If you’re a thrill-seeker, always watching for the most luxurious accomodations and the most unique, exclusive events, well, then have we got a deal for you. And not in that sleazy, infomercial-announcer-sort-of way. Unless you’ve spent the last year in a coma or you may have recently noticed a new redemption feature among some frequent travel programs: the merchandise and event auction. Programs like Continental OnePass, Hyatt Gold Passport, and Frontier EarlyReturns have added this redemption option for their members, offering luxury merchandise, vacation packages, sports and entertainment tickets,and more. We’ve been watching the Hyatt Gold Passport Exclusives Auctions with interest and envy, and were fortunate enough to get the inside scoop on the new feature from the Vice President of Marketing, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Amy Weyman.
As they say, preparation is key, and these auctions were more than a year in planning, following Hyatt’s revamp of their logo and corporate identity back in the fall of 2004. After re-evaluating the program and what customers were looking for, the Gold Passport and Partnership teams saw the opportunity to do something that no other program was doing. Amy explains, “We are always looking to appeal to what our members are interested in, and we wanted to pair our unique partnerships together with the Hyatt experience. We also wanted to allow customers the opportunity to bring Hyatt equipment and products into their home, like the new wide-screen TV’s we are putting in all the new guest rooms.”
The launch of this innovative program was a live auction at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, November 29, 2005, where three lots were offered: 1) a one-year lease on Porsche Boxster, 2) the components of a Hyatt guest room (Grand Bed, flat-screen TV, Portico products), and 3) a Stay Fit @ Hyatt package, including a Life Fitness elliptical machine. The first online Exclusives auction began the very next day.
Apparently, Hyatt has being doing things right, and members are noticing, which was also apparent at the recent Freddie Awards, as Gold Passport claimed Freddies for Best Elite Level and Best Web Site in the Asia Pacific region, and placed in the top 5 in 6 other categories. So what has the customer response been like?
“Incredibly positive,” reports Amy. The highest auction bid so far was for the Hyatt Guest room at the live auction launch. Apparently one member liked their hotel accommodations so much, they jumped at the chance to redecorate their bedroom at home a la Hyatt. Might this be the solution to many a frequent traveler’s gripe of awakening in another random hotel room, in muddled confusion as to their current location? Instead of just another random hotel, one could truly feel as if they were staying at home. Another of the most popular auction offerings was the World Cup package, which involved the Cologne Berlin & Hamburg Hyatt properties.
Expecting interest to continue to grow, the Gold Passport focused on offering opportunities that members world wide can take advantage of, and is proud to offer access to such exclusive experiences that most people would not be able to get access to on their own. Gold Passport has recently developed a new Logo for exclusives, and Ms. Weyman says they will continue to develop Exclusives to include more unique experiences and remain an ongoing feature of Gold Passport. Hyatt remains dedicated to ensuring member satisfaction, so in one recent auction featuring a HyaTTeen Suite 16 package, when one bidder woke up the next morning to disappointment, realizing he had not won as he assumed, but had been outbid by 1 point in the final minutes, the Gold Passport staff was willing and able to work with him to help surprise his daughter and six of her friends with the “Sweet 16″bash of a teenage girl’s dreams, including suite accommodations, food and games.
And the Exclusive auctions are just one side of a dual-faceted gem of a member-enticing method of celebrating loyal customers. The other component is the unique events that Hyatt throws for their top regional customers, like the unique 2005 summer yacht party in the Hong Kong harbor or the Seattle Starbucks coffee education, tasting, and dessert-sampling festivities.
So, all that is all great for the people at Hyatt, but what do these auctions mean to the members, the ones out there earning points by the sweat of their brows? Well, we decided to ask one.
Terry Wright, a Strategy Consultant from San Diego and a Hyatt Diamond elite-level member, has spent the past four years as a loyal Hyatt customer on his weekly business trips, earning points for free hotel stays. But he recently discovered a new reason to keep earning all those Gold Passport points. He bid on one of the lots in the November 30, 2005 Exclusives auction online debut, and won (well, actually, he admits that was his wife, as he was busy the evening the auction ended). He reported their trip was a “weekend of eating too much, drinking to much and having too much fun.” His 126,000-point bid bought him and his wife invitations to the 20th annual Masters of Food and Wine event held February 16-19, 2006 at the Highlands Inn, Park Hyatt Carmel, and was “the event of a lifetime, ” and was “worth every point,” he says. He and his wife wined and dined, and attended half of the featured activities, including cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, elegant luncheons, and extravagant dinners, where they bumped elbows with veteran wine-tasters, vineyard representatives, wine company employees, and famous chefs from around the globe.
Ranked as one of the top 10 things he and his wife have ever done, Mr. Wright listed one highlight as the Grand Finale Dinner- a black-tie event featuring the best chefs, who pair each course of the meal with the finest wines. He also was impressed after meeting renowned chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Ming Tsai, as well as the approachable and hospitable Highlands Inn Manager Norbert Relecker.
Ready to bid, you say? Well, you’ll likely have competition, since Wright finds these auctions another great avenue to spend points, and would absolutely bid on this event again, if it is offered.
If you are one of the lucky winners, expect to be contacted promptly by Hyatt staff to help you coordinate your trip.
The most recent Exclusives auction ended June 1, and offered 5 special packages, like a trip to the Porsche Michelin Supercup Race in Monza, Italy, or tickets to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the famous Sydney Opera House. The auctions are open to all Gold Passport members, regardless of status.
Look for the latest auctions expected to start mid-summer at http://www.goldpassport.com/exclusives. You can also find the details by reading your E-Summary, program email updates, or the Journeys newsletter.
Continental OnePass has recently auctioned off a trip to the New York Yankees spring training camp, tickets to the Tasters Guild New York wine-judging competition, and tickets to see a Stomp performance in New York. For Continental OnePass auctions visit http://auction.continental.com.
At the Frontier Airlines MoreStore, Summit and Ascent members are the select group that can redeem miles by bidding on golf packages, restaurant gift certificates, luxury hotel stays, and a Calgary getaway for two, or bid on exclusive items like a John Atencio diamond ring, digital camera, or a chrome desk set. Visit http://www.frontiermorestore.com/ for details.
Thanks to Amy Weyman, VP Marketing, Jamie Izaks, Manager Public Relations, and Stephanie Hergenrader, Gold Passport Marketing Manager, all of Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, for their time and insight into the Exclusives auction program, and Mr. Terry Wright for sharing his experience with us.