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Hyatt’s New Loyalty Program Debuts on March 1

SmarterTravel

On March 1, Hyatt’s Gold Passport program will become World of Hyatt. Whether the change amounts to the introduction of a wholly new program or just a revamp of the existing program is more a matter of semantics than of substance. However how choose to look at it, though, the program is changing. And, according to many Hyatt loyalists, the change is not for the better.

As with the legacy airlines’ transition to revenue-based schemes, designed to disproportionately reward their highest-profit customers, Hyatt’s new scheme is aimed squarely at the company’s best customers, rewarding them more generously even as average travelers get less. The rich get richer.

On World of Hyatt’s earning side, the rates remain the same: members earn 5 base points per $1, plus bonus points for elite members. Base points, which qualify for elite status, are only earned for hotel spend. All other points – including those earned through promotions, for elite membership, and for Hyatt credit card spend – are considered bonus points, and won’t count toward earning elite status.

On the program’s redemption side, the number of points required for award stays will remain the same as well.

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 earn meaningful elite perks.

With around 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, assuming they can qualify for Globalist status by logging 60 nights. The most disadvantaged will be those in the middle.

Hello (Goodbye?), World of Hyatt

Yesterday, Jeff Zidell, Hyatt’s VP Gold Passport, posted a heads-up on FlyerTalk, reminding Hyatt customers that World of Hyatt will replace Gold Passport next week, and sharing the company’s positively utopian vision for the new program:

Grounded in the simple idea that a little understanding goes a long way, the World of Hyatt platform is our opportunity to share with the world what we at Hyatt stand for. It reflects what you’ve heard me talk about as our purpose—we care for people so they can be their best—and reaffirms our commitment to building genuine and trusted experiences for the colleagues, guests and partners that make up our community… in our hotels and beyond.

Supporting that vision will be what Zidell called an anthem spot, a 60-second Hyatt ad set to run during this Sunday’s Oscar broadcast. With “What the World Needs Now is Love” as its soundtrack, the ad depicts foreign travelers gradually embracing, and being embraced by, foreigners. It’s all very Kumbaya and “Can’t we all just get along” and politically correct.

It turns out, however, that Hyatt’s customers—at least those on FlyerTalk, who are precisely the travel world’s 1 Percenters the program is targeting—have less interest in a loyalty program’s sociopolitical aspirations than in its value to them, as travelers. A few characteristic responses to Zidell:

  • As a business traveler all I want is a clean room in a convenient location with the loyalty benefits I’ve been promised freely given. I’m really not interested in being part of a hotel chain’s imagined “community.”
  • They probably spent more time on an ad that conveys absolutely nothing about the Hyatt Brand then actually making any helpful changes.
  • Let me be the first of many that will likely say this….. “Hello” World of Hyatt…. “Goodbye” Hyatt Loyalty!

In its efforts to distance itself from existing hotel programs, and to conform to the current cultural and marketing zeitgeist, Hyatt may have gone too far in embracing a idealistically holistic approach to hotel loyalty. Customers aren’t looking to loyalty programs for soul mates; they just want a better room, premium Wi-Fi, and late check-out.

Reader Reality Check

Is World of Hyatt a marketing misstep, or a step in the right 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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