Spring Into Free Nights

Spring Into Free Nights

Hilton and Hyatt free night promotions are designed to kick start frequent guests with a double espresso loyalty infusion. Hyatt Gold Passport rewards a free night after every two stays through June 30, 2010. Hyatt free nights must be redeemed by Aug. 31, 2010. Hilton HHonors awards a free night certificate after every four stays or 10 nights through June 30, 2010. Hilton free nights are valid for one year from date of issue and gone is the Q1 earning limit of three free nights.

Unlimited free nights, redeemable system-wide, is as good as it gets for hotel loyalty promotions. The potential to leverage hotel spend on paid hotel stays with high value free nights makes the next few months the perfect season to spring for elite, take on a new hotel loyalty program or just maximize cheap hotel travel now to secure a free luxury getaway in the future.

Free night promotions are designed to fill rooms and get people back into hotel travel. Hotels are struggling with occupancy averaging just over 50 percent in the U.S. for Q1 2010. When hotel travel picks up steam again, currently forecast to be 2012, the free night promotions will likely fade away. For now, the frequent guest with a loyalty card is the traveler reaping the rewards.

Gaining elite status as you earn free nights makes hotel stays even more rewarding. High elites generally receive complimentary room upgrades, even on award nights.

Many travelers give more effort to securing a seat in the front of a plane rather than a suite in a hotel. Perhaps the price differential between economy class and first class tickets makes the effort more rewarding. Perhaps it is the prestige.

A scene from Cameron Crowe’s film “Jerry Maguire” shows the main female character Dorothy eavesdropping on Jerry’s conversation as a flight attendant closes the curtains to first class. Dorothy, segregated back to her economy class side of the cabin, blows her nose in a tissue. As her son asks, “What’s wrong, mom?” Dorothy replies, “First class is what’s wrong. It used to be a better meal. Now it’s a better life.”

Many elite frequent flyers tend to agree — first class is a better life.

Mileage runs are a travel concept many frequent flyers have come to internalize for miles and elite status maintenance. Flyers recognize the profound difference in air travel once you reach high elite with your frequent flyer program. Elites fast-track through airport lines, receive complimentary upgrades to the front of the plane, earn more miles per flight and several annoying fees are waived. There is a reason flyers take to the skies on transcontinental and overseas flights for no other purpose than to reach the magic mileage threshold for high elite status.

But aside from the obvious benefits of being an elite flyer, perhaps there is also an ego factor motivating the frequent flyer to mileage runs. Seated in row 2 of the first class cabin, all the economy flyers are green with envy seeing you relax in a better seat with your pre-flight champagne.

The suite is not visibly sweeter to the masses of non-loyal frequent guests. Priceline or Hotwire gets you a room at the same upscale hotel at a bargain rate, albeit in the economy section. The price-oriented guest doesn’t walk through the hotel and view elite frequent guests sitting in larger rooms, eating complimentary meals or relaxing with big screen TVs, papers and snacks in the exclusive hotel club lounge. Hotel high elite status is a solitary satisfaction that most guests rarely see, unlike the slow parade of economy class flyers filing past the elite flyers seated in first class.

High elite frequent guests are afforded benefits in the hotel equivalent to first class. The cost to reach and maintain high elite hotel loyalty status is generally far lower compared to maintaining high elite frequent flyer status.

Hotel hopping for stays is the frequent guest equivalent of mileage runs. An airport hotel for one night before departure and one night upon arrival can add two additional stays to your downtown hotel stay. Rather than spend time in transit sightseeing around a major city, have multiple stays in different hotels around the city and focus on the local vicinity. For some travelers, the benefits of free nights and elite status outweigh the inconvenience of changing hotels to maximize stays. Earning free nights make the next few months a great time for hotel hopping.

For those of you who missed the unprecedented hotel industry free night promotions of 2009, or like me, reaped a bonanza of free nights in 2009 with multiple hotel programs, history does repeat itself in 2010.

I’m wishing you suite dreams and a better hotel life for 2010.

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