Early last year, Hilton made a significant change to the way it communicates changes to the prices for award stays at its hotels: Instead of an annual announcement of all award-price changes for the coming year, Hilton would henceforth “be sharing an updated list of adjusted hotels on HHonors.com on a periodic basis.” In justifying the change, Hilton made vague allusions to transparency and trust. A more cynical interpretation would be that Hilton wanted to call as little attention as possible to bad news. (The move closely followed Hilton’s 2013 award-price adjustments, which I called “one of the most sweepingly negative downgrades ever, for Hilton or any major hotel chain,” and was widely decried by HHonors members.)
This week—between Christmas and New Year’s, when travelers are least likely to be paying much attention to such matters—Hilton announced the next round of pricing changes, effective January 13, 2016. If the timing weren’t dodge enough, the announcement was buried on the fourth page of an old FlyerTalk thread. It’s a case study in obfuscation.
The news is bad, of course, but bad with a lower-case “b.” A mere thirty-five hotels will be changing category, with 24 properties being reassigned to higher categories, requiring more points for a free night, and 11 being downgraded to lower categories, with lower prices. So, roughly a 2:1 ratio of price increases to decreases.
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More vexing than the predictable devaluation is the sneaky way Hilton has chosen to schedule and communicate the changes. HHonors members deserve no less than the transparency and trust Hilton has committed to. So far, Hilton has failed to deliver on that promise.
Reader Reality Check
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Hilton for trust and transparency?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.