Philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” A repeat of hotel and loyalty program offers would not necessarily be a bad thing for the frequent guest in 2010. A constant bombardment of loyalty promotions pummeled the traveler as guest occupancy dropped faster than room rates in 2009. Hoteliers were on the ropes anticipating a knock-out punch, but many a frequent guest in the opposite corner was too financially weak in the knees to take advantage.
My hotel loyalty program 2009 recap.
2009 started with luxury hotel rooms from all the major chains, even Four Seasons, being dumped on SkyAuction.com to the highest bidder. The year ends with elite status and bonus points being sprinkled on hotel loyalty members like water in an attempt to revive ailing guests in this year-long hotel travel battle.
Award Choices: Hotel loyalty programs lightened up in 2009. Marriott and Hyatt dropped their higher priced, expanded availability award night tables in favor of “No Blackout” policies for free nights using points.
Marriott Rewards “No Blackout” free nights enhancement came with a restructured reward stay chart. The cost increased by 60 percent for seven nights in Marriott’s top hotel category using points. Free nights rose around 10 percent in the bottom half of categories, while the upper categories saw half the multi-night awards increase by 25 percent or more points compared to 2008. Marriott Rewards ends 2009 with four months of Pointsaver award discounts of 10 or 15 percent for stays through Jan. 15, 2010.
SPG in October added U.S. and Canada category 1 and 2 hotels to the Cash & Points option. Previously these awards were only available at Asia-Pacific hotels. Buying SPG points costs 20 percent less through Dec. 31, 2009.
Hilton HHonors offered its best bonus points promotion of the year in October, then a week later announced changes to hotel categories for 2010 reward nights. Reports are a substantial hotel placement shift to one category higher. HHonors heralds in 2010 with a major loyalty points inflationary move. HHonors PointStretcher discount reward nights were sparse in 2009.
IHG added Points & Cash awards offering discount points purchases for hotel nights. IHG PointBreaks are still one of the best loyalty award deals for free nights at 5,000 points.
Promotions: Points bonuses were the 2009 loyalty winter games. But the hotel statistical numbers for occupancy and room rates continued to drop all year. Loyalty programs upped the ante for spring and early summer. Loyalty promotions were enhanced and extended after promotion launches.
In March, I suggested hotel loyalty programs give double elite credit for luxury hotel stays to boost occupancy. Hotel programs raised the bet even higher. Free nights were the new normal for 2009.
SPG awarded unlimited free weekend nights with every two stays from May to July, up to Category 6 hotels. IHG offered over three months from May to August to earn a free night anywhere for every two paid nights with a cap at four free nights. Marriott offered a free night for three stays during the summer, but restricted the free night to a Category 4 hotel or below. Hyatt currently offers a free night after every two stays through Jan 31, 2010 with unlimited earning and open for all Hyatt hotels.
Free nights on multi-night paid stays were ubiquitous all year. Buy two nights and get one free made for extended stay bargains in most hotel chains.
Widespread hotel offers for airline miles moved chains like Hyatt and Starwood into HHonors territory for earning both miles and points on hotel stays. HHonors went a step further with a summer offer for Delta/Northwest elite miles with two-night stays. Hotel miles promotions were everywhere.
Elite promotions: Hyatt offered instant and fast-track elite for eight months of 2009 making top-level diamond status possible for 13 to 15 nights. Loews YouFirst had a summer instant elite offer with a first stay. Marriott introduced rollover elite nights for 2010 credit on nights stayed above your elite qualifying level. SPG offered elite members either double elite credit for 2009 or 2010 rollover credit for stays Sept. 15 to Dec. 15. Hilton ended rolling tier elite qualification in 2009.
Elite Benefits: A move to better serve elite members with defined benefits was apparent in 2009. Marriott Rewards Platinum member elite bonus was upped to 50 percent. Hyatt gave elites free Internet and four annual Diamond member confirmed suite upgrades. Hilton outlines clearly its elite member benefits by brand.
What are my predictions for 2010? I’ll only be so brazen in my blog. I simply have a wish to share. I wish HHonors shows constraint in moving hotels one category higher in the 2010 changes. Marriott Rewards had limited hotel category shift in 2009.
Are you listening Santa?