World of Hyatt is making changes to elite benefits for 2024, and they are mostly good. All awards like upgrades and free nights become transferable, and more benefit choices are being added as members stay every 10 nights. It’ll be possible to confirm a suite and try out top tier benefits after fewer nights, while their Guest Of Honor benefit will be more flexible – but no longer unlimited.
Guest Of Honor Becomes Limited, More Valuable
Guest Of Honor is a Hyatt benefit where you can extend your status to a friend or family member. Globalists (earned after 60 nights, from stays or earned with Chase’s co-brand Hyatt cards) have been able to redeem their points and confer their benefits like upgrades, breakfast or club lounge access, and late check-out to the person they’re giving the room nights to. I’ve used this for my wife, her parents, our baby sitter and others.
It’s a great and fairly unique benefit. And it’s changing in ways that most people I think will see as positive, but there are some new limits being placed on it.
Instead of being a Globalist benefit (unlimited), it becomes a milestone benefit in 2024. You’ll earn Guest of Honor credits with your stays.
- It’s initially earned after 40 nights. So you don’t even need to reach Globalist status (60 nights) to use it for the first time. If you don’t yet have that status yourself, you can use it for one of your own stays – granting yourself Globalist on a single stay of up to 7 nights.
- It will become valid for paid or award stays, instead of being limited to only redemption stays.
- And when you give a Guest of Honor stay to someone else, you earn an elite qualifying night when they complete their stay. So introducing the benefits of status to a friend or family member helps you earn your own status too.
Park Hyatt, Washington DC
I like these changes overall, but the new limits on how many Guest of Honor uses you get is a little bit tighter than I’d like to see. An elite member with 60 nights will typically earn just 3 uses of the benefit per year, as opposed to having unlimited uses. That’s probably enough but I wonder whether some members will be reluctant to use them (conserving a limited resource) or whether usage will go up as the benefit becomes more flexible.
Of course you can keep earning more Guest of Honor certificates with additional elite nights, the benefit is far more flexible than before, and you’ll be able to redeem or gift online. You’ll be able to apply guest of honor to a stay booked for someone else or transfer the certificate to someone else so they can apply it themselves to their own stay.
If you do transfer it, and they cancel their stay, they receive the certificate back. If you apply the certificate to their stay from your own account (the current method) and the stay gets cancelled, the certificate returns to your account.
Since the current unlimited Guest of Honor (limited to redemption stays, and that doesn’t earn elite nights for the gifter) goes away Hyatt will be giving existing Globalists, including Lifetime Globalists, 5 Guest Of Honor certificates in January to start 2024. These will be valid through February 2025. (Once earned certificates are valid for the remainder of the current year and then for fourteen months after.)
Each March lifetime Globalists will receive 5 more every March as well, regardless of how many nights they stay, though they can continue to earn more through Milestone Rewards.
Expanded Choices Every 10 Elite Nights
Currently Hyatt members earn benefits every 10 nights up to 100 nights. Hyatt is adding more choices to their benefits, and extending every 10 night benefits up to 150 nights.
I currently have 99 nights (from a combination of stays and credit card usage) and would opt for a Hyatt over a Westin next week if these changes were already implemented in 2023.
Some of the key changes:
- Guest Of Honor awards are earned as Milestone Rewards, rather than as a benefit of Globalist status starting next year.
- Instead of earning club access awards automatically, offering club lounge access to those whose status is below Globalist (but have limited use for Globalists), members can select something else instead. Although the ability to gift awards including club access awards may make them interesting now even to Globalists.
- The “2K Next Stay” benefit choice is something a lot of Globalists will select, to the extent that club access awards aren’t useful to them. I value 2,000 Hyatt points at $28. Members will have 180 days to complete a qualifying (paid or award) stay – at a Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Caption, or UrCove – that earns the bonus.
- Miraval ‘extra night awards’ are 1-for-1 with paid or award nights, and can be used for a standard room up to double occupancy. You can pay for two Miraval nights (cash or points redemption) and use two extra night awards on a four night stay, pay for three and use three extra night awards on a six night stay, etc.
- Credits redeemable for FIND experiences are stackable. You redeem for a voucher code and can use more than one towards the same experience.
Here’s the new milestone reward chart for 2024, noting that nothing is really taken away from Milestone Rewards. There are just new benefits and choices added.
More suite upgrades are available, starting earlier (at 40 nights) and continuing on to 150 nights. Someone staying 60 nights could have 5 confirmed suites instead of 4, topping out at 14 earned for the year. They also become transferable, promoting less breakage.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
It seems like that would mean more competition for suites but Hyatt points out that they are growing their portfolio in hotels with eligible suites suites and expect to be able to manage this well.
Awards Become Easily Gifted
Virtually all Hyatt awards become easily gifted next year. You can’t gift your Hyatt concierge relationship (a benefit that comes with 60 nights) but pretty much everything else will become transferable.
You’ll be able to give free night awards to someone else, gift club access and suite upgrade upgrades, and gift Guest of Honor awards. Many of these will be transferable online or in the Hyatt app.
Meetings, Events, And Small Business Stays Earn Elite Nights For The Person Making The Booking
Hyatt currently allows meeting planners to earn status via meeting spend. The program doesn’t let them earn qualifying nights, which means they’re not earning Milestone Rewards and they’re not combining their own stays with meeting activity towards their status.
The current program remains available in 2024. However a new program is added. Meetings and events, travel advisors, and Hyatt Leverage (small business program) administrators earn 2 qualifying nights per $5,000 spent up to 60 elite nights per year.
The Hyatt Leverage small business program (membership requirements waived for small business co-brand cardmembers) offers sometimes-excellent rates. In any event, it’s a way for the program administrator to double dip earning credits for stays booked through their program in addition to the credits earned by the traveler.
I may have friends book my stays attached to their Hyatt Leverage account (and perhaps vice versa) since the administrator only gets credit for booking someone else’s stay and not their own.
Travel agents will value making bookings through the Hyatt Privé portal or direct through Hyatt channels with their IATA number (associated with their World of Hyatt account) because they’ll similarly earn elite nights on up to $150,000 in bookings per year. Notably, only room night revenue counts for travel agents and small business program administrators.
This is somewhat reminiscent of the meeting planner program that Starwood introduced a decade ago. Hyatt loyalty is, of course, run at the top by ex-Starwood executives.
Other Things Hyatt Is Thinking
Hyatt’s Chief Commercial Officer Mark Vondrasek shared that World of Hyatt membership has quadrupled in 5 years, and that Hyatt’s portfolio of properties has doubled in luxury rooms, tripled in resort rooms, and quadrupled in lifestyle rooms during that period, and that 70% of their portfolio is in luxury or upper upscale. That’s a shift from when Hyatt Places seemed to me to be the focus several years ago.
He sees other programs modifying and tightening their definition of loyalty and doesn’t see Hyatt going in that direction. I’ve described the need that Hyatt faces as one in which it’s easy to stay loyal to a larger chain, but a loyalty to a smaller one takes effort and so the program has to give a reason for members to make that choice. He seems to think about it similarly, though his words are different.
Vondrasek noted that Mr. and Mrs. Smith will begin to be integrated into the program next year. And while the specific properties will participate with World of Hyatt in ways that may different from a Hyatt brand, the integration should be stronger than with their SLH Hotels partnership – indeed he says that is why they bought (rather than partnered with) the platform.
There are certainly a lot of exciting hotels affiliated with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and he noted that 80% of hotels are turned down for membership with them.
Finally, it’s become fairly de rigueur for companies to talk about the role that AI will play in their business. He did give a nod to that for Hyatt, suggesting that it will be used for hotel search, connecting people who are looking for a stay criteria rather than starting with a specific city to visit.
It seems to me hotel chains have been doing this for a long time with resort pages, golf pages, and other special interest pages highlighting property ideas, and that the real value of AI for hotels seems to be in understanding guests and customizing stays. That’s going to be a lot harder but I think has more payoff.
More Opportunities For Hyatt To Improve
World of Hyatt offers the best hotel elite status program of any of the major chains, period. Late check-out is guaranteed outside of resorts. Breakfast is literally spelled out to include the most expensive entree on the menu, coffee or tea and juice, tax and gratuity to push back on some of the games that other chains and their hotels play. And most importantly this program offers the best access to suites.
Globalist breakfast at Park Hyatt Vendome, Paris
You can redeem points for not just standard suites, but premium suites. And members earn confirmed suite upgrades that allow you to move into any available standard suite (no capacity controls) at the time of booking. No one else comes close to guaranteeing suites for hotel elites. IHG now offers a similar benefit to confirm suites within 14 days of arrival. Marriott is increasingly moving away from suite upgrades and Hilton doesn’t promise them at all. (Hilton does not even guarantee late checkout for its Diamonds.)
However there are opportunities for Hyatt to improve its program, and I don’t think the greatest opportunities are being addressed with these changes.
- Free night awards (whether category 1-4 or 1-7) have become less valuable with inflation, and with category inflation. They haven’t been broadened to become category 1-5 or 1-8, and Hyatt hasn’t followed Marriott’s and IHG’s lead in allowing members to top off points to an award. So these awards have eroded in value in recent years.
- Meanwhile you cannot stack two awards on the same stay, redeeming a free night award and a suite upgrade at the same time. But it’s leisure stays when you want to use that free night award, and those are the times you may care about suites.
- It’s possible to redeem points for free nights in premium suites, but there’s no option to use suite upgrades to get into premium suites. The program already has the premium suite inventory from hotels, and a compensation model, where it should work to redeem two suite upgrade awards to get into a premium suite. This would be a huge benefit.
Park Hyatt New York
- Upgrades should be possible into a broader array of rooms, not to dilute the suite benefit, but because there are popular properties where suite demand is high and premium rooms are still desirable, or because there are some hotels exempted from the suite upgrade benefit but that could offer premium rooms instead.
Park Hyatt Sydney Opera Deluxe
- The top tier points-earning bonus, at just 30%, is weakest in the industry. Heavy staying guests should earn more points comparable to Marriott, IHG and Hilton.
- Hyatt offers the best top tier, but is not competitive at the mid-tier (Explorist). However with suites and Guest Of Honor available before reaching Globalist, overachieving Explorists do begin to see some benefits.
- My Hyatt Concierge should be improved. There’s not enough staffing, the concierges are overloaded, and the quality of the agents are quite variable. There are some fantastic ones out there, but they aren’t all doing a fantastic job, with too much on their plate.
Hyatt is making changes to the World of Hyatt loyalty program, and the changes are mostly good. That’s rare. My biggest takeaway is that they’re changing the program and not devaluing it. Since I go in expecting loyalty programs to devalue, this alone seems like a nice win.
I like the increased flexibility, and more or less everything else is an add-on of more benefits and choices without really taking away benefits. So that’s all positive. I only wish a 60-night Globalist would earn 5 Guest of Honor awards per year, not just 3, but that seems like a minor quibble. Hyatt says very few members redeem this more than two times per year today.
I’m not sure that these changes, largely improvements, focus on the greatest areas of opportunity for the program. There’s more they can do. And I’m not sure they’re really all that revolutionary. But it’s more value to members, and making the program easier to work with, and those are good things overall.
Disclosure: I visited with Hyatt in Chicago to discuss these changes. While I did not accept flights, following my usual practice a donation to charity will offset group meals and other value received from the brand.