed suite upgrade plan. It’s one thing to offer suite upgrades based on availability at check-in (when the suites would otherwise go empty), but confirming suite upgrades at the time of booking without capacity controls is totally different.

So it’s amazing Jeff found a way to make that happen, because I’m sure it was no easy feat. “Hey, Hyatt in ______, we want to start giving your suites away to Diamond members at the time of booking as a way of rewarding our loyal members. How do you guys feel about that?”

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Park Hyatt Vienna Park Suite thanks to confirmed suite upgrades

Bottom line

Today is the last day where Hyatt Gold Passport is Hyatt’s loyalty program, and I can’t help but reflect on what a cool ride it has been. Before Gold Passport I didn’t care about hotel loyalty programs. While promotions like Faster Free Nights aren’t sustainable, they got a countless number of us hooked, and we’ve stuck around for the ride ever since.

I also think Hyatt deserves a lot of credit for their innovation and consistent delivery of elite benefits.

It has been a very fun ride, Hyatt Gold Passport! This chapter is closing, and now another one is opening…

Anyone else remember Faster Free Nights, or get hooked on hotel loyalty programs thanks to Hyatt?

Comments

  1. ……..they’ve done a great job of over promising and under delivering.

    So are you saying they suck?

  2. I never took advantage of their program but always was enticed by the thoughts of staying with them. Too entrenched in another program to have jumped over for the amount I stay at hotels. Like their emails that feature locations for future ideas though. Ah wanderlust.

  3. Let’s not forget about Faster Free Nights that double-dipped with 13,500 miles!

    I love that I’m proactively OFFERED late checkout on just about every stay, rather than having to request it or even argue for it.

    And still no other chain lets me confirm suites at time of booking.

    The program was revamped in 2009 and still no one else has caught up.

  4. “I find that they’ve done a great job of over promising and under delivering”

    Shouldn’t that be the reverse?

  5. Well, I switched over to Marriott/Starwood. Was Diamond for 6 years and qualified on nights and did it on 25 stays.

    I’d say in two years time, Hyatt will not be the same. The gap between the big boys (IHG, Marriott, Accor, Hilton), has gotten wider, plus you got Airbnb (that’s what millennials are going for).

    They have to go out and acquire or get bought out. There are people that say the family won’t sell. We’ll see.

  6. Hyatt Gold Passport is the only loyalty program I’ve been hooked on, mostly because of the opportunities to stay at the Park Hyatt in Sydney at reduced rates. I have what could be potentially my last stay at this hotel this July because of their “gift” of a cat 1-7 hotel stay tomorrow. 🙂

    It will be interesting to see what this next chapter will bring.

  7. Absolutely loved HGP. In the face of the changes to the new program, I moved to SPG – very sad to leave. I think most telling was how sad my wife was (and she isn’t a miles and points geek like me) – we have had consistently enjoyable stays with Hyatt for years as a Diamond member. Sorry to see it come to an end!

  8. I think this is a perfect example of why these loyalty programs change over time to the detriment of everyone. While I can’t really fault Lucky for maximizing the opportunity of getting extra nights/free points, etc., but gaming the system, for which is was never intended, by a few individuals kind of eventually ruins it for everyone.

    Who really is going to check in twice over a weekend at $100/night rate to get a free hotel night and cash in on extra bonus points because the Club is closed on weekends? Not many. But how many of those few folks that do this, and do it repeatedly over and over again, multiplied by many years take before Hyatt says enough is enough?

    I guess we found that inflection point.

  9. The way you feel about the end of HGP is the way I felt when US Dividend Miles merged with AAdvantage. Nostalgic and sad.

  10. @wpr8e — I agree with you to some extent. But doing something like setting a maximum amount of free nights one can acquire is very simple; it doesn’t require completely gutting the loyalty program and creating a brand new one. That’s like using a chainsaw to remove a splinter.

  11. What a fantastic tale. Gold passport was never consistent. It never matured. It introduced and pulled so many features so often the program never assumed a clear identity. It was always a WIP or “work-in-progress”, at best. Innovation that never lasts is essentially a failure (“cold fusion”, anyone?).

    The proof is in the pudding. “Best programs” do not suddenly undergo a complete makeover. Folks less sanguine can look at WOH! as an attempt to give HGP “gravitas”, character, and an identity. Like HGP, WOH will essentially be a one-elite level loyalty program, except that it will be even more exclusive. If they just leave it “as is”, i.e., as described on paper (complete makeover is the ultimate in innovation!), rather than turn it into yet another constant experimentation a la HGP, WOH! might live up to what bloggers had wished HGP was but never got close to being. It would deliver benefits approaching those that other programs have delivered, quietly, to their elites for years while bloggers were touting a subpar and stingy program based on nothing but made up and arbitrary standards.

    I do not know about you but I do not believe in reverse Darwinism or “survival of the weakest”! 😉

    G’day!

  12. “‘..they’ve done a great job of over promising and under delivering’”

    LOL. That Freudian slip got it just about right! 😉

    …and, like I said, excellence based on made up standard and, I should add, bogus claims like this one:

    ” It’s one thing to offer suite upgrades based on availability at check-in (when the suites would otherwise go empty), but confirming suite upgrades at the time of booking without capacity controls is totally different..”

    “No capacity” control means that if a suite is available for booking with cash, it would also be available upgrading using a DSU. However, we know (a) that’s not the case because nowhere in the T&C is there such a policy, and (b) the volume of complaints about HGP breaking their rule (which was never their rule!) is all one needs to know about to conclude that the claim was bogus. That Zidell had to intervene to get properties on board simply reaffirms the fact that this was never an official policy…like the claim that “SPG Plats were ‘entitled’ to suite upgrades” never was (here hopes the claim won’t make a come back in an expected “obituary” or “epitaph” post for SPG that promises to be just as fantastic).:-0

  13. I loved the ride while it lasted. I’m glad you called out the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, as that was my home away from home last year for business travel. It’s an excellent property with great staff that always treated me well and that sticky date pudding was always something I looked forward to. Alas, the World of Hyatt changes have me jumping over to Starwood/Marriott for loyalty, but my experiences in those hotels often leave me wishing I could stay in a Hyatt again. I’ll enjoy one last year of top-tier status with Hyatt thanks to being grandfathered in, but I just can’t keep up with 60 nights/year when top-tier status is easier to obtain with Starwood.

    As is written in many high school yearbooks as peers are likely to never see each other again, “Never change dude and HAGS (Have A Great Summer)!”

  14. Haven’t heard of any ex Hyatt folks switching to Hilton in these blogs. Mainly Marriwood. Hmmm, wonder why that is…oh yeah it’s the least rewarding of loyalty by far among all the major programs.

    But it’s a great credit card program…

  15. @UA-NYC I have to say, Marriott definitely isn’t as good as HGP but they compensate by having a much bigger footprint. In the past, I would go out of my way to choose Hyatt, even if it mean traveling a bit further away than I liked.

    With Marriott, the biggest difference is CHOICE. I have so many to choose from, ranging from budget hotels to 5 star hotels.

    You look at downtown LA or LA in general. How many Hyatts are there? HR LAX, Andaz, and two smaller ones south of LAX. With Marriott, there are 4 alone just by Staples Center.

    Yeah, it might take more nights to qualify but the credit card and the big footprint makes it more doable than Hyatt

  16. I don’t plan to spend a single night on a Hyatt property this year. I switched all to SPG. BTW, I noticed that in almost all my SPG stays this year I was asked at check in if I was going to need a late check-out. If Hyatt had a bigger footprint of propertied I would at least try to give them a second chance. Not the case at all.

  17. @Tony – I don’t disagree with you, I’m a SPG (now Marriwood) guy myself.

    I was referring to the “other” program as being a credit card one.

  18. Like UA-NYC, I’m switching my stays to SPG/Marriott. I’ll burn through my Hyatt points and say goodbye in 2017. Diamond was fun while it lasted.

  19. You know, I for one am quite happy about the changes. Now there will finally be some merit to DCS’ claims about Hilton vs Hyatt. I won’t need to argue about it anymore.

  20. Hi Ben! You said this should not be a post about the pros and cons about the new WoT program. But as it comes into effect tomorrow, many including me may now be looking in depths at the changes.

    I noticed a couple of interesting things:

    1.) The 4 annual suite upgrade voucher are NOT anymore a feature of the status but specificially bound to reaching 60 nights annually. A Hyatt representative wrote me “I am very sorry for any confusion. Suite upgrades are no longer tied to the tier. Suite upgrades are a benefit for staying 60 nights. As I did say previously you will receive the 4 suite ugprades on March 1st as a courtesy. ”

    That means that while you can requalify with “just” 55 nights, you then won’t get any suite upgrade voucher – which is in my view a major devaluation of the program. Ironically they say the upgrades are no longer tied to the tier – they then not leave them at a level of 50 consequently?

    This has an interesting consequence: if you were Lifetime Diamond or now Lifetime Diamond and you do let’s say 20 nights annually, you will then NOT get the suite upgrade vouchers every year as it’s currently the case.

    2.) I tought that all the negative aspects of the new program might be balanced out by the fact that we now have access to suites. But I think this will only exists on paper as the FAQ on https://goldpassport.hyatt.com/content/world/en/faqs.html define that “…Specialty, Premier, Presidential, Diplomatic, and other suites other than standard suites are not included in this benefit”.

    This is then again a blackbox like currently with the DSU. The hotel can offer lots of suites for sale but just say that they are all not “standard”. For example, just trying to use a DSU at the Andaz Maui – they say the DSU should only be valid for the standard suite type for which they only have three at all.

    Given that it’s then exactly the same suites which are available for confirmed suite upgrades and that’s already tough to get, I don’t have too much hope to be upgraded at check-in. There is also not any public list what “standard suite type” means per hotel.

    3.) It’s worth noting that all current Diamons really need to get 60 nights in 2017, while at the beginning of the announcements I thought that Diamond gets to Globalist on March 1st automatically, then therefore can requalify by just having 55 nights in 2017. However, that’s specifically excluded in the FAQ.

    Maybe all of this has been discussed multiple times, but I just realized the consequences of the above and for me they matter much more than for example the limitation of breakfast benefits to 2 adults.

    Best regards

    Thomas

  21. @Thomas — After the more valuable unlimited complimentary suite upgrades, Hyatt could not just get rid of DSUs without catching brutal flak for it. So, they’ve come up with a way of letting DSUs just die a slow death. You astutely pointed out one way under your item (1). The second way is that Globalists will actually clear more complimentary suite upgrades at check-in than DSUs at booking. That’s the intent because at check-in a property will be sure that it won’t be losing any revenue for upgrading a Globalist to a suite that would have gone unoccupied anyway. On the other hand, clearing DSUs way ahead of time when a property does not know if a suite could be fetch real money is problematic. So, the answer will be to just claim that no suites are available for upgrading with DSUs, which would then go the of SPG’s SNAs — i.e., they’d become useless. Mission accomplished

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