Loyalty programs are really two separate components married together: recognition and reward. There’s an elite program to treat your best customers better, an a points program to offer a rebate on spend. Hilton’s rebate value is low, though spend with Hilton using a Hilton co-brand credit card can be pretty good. And Hilton’s elite program is weak.
- Top tier elites do not even get guaranteed late check-out
- And there’s no promise of suite upgrades -if a standard suite is available at check-in, and a hotel doesn’t give that suite to a Diamond member, the property hasn’t done anything wrong under the rules of the program. With Hilton hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites but they do not have to.
The sweet spot of the Hilton program has been that Gold status is basically a giveaway level. It comes with the primary consumer credit card, and is a throw-in with the Platinum Amex. And Gold status comes with breakfast (when there’s no lounge access). Diamond benefits aren’t especially differentiated from Gold.
Hilton has introduced a food and beverage credit in lieu of elite breakfast where club lounge isn’t available (and at chains where breakfast isn’t provided free to everyone). That runs through December 31. I hear it’s being extended. The concept is amazing (use the credit for a meal other than breakfast, use the credit for room service) but the amount is too low and doesn’t cover the least expensive items in major cities. At some hotels it won’t even cover a cup of coffee with tax if you tip (which is expected).
Hilton has tested confirmed suite upgrades for Diamonds so when I heard they were adding a new advance upgrade benefit I figured surely we had to finally see suite upgrades. No such luck.
Instead Golds and Diamonds will be notified of space available ‘enhanced room’ upgrades 72 hours in advance and will be able to select a room from the new upgraded room category through the chain’s mobile app. The ability to select your own room is a nice benefit of the mobile app, but means you aren’t working any schmooze magic with the agent at check-in. This is potentially an improvement, but also disappointing, because there’s no promise being made that available suites will be offered to Diamond members.
They’re also adding key sharing to their digital room key feature, so that a guest can give their key to (for instance) someone sharing their room. That’s a technological advance as well. One area where Hilton relatively excels is in their mobile technology.