There was a live chat between Randy Petersen and Jeff Zidell, head of Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program on MilePoint last night. This is the first MilePoint chat I have logged into and I was unaware the format is a computer version of a radio style chat, except no voices and limited audience participation .
First, let me sincerely give thanks to Jeff Zidell and Randy Petersen and the folks at the House of Miles for giving Hyatt Gold Passport members an opportunity to get some first-hand insight into Hyatt Gold Passport.
I don’t want to shoot the messengers – just the messaging system.
I should probably keep my critical comments to a minimum, but I am acting bipolar this week and I seem incapable of shutting my blog mouth. This past week I have ragged on Carlson Hotels, the J.W. Marriott L.A. and city of Los Angeles and now I’ll take on Hyatt and MilePoint.
Engagement with the Audience
While the MilePoint chat format was a window into a conversation, there was little opportunity for engagement as an audience member tuning in for the hour. I felt like I was being waterboarded with words dripping slowly onto the computer screen one sentence at a time. A question would be raised and then dead space for a couple of minutes until the next statement appeared.
I assume Randy Petersen was able to see what comments people were submitting to the chat during the hour. I don’t know if Jeff Zidell was getting a feed of comments.
As an audience member I was surprised to find the entire conversation filtered. I made comments and submitted questions during the hour, but nothing I wrote came up in the chat. This also happened to BoardingArea blogger MommyPoints who submitted a question during the chat. Consider yourself fortunate if you were not sitting in front of your computer for the entire 60+ minutes of the live broadcast as you can read the entire chat transcript in ten minutes.
Jeff Zidell was good humored and opened up with a joke about MilePointers having the opportunity to “Occupy Hyatt Gold Passport” for an hour. The thing about the Occupy movement is the audience has a voice and opportunity to give immediate feedback to the speakers. There was little opportunity for audience participation here.
Here is my 3 minute summary of the topics covered:
1. Hyatt restaurants have rolled out a new hamburger bun – softer and richer.
2. Hyatt has about 125 hotels in development around the globe.
3. Cash & Points and Discount Award Nights are on Hyatt’s radar.
4. Faster Free Nights, the periodic promotion Hyatt Gold Passport ran every year until 2011 for a free hotel night after every two stays, does not seem to be on Hyatt’s radar now.
5. Jeff Zidell has been with Hyatt Gold Passport for 3.5 years. One year after he arrived Gold Passport made major changes in April 2009 to elite membership: complimentary Internet for our elite tiers, full breakfast for Diamond members, 72/48-hour guaranteed availability for Platinum/Diamond and four confirmed Diamond Suite Upgrades. This year additional Diamond member enhancements include 4pm late checkout and enhanced welcome amenities at Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites.
6. Earn points and redeem points for Food & Beverage and Spa services when not staying at the Hyatt property are being beta tested now. Expect more availability in 2012.
7. Hyatt Reservations system improvements are coming in 2012.
8. Hyatt Gold Passport Lifetime Diamond membership requirements are ten years as a Hyatt Gold Passport (no need to be Diamond) and 1,000,000 base points earned (equivalent to $200,000 hotel spend).
9. Jeff Zidell stated Hyatt wants to create “true loyalty, not operate a profit center.” He commented the credit card has increased loyalty. “In addition, we want to maintain a very compelling and competitive award chart, which comes under pressure if you flood the market with a lot of additional points.”
– My Loyalty Traveler reply is Hyatt had the leading edge competitive award chart prior to the creation of Category 6 hotel rewards and the hotel shift upwards in the system. The program is still competitive compared to most others in terms of the distribution of hotels with most hotels in the lower half of the reward categories. At the upper end the program is losing ground in terms of the cost for a Category 5 or 6 hotel reward based on the rate points are earned for hotel spend.
I take Jeff’s response to indicate a Hyatt Gold Passport shopping portal is not in the works.
10. Property level specific bonuses, so-called “G Bonuses” since the promo code started with the letter G, do not appear to be too big on Hyatt’s radar either.
Loyalty Traveler comment – I think I broke the story of G bonuses going by the wayside from a chat I had with Jeff Zidell in March 2011. At that time he stated they might be coming back in July. I guess not!
11. Why are Hyatt properties shortchanging the number of points posted from stays?
Jeff said this was unacceptable.
This is another issue I raised on Loyalty Traveler in December 2010 and my post even prompted a few back and forth emails with Jeff and Hyatt. This July-August 2011 thread on FlyerTalk suggests the issue is widespread and apparently has still not been resolved.
12. Are there additional benefits for Gold Passport members who spend 75 or 100+ nights per year? Are there benefits for reaching 2 million, 3 million and more points?
Loyalty Traveler comment – At this point, 40 minutes into the chat I had to get snarky and submit my question “Are we whale hunting with Jeff Zidell?” referring to the term whales used by casinos for the really big money spenders. Hyatt already has an uber-elite level called Courtesy Card. Here is a Loyalty Traveler post on Courtesy Card.
13. When asked if Hyatt is considering award stays for elite qualification, Jeff responded, “We are looking into this, but we don’t think that it would impact very many members.”
Then Jeff followed up with a question, “Would you stay more frequently with us if this option were part of the program? Again, feel free to Tweet us using the hashtag #HyattGP.”
I realized we could actually have a real time audience conversation on Twitter around the MilePoint chat as it was happening. But I think Mommy_Points and I were the only two using that media outlet for that purpose at the time.
14. Complimentary Internet – wired or wireless is up to the hotel. I wrote an article about that last year.
15. Stays Count Double Promotions – Promotions for double elite credit, like FFN, were another annual promotion offer from Hyatt Gold Passport until this year. Looks like we won’t be seeing these come back in the near future.
Jeff’s response: “This is something that we are always looking at, but we have found that these types of promotions undermine the integrity of our tiers. We hear from many of our members that tier integrity is really important.”
My response: Looks like all the Hyatt Gold Passport fast-tracking to elite status went from 60mph to 0. You can still possibly pull in a Gold Passport Diamond Stay Challenge if you are acceptable.
16. Diamond Breakfast – Will Hyatt Gold Passport standardize the complimentary breakfast benefit for Diamond members? Yes!
Hyatt Gold Passport Takeaways
My takeaways from the conversation is Hyatt is pulling back on the high value promotions that attracted many of us to the program over the past decade. The company went public, partnered with a bank for a co-branded credit card, gave top elite status for 18 months to anyone who asked prior to the credit card launch and since then has added a new top tier hotel category, shifted a large portion of hotels upward in category, and made Diamond elite a more beneficial status level, but removed the avenues to reach this level without 25 paid stays or 50 paid hotel nights a year.
Hyatt Gold Passport is still among the most generous hotel loyalty programs in my opinion, but reaching and maintaining top-tier Diamond elite is going to require more hotel spend and the free nights earned are likely to be less than in years past for many of us Gold Passport members.