December is the time to reflect on our loyalty intentions for 2011. Some of us celebrate another elite year with our favored hotels and airlines. Others lament the impending loss of travel status as next March roars in like a lion forcing travel lambs to reintegrate into the powerless mass with no elite recognition.
Elite Fast-Tracks for 2011
Starwood Preferred Guest offers Gold elite after four stays at Aloft, Element and Four Points brands through Jan. 31, 2011. You can register up to Jan. 31 and eligible stays will be credited retroactively to Oct. 1, 2010. SPG Gold elite normally takes 10 stays.
Marriott Rewards elite rollover nights for 2010 means all nights over the amount needed for your status (Silver 10, Gold 50, Platinum 75) rollover to 2011. For example, you stayed 20 nights in 2010 and rollover credits 10 elite nights above Silver to 2011. You have Silver elite locked in through February 2013.
Hyatt Gold Passport in early 2010 posted a promotion to last all year for complimentary Platinum elite at five nights and Diamond elite with 15 nights in 180 days with status through February 2012. This offer abruptly ceased in May 2010. Takeaway lesson is sign up for promotions early. They can be discontinued at any time.
December is also the time to reflect on trends in hotel loyalty programs.
9 Pivotal Maneuvers in 2010
1. goldpoints plus reduction in points for over 300 hotels — Feb. 1, 2010 — Kudos to Carlson Hotels for its bold move to significantly lower the cost of award nights at its highest category hotels and eliminate Flex Nights requiring 50 percent more points at peak demand periods. The award night cost for the top Radisson Blu hotels dropped from 90,000 to 60,000 points. Increasing the value of your loyalty points for high-end hotels is a rare move indeed.
2. HHonors “free night after four stays” six month promotion. HHonors taketh away with one hand while bearing gifts in the other. The best year in a long time was 2010 for lucrative HHonors promotions and the return of PointStretcher discount rewards. Most other hotel programs ran 2010 promotions for free nights after two to four stays.
3. IHG Priority Club’s Biggest Loser direct recruitment of HHonors members — 20,000 high-balance HHonors members received 20,000 Priority Club points. The grass is greener strategy commonly used in airline frequent flyer programs moved to hotel loyalty programs.
4. Hyatt Big Welcome Back gave away elite and free nights early in the year, followed by a hotel category shift and new high-end Category 6 awards. Kudos to Hyatt for its transparency with members regarding all hotel category award changes before they took effect.
5. Choice Privileges Award Nights count for Elite — Counting award nights for elite qualification is one of the simplest changes to enhance a loyalty program. Choice joins HHonors in the small “award stays count for elite” club.
6. Marriott loses partner American AAdvantage. The story never came out in the press for why Marriott and AAdvantage called it quits July 1, 2010. AAdvantage courted every other hotel chain with summer bonus miles promotions making AAdvantage miles a sought after hotel stay commodity. Marriott promotions for 5,000 Delta SkyMiles per stay made some guests even happier in 2010.
7. Ritz-Carlton Rewards — A major benefit is elite recognition across brands for Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members. The lower cost in points for one-night stays at Ritz-Carlton hotels increases accessibility to members; however, Marriott Rewards members lost an extremely high value discount for extended stay Ritz-Carlton awards.
8. Elite with hotel branded credit cards — Credit cards are a major elite status strategy. Hyatt offers Platinum and two free nights the first year. Priority Club gives Gold elite and an annual free night. Marriott gives an annual free night and 10 or 15 elite nights confer Silver status. Plus, rollover nights brings more people within reach of higher Marriott elite levels. SPG added five elite credit nights and two stays with October’s credit card changes. HHonors grants Silver VIP to all or Gold VIP at $20,000 and Diamond VIP after $40,000 annual spend.
9. Luxury hotels seek brand recognition — Marriott Autograph Collection, Waldorf Astoria Collection, SPG Luxury Collection, Park Hyatt and InterContinental Hotels are big chain brands attracting high-end market independent hotels with a lure coated in marketing bait.
The major hotel chains evolve. Cheers to 2011.