The Andaz Maui Responds to My Poor Review: Should Gold Passport Reduce Diamond Benefits for Andaz?

A week and a half ago I wrote about the Andaz Maui not living up to the really high standards it set on my first visit.

There was stained furniture in the room and a terrible shrieking noise that emanated for the door. The phones in the room didn’t work. Room service delivered and then re-delivered used condiments. One of the elevators smelled like pot, something other commenters had noticed at the property in the past.

And the hotel was simply busy, a far cry form the peaceful enclave I experienced on my first visit and closer to the ‘resort factory’ (e.g. 20 minute wait to be seated for the breakfast buffet) I prefer to avoid.

That said, on cash and points the stay was still a good value for money. I did get my money’s worth, especially since I wound up in an ocean view room ultimately and with free Diamond breakfast.

A social media manager, and then the hotel’s Director of Operations, responded in the comments.

I spoke with the Director of Operations by phone on Wednesday who shared the hotel’s increase in occupancy from 2014 of 54% to 77% expected this year — and that they’re running at 88% for the first 4 months of the year. They’re learning what that means in terms of staffing, and also the cycle for taking rooms out of service for maintenance. Wear in the rooms is greater than they’d have expected at this point given their heavy turnover.

They also have get a disproportionate number of elites at the property, which means high demand for upgrades (and free breakfast). And with their heavy occupancy they’re selling their rooms, which leaves many disappointed elites who may not get their preferred (ocean) view or even bed type (if they reserved two beds and prefer one, or vice versa).

The hotel would love to set expectations appropriately about upgrades and are looking at finding a way to let customers know when upgrades are least likely — and also when they can guarantee better suites than the handful of ‘pool suites’ they assign for Diamond Suite Upgrades (and points upgrades).

That said the emphasis was very much that Diamonds aren’t going to get for free what they might sell (which is eminently reasonable) and also whether they might be able to reduce the expectations of the Gold Passport program for what they are expected to deliver since they have a smaller room inventory to work with than many hotels (ugh).

The Director of Operations mentioned this as an Andaz-wide conversation, though I responded that of course many Andaz properties have plenty of suites and upgraded rooms and little problem meeting Diamond expectations. I certainly wouldn’t want to see changes to the Gold Passport benefits. (I reached out to Gold Passport for comment yesterday morning. I will share any reply.)

People earn their points on business stays throughout the year and the Andaz Maui is one of the prime places they’re going to want to use those points. Gold Passport redemptions are prevalent in much the same way at the Park Hyatt Maldives, where on my last stay 5 different couples introduced themselves to me — and that hotel has only 50 rooms.

To my mind it’s simply important to attenuate expectations.

18 months ago my experience on the property was of a boutique hotel. This time the experience was more of a resort factory.

The Director of Operations talked about year three being when they’re figuring out what they want to be. And I think that’s right, it’s why I offered my review as a counterpoint to my earlier one, because the hotel is currently much busier than they were and I don’t think they’ve caught up yet with how to handle the increased business.

Since cash and points is a strong value there in my opinion, for a hotel with a fantastic vantage point for watching the sunset, I may return and I look forward to seeing how things evolve there. Although I no longer view the property as the only place I actually want to stay on the Island given value and price.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I actually have reservation this July for 2 nights at the Andaz Maui. I am considering, based on your review, of switching to a different hotel. You mentioned it’s not the only place you would like to spend on Maui. Could you please mention some comparable alternatives?

  2. @Josh what I meant by that is 18 months ago it was such a wonderful respite that it was huge value for the price, especially as a diamond (I had used a confirmed suite upgrade for an Andaz Suite and the breakfast experience was fantastic).

    Now it’s a place I would consider. I do not have the silver bullet replacement. It’s of course not as nice as the Four Seasons, but not as pricey. Hilton’s Waldorf is much larger.

    On this particular stay I would have been just as happy at the busy Westin, largely because most of the time was spent in Lahaina (I have a cousin living out there, past the Westin).

  3. I didn’t realize that “Diamonds aren’t going to get for free what a hotel might sell” was an exception to the HGP program.

  4. @Gary Leff good followup.

    After readying the comments on the original story i have one suggestion, you should link your photo to your email account so when you respond to people in the comments they see you photo and have some idea its actually you. When you read this comment likely you will see my photo automatically, that sort of confirms its me and makes it easier for others to identify its a comment from me. In your case more people would be able to focus in on your responses.

    You do that by creating free wordpress.com account tied to the email that you use when you comment and uploading your image.
    https://en.gravatar.com/
    https://en.gravatar.com/support/how-to-sign-up/

  5. Thanks tor your response. There are no points or points and cash available for my dates. So, together with resort fee and taxes, I am paying almost $500/night. I could’ve staid at Westin for 16k points/night. I made the reservation. Friends told us about Andaz so I cancelled the Westin (silly me – now 20k/night) and reserved for Andaz.
    Seemed that Andaz was nicer hotel and better location. Perhaps I should reconsider the Westin? Your comments would be appreciated.

  6. What a cop out by them. ‘Attenuate expectations.’ Why not just devalue the program? This is no different.

  7. @JetAway I think the reference here is to upgrades, not to breakfast, bonus points, or high speed internet.

    Diamonds who haven’t confirmed upgrades with their suite upgrade certificates are entitled to the best available non-suite. And available means what hasn’t been sold.

    Though of course I have an issue with what the hotel now considers to be their standard suite. Just like with a standard room, I view that as the most common room. But this hotel has carved out a lower level suite there’s only a few off, pool suites that are considered dark and undesirable, that they’d probably have a hard time selling or at least that paying customers would probably be unhappy with. That strikes me as dirty pool though is probably technically compliant with program terms.

  8. They should have checked with corporate before telling a prominent loyalty travel blogger that there’s a chainwide conversation on how to do less for elites at Andaz properties. Have they considered reflagging as a Wyndham or an Ascend or an Indigo or an Edition? No point in being a Hyatt if you don’t like the clientele.

  9. Josh – if you’re willing to pay cash don’t rule out Four Seasons or Fairmont Kea Lani. Both offer specials and are just down the way from Andaz in Wailea. I much prefer Wailea over Kannapali where Westin is located. There’s always Grand Wailea using Hilton points if you don’t mind being in a resort factory.

  10. I wrote a lengthy response Gary to your last post about this property experiencing first hand the lack of training nor caring regarding Passport members in my case Diamond and the experience Diamond program. This property is being run much like the Honolulu Hyatt with regard to Gold Members.

    The bigger issue is when these properties are owned by “Equity Capitol” firms it’s all about cash flow and squeezing every dime out of a guest, That is the biggest single issue in my opinion today. They the staff are daily being pounded with profit profit profit month over month increases.

    And I know this property well, from the old days as a Renaissance, andy my company was one of the contractors doing the conversion to Andaz.

    They have forgotten what the islands looked like after 911, or when there is a real recession.

    As you know Gary when traveling Breakfast is a huge deal no matter where you are in the world and as a loyal Diamond frankly I expect that benefit, entitlement, no, earned it by loyalty Yes. Thats the one thing Marriott does well, is the way they treat their top tier travelers, ( I am Lifetime PLT)

    Equity Capitol Firms don’t care about loyalty, they just don’t.,

  11. Not to mention they are probably the worst culprits of gaming the Gold Passport system. First, they make a new classification called “Mountain View” and thus reducing the number of standard rooms “Andaz Garden View”. Second, they go and sell whatever garden view rooms they have an inventory to third party travel agencies such as Costco Travel (different from third party booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz), thus further reducing the amount of rooms available for redemption. Third, they have a ridiculous 5-6 night stay requirement for whatever is left (search April, 2017 – the last few days open to the schedule and you’ll see availability but only for 6 nights). Of the dates remaining for 2016 redemptions, availability is very scarce and only searchable for 5 night stays. If the hotel is full, shouldn’t GP redemptions be encouraged because Hyatt reimburses at an average daily rate? I know there are other hotels that play games with GP but I think this hotel takes it to another level.

  12. Apart from the suite upgrade, which you said was not the basis for your complaint, nothing else has anything to do with Diamond benefits. Dirty room, broken phone, used condiments, long delays getting seated at breakfast are all basic operational failures that have nothing to do with Gold Passport.

  13. Sounds like a lot of excuses. A good resort property would maintain quality and service over capacity. Sounds like either poor management or that we “do have” too high of an expectation of this property. The Days Inn nearby is $400 less per night but I bet you get free breakfast. Would they offer this sort of excuse, maybe.

  14. I don’t know that I have much sympathy for the “struggles” with increased occupancy. It’s Maui. Does anyone actually open a hotel there and not expect it to be nearly-always-full, with a high percentage of honeymooners/anniversary-goers/elite members all wanting special treatment?

  15. @Gary – Did the Director of Operations address all of your concerns from the previous article?

    For example, the elevator smelling like pot? I also see no mention of addressing the check-in issues you cited where they refused to offer you a room with a single large bed and refused to offer the people behind you a room with two beds.

    Even as a diamond, I wouldn’t expect an upgrade. Everyone reading this should know how that works and the problems that all the programs are facing in that department these days.

    I would, however, expect the basic functions of a hotel front desk to be carried out effectively, and that includes room assignment and meeting guest requests (like 2 beds) whenever possible.

  16. “Might sell” is interesting. I presume it means that except for the least busy times of year you’re out of luck for all but one day stays. If I show up with a four night stay on a Wednesday and a nice upgraded room is available, I still won’t get it if the hotel thinks selling it for the coming weekend is still possible.

  17. I stayed there in Jan ’15. It was not particularly impressive then. In fact, of 80 or-so hotels I stayed at in 2015, I’d rank it in the 3-4 most disappointing (obviously expectations were higher for it than other hotels).

    Points bloggers pumped up this property from Day 1. I don’t know how incredible it was then, but the Fairmont was a much better property last year.

    Now, because of the huge number of people staying on points, the Andaz has found a bunch of ways to nickel-and-dime—such as the outrageous valet fee and the new-ish resort fee. Clearly, management does not want to encourage points travelers at the expense of better pleasing cash guests.

    I certainly wouldn’t make a trip out to Maui to visit this property, and I wouldn’t even visit Andaz if I was staying in Maui.

  18. Sounds like the hotel needs a new “Operations Manager.” Somewhat telling that was the individual tagged with calling you to respond to your blog.

  19. At what they charge there, the excuses are unacceptable. Their increased revenue should easily pay for renovations, more staff and (ugh) clean eating utensils…. I will never stay at that place.

  20. Stayed at the Fairmont which is extremely close, got 4 free nights in a suite with breakfast from my wife and I each getting a Fairmont credit card (and $100 food credit)

    It was an awesome stay.

  21. James makes a great point. If the Andaz is experiencing unexpectedly high occupancy levels, Gold Passport is reimbursing the hotel at some reasonable facsimile of the standard daily rate, are they not? If so, the hotel should be thrilled to have the extra revenue, and not care about where that revenue originated.

  22. Glad Hyatt followed up on your review! Just a note – C+P is not available at this resort anymore according to Hyatt’s booking outlets, making this a poor value property.

    I hated my stay in January 2015 and found the property very sub-par then. Without a doubt if you are paying cash you should be looking at the Four Seasons. It is by far the best property on Maui.

  23. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “Diamonds aren’t going to get for free what [a property] might sell.”

    What that means is precisely the point I made about two weeks ago to a lot of brouhaha. Despite what travel bloggers claim, DSUs are capacity-controlled. Period.

  24. Another vote for the Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea. It’s in the same postal code and on our visit, was much more low key and resort styled.

    It’s expensive but there are ways to reduce the cash outlay – credit card vouchers or stay 2 get 3 with Fairmont Premier status. I believe there is also a stay 3 get 4 offer open to everyone on the Fairmont website.

  25. It’s sad when a hotel’s response to criticism is the promise (or veiled threat) to reduce the benefits.

    I can understand the upgrades issue due to their finite nature, but being busy is not an excuse for stained furniture, lousy service and pot smell, especially not at a 5-star property.

    Like others said, being busy means you’re making money hand over fist, be it cash bookings or reimbursement for award stays. Use some of the proceeds to hire staff, train staff better, and upgrade to better furniture.

    I mean, seriously, what a juvenile response!

  26. Thanks for this follow up post Gary.

    The replies are a cop out by Andaz Maui – a lot of your issues had little or nothing to do with HGP benefits and everything with management and staff being incapable of maintaining standards.

    Rude/unhelpful front desk staff, incompetent room service, pot smell in elevators, stained furniture (disgusting) and phones not working are all things completely unrelated to status and HGP and everything to do with a property that’s run very very poorly.

    Add to that the ridiculous resort fees and near-mandatory valet parking fees and this resort is now so far down my list of properties to visit there’s a Hampton by Hilton that’s higher up!

  27. To be fair, Andrea, I do see C+P available. However, again, only for a 6 night stay in April 2017 but that’s pretty much it.

  28. @DCS no you are 100% wrong. If a suite assigned to the standard category is for sale it can be had with a diamond suite upgrade. Which is what 99% of the world means when they say those suites are not capacity controlled. You have your own definition, and that’s fine, but understand that it isn’t the common usage. And when you pretend it is, play definitional games, you are misleading fellow travelers. That’s not helpful.

    If you’re going to persist you should at least highlight that you are using the term differently than most.

  29. @jamesb2147 I mentioned the elevator smelling like pot. He didn’t answer that specifically, though I took it to be lumped into the overall staffing and maintenance issues (he attributed the furniture to faster than expected wear and high occupancy that caused them to not be taking rooms out of service for maintenance, seemed like strong pressure on this from ownership but that’s my interpretation).

  30. @Stvr “They should have checked with corporate before telling a prominent loyalty travel blogger that there’s a chainwide conversation on how to do less for elites at Andaz properties.” Yeah, y’think? 😉 I have heard back from Hyatt that they’re working on getting me an answer.

  31. @Gary continues, obliviously: @DCS no you are 100% wrong.”

    I have repeatedly asked for evidence, a clause in the T&C, something, anything that supports the claim, which is nothing more than wishful thing, fiction hatched in the blogopshere, but have so far gotten nothing. Zilch.

    You are the one who is 100% wrong, and the sad part is that there is a statement by a Hyatt official right up there (“Diamonds aren’t going to get for free what [a property] might sell”) that everyone can see, telling you that you are wrong but you’d rather make up things and argue that they are real…

  32. My stay in September at Andaz Maui was also far less favorable than my stay two years earlier. The Spa facilities used to be accessible to guests even if you didn’t have a treatment booked. No more. On my first stay pool staff bent over backwards to offer ice water and bar service. On my last stay they spent most of their time socializing at the towel areas. I recommend the Four Seasons but be aware that the rooms are overdue for an update.

  33. Well it appears Diamond business is not wanted at the Andaz Maui. Okay I will (continue to) avoid this Andaz.
    I agree with many remarks made here by others. Sounds like this Director of Operations is in way over his/her head and needs to spend less time whining and making excuses and make the Andaz Maui a flagship property that I’m sure it was intended to be.

  34. How about kicking DCS off of the blog. He has never to my knowledge offered anything positive, informative or accurate. Almost all of his many comments are misleading at best.

    Gary, keep up the good work.

  35. @david sez stupidly: “How about kicking DCS off of the blog. He has never to my knowledge offered anything positive, informative or accurate. Almost all of his many comments are misleading at best.”

    With a statement like that and an attempt to muzzle a dissenting voice, you are definitely too stupid to know whether or not my comments are misinformation, inaccurate or “misleading at best.”

    When you actually have something to say that is not an ad hominem, I will gladly engage you, otherwise please get lost.

    BTW, are you sure your name is not Donald? You sure sounds awful similar…

    G’day!

  36. @josh,
    If you’re shelling out $500 a night, the Fairmont is worth considering. It was probably my best hotel stay ever. Low key, airy, roomy, elegant resort with great upgrade options if you’re in the president’s club. Even if you don’t have time to earn the free certificates, the chase fairmont card will have worthwhile perks to use for your paid stay (free suite upgrades).

  37. My husband and I stayed in October and I hated the Andaz. So much so in fact, that I’m not going to stay at any other Andaz. Although the lobby was beautiful, I found the rooms incredibly dysfunctional. The bathroom with the shower open to the sink counter is absurd. I just figured I was too old. But I’m not too old for worn out furniture even in the lobby. Not for me.

  38. We stayed at the Andaz several months after they opened. I was a diamond at the time. The hotel was not crowded, in fact some of the smaller buildings and restaurants were not yet open. At the time, the hotel policy was to upgrade all diamonds to a suite, which was very large, I think the size of two regular rooms. Every thing about the hotel was great, rooms, service, breakfast etc. My experience was similar to many of the bloggers. Hence, a lot of recommendations. I also remember that at the time the Andaz was the highest rated hotel on Tripadvisor (on Maui), baring none.

    Too bad the hotel has gone downhill in such a short period of time.

  39. SW and Taryn: Thanks so much for your recommendation. I am cancelling my Andaz res. and have already booked in the Fairmont Kea Lani. It’s more expensive but what the hell…. Maui is a long way from home and I want it to be memorable. Thanks guys!!

  40. IMHO the problem is that Hyatt lets any property behave like this from a business standpoint
    Hyatt corporate has knowingly allowed them to manipulate standard room availability undermine the program by diminishing suite upgrades if available at all and to let the property seek to reduce benefits for some of their best customers
    They tried it with best breakfast benefit and then came back with an outrageous resort fee as well
    Might the hotels and Gold Passport remember how many inactive Gold Passport accounts there are? There is a reason and its called a lack of recognition as just one of many reasons
    And the cancer keeps spreading to select other properties just read reports of others about the Park Hyatt in New York City which is supposedly a corporate property
    If Gold Passport wants to let hotels destroy relationships over a one time money grab
    perhaps they should consider closing Gold passport and see how good any Hyatt property does
    Time to get the corporate house in order. I blame them fully for letting hotels get out of hand and not enforcing standards rigidly to create a welcoming hospitable culture for Gold Passport members of the best recognition possible. Excuses are a dime a dozen

  41. Oh my God, one of the elevators smelled like POT? How did you ever endure such an experience? Forget calling HGP, I would have called the police while clutching my pearls if that ordeal occurred.

  42. @Doug it wasn’t the end of the world, but to the extent it’s apparently persisted for months it’s an indication of the maintenance level at the property, consistent with the floor in my room and furnishings and non-working phones.

  43. +1 for banning DCS. His egotistical, argumentative “contributions” to travel blogs are SO annoying. I’ve learned to ignore him, as most regular readers do, but newer readers might think he has a clue and become confused. The travel blogoshere would be much better sans this misanthrope.

  44. Their response – to reduce the benefits to Diamond – completely falls into line with the feeling at this hotel. If they do so well, why don’t they go independent?! Oh, they don’t want to? Well, then, suck it up. Diamonds barely get any benefits at Andaz properties as it is. I also don’t accept the arguments that occupancy is high or number of suites is low: they knew this when BUILDING the hotel. Though I love the Andaz Tokyo, the SAME THING applies.
    My experience at the Andaz OGG was nickel and dining for every thing. It is felt and for me, hampers the relaxation of my holidays. I can afford everything they throw at me but feel like an idiot paying it. $40 for parking? They’re out of their minds.
    Anyways, I would never return to this property. It felt like a Hyatt Place with a decent breakfast and view. This goes also for the quality of the finishing in the room.

  45. If this were an independent hotel then I might find their response more reasonable.

    But their actions undermine the value of the very brand they benefit from. That is, this reflects badly on all Andaz properties. I am less inclined to stay at any Andaz based on this pattern of treatment. They are selling an experience not a commodity, and it seems foolish to treat your most frequent customers in this way.

    Similarly it reflects poorly on Hyatt. We choose their brand in the expectation that we are welcome. If you can’t meet the very expectations you actively promote then you need to work harder to do so. With high demand you work hard to raise supply. Not able to upgrade, then work to have more upgrades available.

  46. @mbh — To have the pleasure of muzzling dissenting voices, you’d have to start your own blog. However, judging from the very boneheaded idea to ban folks you disagree with from a public forum, I suspect that your blog would be nowhere near as successful as this one. Therefore, even if you started that blog you’d still not get to satisfy your third-world dictator instincts because you won’t have anyone commenting to muzzle (assuming your posts would even be more coherent than a first-grader’s first essay). Now, what are you gonna do?

    G’day!

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