Want a Room Upgrade? This Matters More than Your Elite Status

Room upgrades are one of the best reasons to aim for elite status with a hotel chain. Who doesn’t like paying the standard rate (or redeeming points) and finding themselves upgraded for free to an ocean-view suite? Some hotel chains offer better (and more reliable) policies than others, but the promise of a room upgrade is often made to loyalty program members with elite status.

But elite status isn’t the only thing that matters. My recent experiences are an excellent example.

I decided this year that I should aim for Diamond status with Hilton Honors (I am currently Gold). I surprised myself recently by determining that Hilton Honors offers a stronger across-the-board loyalty program than Marriott Bonvoy at the moment – click here to read my analysis. And during 2021, I will only need 15 stays to achieve this (and these could all be one night stays). I’m not eligible for the Aspire credit card, so that easy route is unavailable, as is the status match.

But with international travel still very limited, my best options for picking up one-night stays is to book staycations at a local hotel. I’ve been trying out the Curio Collection hotel in Barcelona, Spain – the Alexandra. Last weekend I completed my third one-night stay in the last month.

The Hotel Knows That “Elites” Expect Upgrades, and Manages Expectations Accordingly

The Alexandra hotel makes it clear on the Hilton Honors website that it might not be able to offer an upgrade to Gold & Diamond members.

Stay One – The “Not Really an Upgrade” Upgrade

For my first stay at the Alexandra, the front desk clerk told me I had been upgraded. As near as I could tell, I wasn’t…  as my room looked exactly the same as the standard room shown online, although it was located on the “Hilton Honors floor”.

Stay Two – An Actual Upgrade This Time

For my second stay – just one week later – I was also informed at check-in of an upgrade. Rolling my eyes briefly, I was nonetheless directed towards a different wing of the hotel, since I had indeed been upgraded to a “Modernist Premium” room.

Stay Three – A Junior Suite Upgrade

For my third stay, I was again informed at reception of an upgrade, this time with specific mention of a junior suite.

The Moral of the Story?

Nothing has really changed between my first stay and my third. I am still a Gold member and Spain is still off-limits to most tourists. The hotel was never even close to full – so it was unlikely that the cheaper rooms had sold out and the hotel needed to upgrade guests to larger rooms (or that the junior suite had been sold out during my first stay). And even though I am not the DYKWIA complaining type, the Hilton Honors upgrade policy for Gold members is suitably vague.

Gold Hilton Honors Members may be upgraded to preferred rooms up to Executive Floor room types. Preferred rooms may also include those not on the Executive Floor but conferring Executive Lounge access, the next-best available room types, rooms with desirable views or amenities or other rooms identified as “preferred” by the hotel and may vary within each brand. Group reservations and certain rates are not eligible for complimentary upgrades. All upgrades are granted on a space-available basis for the entire stay, as determined at the time of arrival. Upgrades will be given only for one room for the member, regardless of additional rooms the member may have purchased at or after the time of booking. The following brands do not offer complimentary upgrades: Embassy Suites™, Hilton Garden Inn®, Hampton by Hilton™, Tru by Hilton™, Homewood Suites by Hilton®, Home2 Suites by Hilton®, Hilton Grand Vacations®, and Motto by Hilton®.

What HAD changed is that I am now a repeat guest. And being a repeat guest is FAR more valuable to the hotel than a random Gold member who might never stay again.

But I Want to be Upgraded Everywhere!

Don’t we all! Some hotels are better at rewarding elite members than others. And it’s reasonable to expect that your elite status matters, especially if you’ve spent 60-100 nights each year being loyal to a single hotel chain.

But if you really want to see your loyalty rewarded, keep returning to the same hotel and you might just find that your upgrades get better and better as well…

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