Nov192008

Planning 2009 for Hotel Loyalty Elite Status

Hotel Loyalty Program Elite Status

Lots of people don’t focus on hotel loyalty or elite membership.  There are traveler types who will go to a place that is trendy while it is becoming “the trendiest place to be”.   Lodging options from the top resort on the island or the coast, the city apartment in the local neighborhood, the newest happening hotel, or couch swapping are the stories we often read in travel magazines and I hear from my relatives and friends.  

Lodging experiences are great, but I also need high value.  Finding good value experiences is fundamental to my time-rich, job-poor lifestyle as a hotel travel analyst.

A hotel loyalty program focus for elite status is important to me when traveling.  Unfortunately, my hotel loyalty program focus often comes to the exclusion of other interesting and wonderful lodging options. 

Basically the question of whether elite status will be a high value proposition for your travel lifestyle comes down to a numbers game:

  • How many hotel nights do you actually need in a year?,
  • How much can you afford to spend?, 
  • How much do you value paying more to get better lodging?

2009 Hotel Loyalty Program Advice (from this elite Loyalty Traveler)

1.      Estimate Your Hotel Nights for 2009 travel for vacations, visiting family and friends (and really ask yourself do you want to sleep in the children’s bedroom again?), and other leisure days away from home.

 

 

2.      Estimate Your Hotel Nights for 2009 Business. 

a.      Do you have control over choosing the hotel brand where you stay?

 

b.      If not, do you know cities for travel and which hotel brands you will be staying for business

 

c.       If not, then business travel may only be useful for a couple of stays and you will need to focus on discretionary travel if you want elite membership privileges.

 

3.      Add total nights for leisure and business travel

a.      If less than 15 nights in a calendar year – you may not want to concentrate on any single hotel loyalty program. 

Go for the best deals you can find and sign up for hotel loyalty program promotions when they fit your travel plans or fit your travel plans to take advantage of some of the high value promotions.  There are promotions every year allowing a frequent guest to earn $1,000+ in future hotel value when spending an equivalent or lesser amount on hotel stays to fulfill the promotion terms – if you plan for that outcome. 

b.      15 to 30 nights in hotels in a calendar year and you may be a candidate for high elite membership if you focus your hotel stays within a single hotel loyalty program and take advantage of promotional bonuses for even more added value.  Reading Loyalty Traveler is a great way to learn how to reach high elite membership with relatively economical spending.

 

c.      30 nights or more in a calendar year and you may save money by always finding the best deals, however, by concentrating on a single hotel loyalty program and elite status, you should be able to improve your lodging and hotel benefits to receive much higher value for your money by focusing on high elite membership.

 

d.      50 nights or more in a calendar year and you are wasting money or getting less lodging than you could for your money if you don’t receive high elite membership recognition in terms of upgrades and benefits with the majority of your hotel stays.

 

In 2008, Hyatt Hotels Gold Passport and Starwood Hotels Preferred Guest (SPG) ran promotions for earning Double Stay credit for elite membership qualification.  These two hotel loyalty programs both have the same threshold of 25 hotel stays or 50 hotel nights during a calendar year for top-tier elite status: Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum.

 

A hotel stay is one or more consecutive nights at one hotel, regardless if different reservation numbers. A hotel night is any eligible, paid night at a hotel member in the loyalty program during the calendar year.

 

Guests paying for a 3-night weekend stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey receive one (1) stay credit and three (3) night credits towards the 25-stay or 50-night Diamond elite membership qualification threshold. 

Guests staying Friday night at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, followed by Saturday night at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, followed by Sunday night back at the Hyatt Regency Monterey receive three (3) stay credits and three (3) night credits towards the 25-stay or 50-night Diamond elite membership qualification threshold.

 

“Hotel hopping” is a good way to quickly increase your stays and see a variety of hotels.  Of course, changing hotels mid-day is time-consuming and may not always be a viable option on your vacation or business trip.  Personally, I try to make frequent hotel stays when I am not taking a vacation.  Redeeming points for a multi-night vacation stay is the benefit from all the hotel hops planned to earn lots of points for a nice long stay at a vacation hotel.

A guest with no elite membership will receive mid-tier Hyatt Platinum elite membership after 5 stays or 15 nights at Hyatt brand hotels and Starwood Preferred Guest mid-tier Gold membership after 10 stays or 25 nights at Starwood brand hotels.

The high value benefits come with top elite status (Hyatt Diamond or SPG Platinum).  For most travelers not regularly spending 50-plus nights in hotels every year, reaching the top-elite threshold takes a plan.

Reaching top elite Gold Passport Diamond or SPG Platinum required only 13 hotel stays in 2008 for both Hyatt and Starwood during their open enrollment promotions available to all members.  Hyatt’s Double stays was January-March 2008 and Starwood’s is October 1-December 31, but members had to register for Double Stays by November 15, 2008.

My Pacific Northwest trip included six (6) Starwood Hotel stays and I am registered for the Starwood Double Stays promotion through the end of this year.  I earned Hyatt Diamond membership in March during Hyatt Gold Passport’s “Stays Count Double” promotion.  My general rule of thumb is top elite status will provide $100+ in additional benefits for every full service hotel stay.

During the Pacific Northwest trip I received additional benefits at all six hotels as recognition of Starwood Platinum status.

I learned Starwood’s two newest hotel brands, aloft and Element, the new extended stay hotel brand, do not have to offer suite upgrades to SPG platinum elites as a condition of their loyalty program participation agreement.  This was reported in an aloft hotel suite thread on FlyerTalk by Starwood Lurker, Starwood Hotels’ representative on FlyerTalk. My two stays at aloft hotels earned 250 points each as a Platinum member amenity.  There were no other special benefits at the aloft Portland.

The Nines Portland provided complimentary lounge access, a privilege that comes with a $200+ price tag to purchase with your reservation at the hotel.  I did not receive a room upgrade.

Sheraton Wall Centre, Vancouver upgraded my room to a full suite, provided complimentary wireless internet access, lounge access with breakfast and an evening social (alcohol not complimentary), and all-day access to sodas and juice.

Westin Bayshore, Vancouver upgraded my room to a full suite.

The Westin Grand, Vancouver is an all-suites hotel.  I did not see any additional benefits for the Westin Grand aside from the 500 Starpoints Platinum amenity gift.

Added value from Platinum elite membership for six hotel stays included two room upgrades to a suite ($200 value); two hotels with lounge access and complimentary food and drinks ($150 value), and 2,500 bonus Starpoints for Platinum Welcome amenity gifts ($87 value), in addition to the 800 elite bonus points on top of base points ($28 value).

Added value due to platinum elite status with Starwood Preferred Guest = $465 for six stays.

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The hotel industry forecast is looking rather gloomy in most of the industry research articles I’ve read since returning home.  Expect 2009 to be loaded with loyalty program incentives and some great discounts.  I think Hyatt and Starwood will continue Double Stays for fast-track elite qualification in early 2009. 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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