Why Hilton Honors is Playing with Fire

Hilton Honors previously announced changes to its free breakfast benefit for Gold and Diamond members staying at hotels in the United States.

Food & Beverage Credit for Gold & Diamond Members. You asked for flexibility, and we’ve got it. Whether you look forward to breakfast or would rather skip it in favor of a refreshing beverage and afternoon snack, the choice is yours. In early July, we’ll begin offering a daily Food & Beverage Credit that will continue through the end of 2021. You can use this credit at the hotel brands where you currently receive a complimentary continental breakfast as your elite benefit of your membership. You’ll now be able to dine when and how you want. We will share more details in the coming weeks.

As we reported, the F&B credit amounts are the following:

  • $25 for luxury brands (Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts)
  • $12 for full service/lifestyle brands; $15 for full service/lifestyle brands in ‘high-cost markets’ (Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree, Canopy, Signia, Curio Collection, Tapestry Collection, Motto)
  • $10 for Hilton Garden Inn hotels
  • Credits must be used daily and are reportedly per-person amounts (up to 2 registered guests per room). 

Who Might Like This Change?

If you have been travelling in the United States for much of the past year, you will probably have noticed that many hotels have yet to re-open their restaurants fully. No restaurant = no breakfast. Some hotels have offered a replacement that is truly embarrassing. But why should a half-full hotel attempt to staff up its restaurant for breakfast when many guests have Gold or Diamond status and wouldn’t provide any additional revenue to cover the cost?

So… if this is truly a temporary change – rather than a test of a future policy – then a credit that can be used on a snack or drink in the afternoon/evening is a welcome enhancement, especially for those guests who don’t normally eat breakfast in the hotel.

And if in 2022 and beyond, Gold and Diamond members are offered the choice of breakfast or a credit – or hotels are policed so that a voucher covers a reasonable breakfast option – this would be a genuinely welcome improvement to the program.

Who Won’t Like This Change? (Guests that Hilton Could Lose Permanently)

Hilton Honors is the hotel chain that makes it easiest to reach elite status, even giving away its top-tier Diamond status to certain credit card holders. I suspect that this helps to attract infrequent guests, who might otherwise book via an Online Travel Agency or stay at an independent hotel.

But when you analyze the benefits, the key feature is free breakfast.  Room upgrades are few and far between.

So, what happens if you take away free breakfast – simple and easy to understand – and you replace it with a voucher?  The mindset completely changes because…

  • The amounts proposed will definitely NOT cover the full cost of breakfast. Even when you apply the amount of the voucher to the cost of breakfast – often grotesquely over-priced because some business travellers will simply be expensing the cost – you are still left paying more for breakfast than many local alternatives.
  • Families will DEFINITELY know to avoid a Hilton hotel. Many Hilton hotels will provide complimentary breakfast for the whole family when the parent/registered guest has Gold or Diamond status. The type of traveller who would most appreciate getting the kids fed without leaving the hotel would be stuck paying for over-priced hotel breakfasts, because the voucher wouldn’t come close to covering the cost.
  • The voucher won’t cover the cost of dinner at the hotel, and many travellers (especially women) have ZERO desire to sit in a hotel bar in the evening drinking alone.

Marriott As a Guide to Elite Status Behavior

One of the things that is easy to criticize about Marriott Bonvoy is that each separate brand has its own rules about elite status benefits. In most cases, Platinum, Titanium and Ambassador members can rely on free breakfast in the restaurant and/or the executive lounge.

But at 3 main brands – Courtyard, AC and Moxy – elite status members receive $10 per day. If more than one guest is staying in the room, some hotels, but not all, will provide $20 per day.

But how does this drive choices? I can certainly provide my own perspective, which is echoed by comments I read elsewhere.

  1. I avoid these brands wherever possible – whether that involves choosing a different Marriott Bonvoy brand or staying at a different hotel chain entirely… depends on the options available to me.
  2. When I have no choice and must stay at a Moxy, AC or Courtyard hotel…  I choose a handful of points over a voucher I will never use.

The Bottom Line

With Marriott, I can generally remain “loyal” while avoiding those brands that don’t provide free breakfast. (something I value)  But what happens if an entire hotel chain stops providing free breakfast? Well, I already avoid IHG due to the lack of elite benefits.  Plus, Hilton Honors could remove my incentive to:

  • Sign up for the Aspire credit card
  • Make any additional stays necessary to reach Gold or Diamond status
  • Choose a Hilton Honors hotel instead of the alternatives

And that is why Hilton Honors is playing with fire by replacing “free breakfast” with a voucher…  Even though their hotel franchises might be able to cut costs or increase revenue, a substantial % of Hilton Honors members will just stay elsewhere and let their elite status expire…

Comments

  1. Droopy Dog says

    Yeah, and no, I did not ask for flexibility. I want and used my free breakfast. I do not eat other meals in the hotel. I did not ask to have barely 1/2 or 1/3 of my breakfast.

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