Confused by HHonors Hotel Category Changes Previewed in USA Today

Barbara DeLollis published a sneak peek of HHonors 2010 category placement for a selection of Hilton Hotels properties going up, staying the same, and going down. My initial reading of her article left me confused. The numbers did not make sense to me. The confusion is apparently common among FlyerTalkers discussing her article and the HHonors hotel category changes in this thread.

The paragraph in question reads like this,

Hilton will move 547 properties (or 16% of total) into a cheaper points category, while it will move 354 others (or 10%) into a pricier category. (These changes come on top of the 20% increase in the number of points required for a free night’s stay across Hilton’s system.)”

Here is my Loyalty traveler take:

1.       The parenthetical statement, “These changes come on top of the 20% increase” is the source of confusion. That does not make any sense considering the preceding statement. There is only a 20% increase in points for a free night across the system if every hotel is bumped up a category for 2010. In other words, if a 2009 category 2 hotel becomes a category 3, category 4 goes to category 5, and so on, then there is a 20% across the system increase in points needed for a free night.


2.       She cites Jeff Diskin saying 547 hotels (16%) will move into a cheaper points category and 354 hotels (10%) will be in a higher category. 74% of the hotels, 2,575 hotels will remain in the same category. 


These are radically different numbers than the message I have been pushing regarding the changes in HHonors for 2010 based on earlier statements and lack of statements from HHonors representatives to clearly address the scope of the 2010 changes.  

The new category chart is clearly posted on the HHonors site. The chart is displayed with the 2009 HHonors hotel categories aligned in the same column as higher level 2010 categories. This graphic display of the 2010 changes, along with statements by HHonors Representative on FlyerTalk have led members and analysts to conclude Hilton HHonors planned to increase all hotels to one category level higher with the 2010 changes.


Jeff Diskin appears to contradict this across-the-system hotel category shift in the USA Today article with a statement that 74% of hotels will remain in the same category in 2010.


3.       Did social media have actionable results on the HHonors changes? Did forums like FlyerTalk, news articles, and blogs convince Hilton HHonors to rethink the 2010 hotel category changes?


HHonors is mysteriously quiet about the changes. Details on how the hotel category shift in 2010 will be implemented are still confusing after reading the USA Today article.

My advice for Mr. Diskin and HHonors.

Get the word out on FlyerTalk ASAP in a clearly worded manner if the changes are really only 10% of hotels requiring more points in 2010.

Stop the hemorrhaging of the HHonors value proposition in the minds of your frequent guests.  

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 in 2008.

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  1. Wow, if they have indeed decided to not change point values, why handle it this way? Make changes as transparent as possible. If it’s bad news, then so be it. This just continues to reinforce the whole “we don’t care about loyalty program” theme.

  2. My best guess is that the increases and decreases are factored in after the bump in hotel category.

    16% going down in category is really 16% going up one category and THEN coming down one category, to basically remain where they are today.

    10% going up in category is really going up two categories.

  3. Hi Mike,

    I considered this possibility first and that is what motivated me to look closely at the list of hotels under each heading in the USA Today column and examine the numbers used.

    First group of hotels are “Hotels that will stay in the same points category”. These are all Category 6 hotels currently and will be category 6 in 2010 according to the 40,000 points per night numbers.

    By the logic that all hotels were raised one category then a hotel in this list is currently a category 6, raised by shifting to category 7 in the 2010 “system-wide shift”, and then demoted back to Category 6 for 2010 by some HHonors decision team. That seems rather convoluted.

    No other evidence in that list so on to the next category of hotels labeled “Hotels that will be raised into a pricier hotel category”.

    These hotels are samples of what we have been expecting these past two months for Hilton brand hotels across the chain. The story has been that all hotels will be bumped up a category with the 2010 changes so what makes these ten hotels special for the sneak peek?

    This category led to my confusion of whether HHonors is really only pushing 10% of the hotels in the chain to a higher points category.

    Then there is the third category of hotels in the USA Today list “Hotels that will be dropped into a less expensive hotel category”

    A hotel like the Embassy Suites Fort Myers Estero is a category 5 hotel in 2009 for 35,000 points a night. This hotel is dropping to a category 4 at 30,000 points per night.

    If the logic is all hotels went up for the 2010 category shift, then this Fort Myers Embassy Suites should have been a Category 6 in 2010 and instead was dropped two levels to a category 4? That doesn’t seem rational to me.

    Two of the hotels in this group are currently category 2 and will remain in category 2, but by the change in points will drop from 20,000 points per night to 12,500 points per night in 2010.

    The confusing part to me is HHonors Category 2 with over 1,000 hotels. 547 hotels moving into a lower points category can’t include all the category 2 hotels if they were to remain in category 2. And if half the category 2 hotels go to category 3, then that is more than 10% rising in points.

    This would indicate that the hotels are rising a level, but many of the Category 2 hotels will remain in category 2 and actually decrease in points.

    Until HHonors releases more information the matter will remain confusing to me.

  4. Thanks for the link Oliver. The Business Traveller article certainly reads like the intention of the changes is to move hotels rewards using points to higher points value. The article supports Mike’s interpretation of the HHonors changes with all hotels going up and then some moving back down again.

    Diskin’s claim is the average daily rate (ADR) for hotel rooms rose 20% since 2003 and therefore the member is earning 20% more points and the cost of the free nights using points should increase by 20%.

    Interesting rationale. I hope it works out for HHonors. I also find it interesting that just as a devaluation is coming the HHonors program is set to release its best loyalty program promotion in years for a free night after four stays.

  5. Using his rationale of the 20% ADR increase, maybe they should drop the number of stays/nights required to achieve elite status, since it’s become 20% more expensive to reach status levels.

    I looked at my HHonors account yesterday and my 10 stays and 17 nights in 2009 don’t get me anywhere near renewal of Gold status (reached through fast-track). I haven’t really planned much of my 2010 travel yet and thus don’t feel like committing to Hilton Honors, but if needed, I’ll upgrade my HHonors Amex to the Surpass card to retain/gain Gold.

  6. I don’t understand this either, so I think your query about social media, and the old-school, snail mail letter writing campaign that undoubtedly went on (including from this gold member) may have had a effect.

    You’d think they’d have this all put to bed by now, with 3 weeks to go before the changes take effect. The confusion could stem from their scrambling to adjust from the (what I suspect is) strong backlash.

  7. The message has come out in at least three different sources this past month interviewing Jeffrey Diskin that an across the system 20% increase is coming.

    USA Today, Joe Brancatelli, and Business Traveller.

    There is also talk that Hilton HHonors will ramp up promotion opportunities for 2010.

    I certainly expect the changes to be published soon.

  8. There is now a thread on FT that tracks category changes:

    I was looking at a trip to the Seychelles, and it appears the Hilton there is moving from category 6 to 7. Right now I don’t have enough HHonors points to book a GLON award, but I am considering transferring some Amex MR or AAdvantage points over and zero out the HHonors account prior to the increase effective date on Jan 14. Maybe not the best use of the miles/points (compared to premium class airline tickets), but I just bought some 400,000 US Airways miles in the 250% holiday bonus promotion and need to burn those down anyway.

  9. I burned 800,000 HHonors points before the 2003 changes when the GLON-VIP award went from 100,000 to 150,000 points. I never built up a large balance after that change.

    The Seychelles or Mauritius were on my bucket list of travel destinations for years. The Hilton Mauritius was a regular feature on PointStretchers for several years. I don’t know about these days.

    I hope Pointstretchers come back as an expanded list in 2010. That would mitigate some of the points increases for free nights.

  10. Diskin must have been using ‘New Math’ since it now appears that 80% of the hotels have gone up a category based on the tables out today…

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