Hyatt, IHG and Marriott hotels all offer two paths for their most frequent guests to upgrade into suites: they can be confirmed in advance a limited number of times each year, or hotels should offer them suites that are still available on arrival. (The Hilton Honors program allows hotels to upgrade members to suites but does not require it, and 44% of their brands do not have to offer upgrades at all.)
The details of suite upgrades vary, for instance Hyatt lets Globalist members confirm suites at the time of booking, and any standard suite for sale can be used for an upgrade. In contrast, Marriott only starts upgrading into suites 5 days prior to check-in, and will only allocate standard suites they do not expect to sell.
Nonetheless, some hotels play games with their inventory (such as creating a category of limited rooms eligible for upgrade) and also refuse to provide upgrades at check-in. This is especially prevalent at Marriott, though Hyatt is not immune to the practice.
The general manager of a premium Los Angeles-area chain hotel writes to me, explaining why his hotel will not offer top tier elites to suites even though the chain requires them to do so.
[O]ne thing that has begun to impact upgrades are the housekeeping ordinances that are starting to pop up in major cities like Los Angeles. Where the room attendants can now only clean 3,500 sqft in a given day, and the hotels are now required by law to offer stayover service. Costs of hskp has increased so much that operators are having to figure out how to make things more efficient, which means not providing complimentary upgrades into suites because the cost to clean has doubled. So we will only upgrade to a higher floor + view.
Since the pandemic hotels have been cutting costs, trying to take advantage of high room rates to generate outsized profits after losing money in 2020 and in many markets also in 2021.
One way they’ve tried to do this is by eliminating daily housekeeping. Where it’s required to be offered it’s often only ‘on request’ and they sometimes make it difficult to request. When housekeeping is requested, the service may be limited to just making the bed (not changing linens), emptying trash, and swapping out towels left on the floor.
Hotel housekeeper unions have fought back, since their members have fewer jobs, fewer hours, and more work to do – a room that doesn’t get cleaned daily is more work to clean after check-out. Where this general manager oversees a hotel, in Los Angeles, they’re required to offer housekeeping to guests during their stay and the amount of work they can require of housekeepers is limited. A suite isn’t just more work to clean, it takes up more of each housekeepers allotment of work. Occupied suites mean more housekeepers they have to keep on staff.
Put another way, the hotel views offering upgrades into suites they haven’t sold as expensive rather than free. And the general manager views his job as limiting costs (“making things more efficient”) even if that means “not providing complimentary upgrades into suites” despite this being an express requirement of the chain his hotel is a part of.