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Hyatt’s Gold Passport Program to Be Overhauled

On February 28, 2017, at the stroke of midnight, Hyatt’s current loyalty program, Gold Passport, will be terminated. That’s right: terminated. As in, the end. Kaput.

The program’s 20 million members needn’t worry that their points will be lost, however. Gold Passport will simply be replaced by a new program, World of Hyatt, on March 1.

What, beyond the name change (a downgrade, by the way), will be different? According to the company, “World of Hyatt will offer new platform to deepen understanding of guests, deliver meaningful benefits and inspire empathy.” Beef or bull?

The most prominent change is a redesign of the elite program, including the addition of a third elite tier. In place of the current Platinum and Diamond levels, the revamped elite program will be structured as follows:

  • Discoverist – 10 Qualifying Nights or 25,000 Base Points
  • Explorist – 30 Qualifying Nights or 50,000 Base Points
  • Globalist – 60 Qualifying Nights or 100,000 Base Points

A major difference in the new scheme is the elimination of stays as qualifying criteria, and the addition of points thresholds. The net effect will be that most customers will have to stay more often, and spend more money, to reach even entry-level status.

Beyond the qualification criteria with their rather pretentious tier names, Hyatt highlights two other changes:

  • Free night award for staying at five different Hyatt brands
  • Confirmed suite upgrades for some elite members

The earning rates will remain the same, as will the number of points required for award stays.

The big picture: As the airlines have done with their revenue-based schemes, Hyatt is amping up the rewards for its most profitable customers, at the expense of less frequent travelers. With just over 600 properties in its network, versus thousands for Hilton, Marriott, and InterContinental, it’s already more difficult for travelers to keep their stays within the Hyatt ecosystem. These changes will be mostly irrelevant to occasional travelers, who have no hope of reaching elite status anyway, and slightly positive for road warriors. Disadvantaged will be those in the middle.

The initial reactions of Hyatt loyalists have been overwhelmingly negative. A sampling of comments from Flyertalk:

Sorry but who the heck is excited about this? I’m sure as heck am not and no one in my circle of friends are either.

I’m worried, disappointed, disturbed, distressed, nonplussed, and dismayed, but no, not excited.

The changes I can mostly live with (though they hurt me personally) but I can’t get over how bad the names are – and I say this as someone who is in the target millennial demographic.

Reminds me more and more of the spin from Jeff Robertson of Delta Air Lines SkyMiles infamy and from Jeff Diskin of Hilton HHonors infamy. Pay more, get less is what this seems to be for most “loyal customers” of Hyatt now too.

Hyatt Diamond was pretty solid but what this feels like to me is the classic thing with the airlines. The guy with the best program looks around, notices he’s the best, and then devalues himself.

Hyatt promises to make full details of Hyatt World available to program members before the March changeover. If the above are indicative of the overall membership’s response to the new program, Hyatt will find itself wishing it had left well enough alone.

Reader Reality Check

Is Hyatt’s new program an improvement, or a step in the wrong direction?

More from SmarterTravel:

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.

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