Coming From Hilton: Higher Award Prices

This week, Hilton confirmed recent speculation in the travel blogosphere that prices for HHonors award stays will rise.

Hilton has published on its website the new HHonors award chart, applicable for free nights booked on or after January 15, 2010. (Awards booked prior to that date remain at the current rates.)

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The new chart shows both higher rates for the revised award categories and a newly added Category 7, at 50,000 points per night. The only category with no price increase is the so-called Opportunity tier, renamed Category 1, which remains at 7,500 points per night.

We can't be sure exactly how the new scheme will affect award prices at any specific hotel since Hilton won't be publishing the list showing which hotels fall into which categories until later this year or early next year.

But I have no doubt that many properties will be re-categorized into more expensive tiers. Even if hotels were simply reclassified according to the new category scheme, prices would increase between 14 and 25 percent.

Hilton notes on its website that it hasn't raised award rates since 2003. That's not likely to mollify consumers who know full well that the recession has severely depressed both hotel occupancy rates and room rates. In their eyes, Hilton's move amounts to this: Pay more points for stays that are worth less. Not exactly the stuff of ad taglines, and not a value proposition that's likely to please Hilton loyalists.

Next Step for HHonors Members: Wait

With the upcoming price increases, members of the HHonors program will naturally want to take advantage of the lower award prices wherever possible.

But until Hilton publishes a comprehensive award chart—showing not just the new prices, but which hotels fall into which price category—HHonors members can't make informed decisions as to which hotels will be significantly more expensive under the new scheme. So program members have no choice but to wait until more information is available.

What Hilton owes its loyal customers is as much advance notice as possible, so they can book awards at the lower prices in effect before the January 15th changeover. Undue delay adds insult to injury.

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