Longtime points chasers will recall, wistfully, a time when a hotel chain’s “systemwide promotion” was just that: systemwide. In other words, stays at any and all properties in that hotel company’s network would count toward earning whatever the bonus happened to be.
Over the past few years, however, the trend has been toward increasing numbers of individual hotels’ opting out of their brands’ network marketing initiatives. The reason: simple economics. Many branded hotels are independently owned and operated, and if business is brisk, they may see no need to incur the extra expense associated with special promotions.
The hotel chains’ marketers, meanwhile, continue to advertise the promotions as if they applied network-wide, with an asterisk and a link to a webpage listing those hotels that have elected not to participate.
Hilton’s latest promotion is a particularly glaring example of just how substantially non-participation can undermine the utility and value of such promotions.
When Hilton first released details of its upcoming Triple Your Trip promotion two weeks ago, I included the following caveat in my review:
The list of non-participating hotels had not been published at press time, so it’s unclear how much of a negative that will be for the promotion. Hilton significantly degraded its February bonus offer by excluding around 325 properties in the U.S. alone. So be sure to confirm your hotel’s participation before factoring this bonus into your travel planning.
Hilton has finally posted the list of non-participating properties for the August 1 through October 31 promotion, and by my count it comprises a jaw-dropping 1,360 hotels. With just over 4,000 hotels in the network, that means almost one-third of the Hilton family hotels are no-shows. And U.S.-based travelers take the biggest hit, with around 1,300 of the non-participating hotels located in the U.S.
The truthful headline for this promotion would be, “Up to Triple Points at Two-Thirds of Hilton’s Hotels.” Not very compelling. But with so many opt outs, neither is the value proposition.
Reader Reality Check
How likely were you to have booked a Hilton stay on the strength of this offer, only to discover, perhaps after the stay, that no bonus points were on offer at that hotel?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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