60 Seconds with Hyatt Gold Passport

60 Seconds with Hyatt Gold Passport

Hyatt’s new online travel community site, Yatt’it.com, has been in development for over a year. A few thousand visitors visited and posted content prior to the site’s official launch on March 28, 2008. We were able to talk with Rene Mizwicki, Director of Hyatt Gold Passport, the week of the launch.

InsideFlyer
Why did Hyatt decide to create an online community?
Rene Mizwicki
The goal of Yatt’it was to provide a community where our frequent Gold Passport members, basically our loyal, savvy travelers, could share and learn insider travel information and tips. And because these guys are traveling so much, they really are the travel experts. In addition to this, what we wanted was to engage and strengthen our relationship with our Gold Passport members, as well as develop new relationships.

We also solicit help from our concierges. And our goal with adding the concierges is to leverage a source that can really give local, expert advice.

We want to have advice and tips on our site that you aren’t going to find anywhere else, like the local hang-outs and the ins and outs of business travel. Our concierges are there to give key local advice at that destination.

IF
How many concierges from your hotels do you have providing tips?
Mizwicki
Right now, we have over 100 concierges at the destinations we are launching with and we are going to continue to add destinations throughout this year. We are launching with over 43 destinations to get the site up and running and we will have concierges trained at each and every one of them. We actually went out and trained the concierges around the world to help them understand the goals and the essence of the site. They posted tips for the alpha and beta versions and they will continue to post tips on the site.

IF
What has the initial feedback from Gold Passport members been like so far?
Mizwicki
We started alpha back in August 2007 when we went out to about 4,000 of our top-tier Gold Passport members. Around 25 percent responded and provided over 2,000 tips. Members were very positive — over 90 percent of them rated the site either very good or excellent. They really liked the features. We’ve also partnered with Flightstats and Frommer’s and they liked having information from those two sources.

The concierge presence was the feature they felt differentiated the site the most, because again, it was leveraging those local experts. Over 75 percent of members said they would recommend the site. In December, we went out again with a beta site and asked more members to use the site and provide more tips. We almost tripled the audience size when we asked for more feedback and we broadened and went out to our Gold members, our base members, as well.

People gave us feedback about two things they wanted us to change. They wanted more destinations, which we will be adding. The second was to improve navigation. Our navigation is a lot more circular now and users can search either by category, destination or by specific type of tip, such as concierge, Gold Passport member, Frommer’s or all the tips. Navigation tools are now on the left hand side, which will be consistent throughout the site. Searching wasn’t as clear at first and that was something we wanted to fix before we launched.

IF
What makes Hyatt’s site different from the other online travel community sites currently available?
Mizwicki
Predominately, our site contains user-generated content provided by Gold Passport members and concierges. So rather than looking outside of Hyatt for online travel experts, we decided to utilize our people internally, as well as our Gold Passport members. There are three key sources for the site: the travel experts, Gold Passport members; local experts, the concierges; and authoritative content. We have partnered with Frommer’s to provide fast facts and entry requirements, specifically for the destinations we include. Frommer’s basically provides everything you need to know before entering a country.

IF
Is Frommer’s going to have a continuing role in the site?
Mizwicki
Yes, and Frommer’s has some other cool ventures they are embarking on regarding writing about different events and things that are going on at the destinations we have on the site.

We are launching the site now, but we are already moving on to phase two. We’re looking into video postings, RSS feeds, widgets and the ability to form groups. A lot of the sites today allow people to group themselves and talk to each other and share ideas based on common interests or places they’ve traveled to, activities and things like that. Those are things we are looking at implementing on the site. These types of communities and blogs are constantly changing. We realize that and will continue to look into future enhancements.

IF
What will your policy be regarding posts that criticize or negatively portray Hyatt, or suggest another hotel over a Hyatt brand?
Mizwicki
Yatt’it is really about the destination. It’s not a site that is out there to promote Hyatt. We’ve also made it clear it’s not a forum to address issues about Hyatt, Gold Passport or our competitors. Obviously we have filters in place for profanity, but if something is negatively said about one of our restaurants, that’s not something we are going to remove. But we don’t want it to become a gripe session either — about Hyatt, Gold Passport or even our competitors. We do have posting rules that will honor this mission.

If Marriott has the best steakhouse in Charlotte, for example, we aren’t going to take that out. This is about providing the best advice for a destination. The site will also provide a window for us to see what our customers are saying, even about our competition. There are some people who definitely promote Hyatt, if they feel it is the best place to eat or do an activity or so forth, but there are a few things out there that relate to competitors.

IF
Do you have plans to offer targeted promotions for those who visit the site?
Mizwicki
Not right now, because we want people to go to the site to learn about destinations. We aren’t trying to drive traffic to get more people to use the site or join right now. Not to say there won’t be in the future, but not right now.

IF
How did you choose the name “Yatt’it”?
Mizwicki
If you look at a lot of the network 2.0 sites today, such as YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook and sites like that, they all have creative, fun and catchy names. And we wanted to be sure we had a name that was unique, intriguing and communicated the personality of the site. Search is a key objective of ours so we wanted to make sure the name would rise to the top during a search. And it had to have a tie-in to Hyatt. If you go through the online tour on the site, you’ll see that if you take the name Hyatt, remove the H and you have yatt. Which to us looks like a verb. And if you add an “it”, it becomes more of an action, like chatting, sharing, learning — it’s become the Hyatt verb. I think as more people have seen it and used the site, they’ve really started to like it.

IF
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Mizwicki
Yatt’it! Now that they’ve learned everything, we want them to go Yatt’it! You have to use it as a verb, so come on and Yatt’it.

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