Kimpton Karma Rewards: I haven’t written a lot about Kimpton Hotels. They’ve had one of the most rewarding loyalty programs.
My theory has long been that the smallest chains are most likely to be rewarding because they need to incentivize customers — staying at a Hyatt rather than a Marriott or Hilton is a conscious choice. It doesn’t happen by default. Marriott and Hilton are everywhere, you can just show up in a city and there will be one. You go out of your way to stay loyal to one of the smaller chains, and it’s no accident that the better loyalty programs belong the chains with a smaller footprint.
I have limited personal experience with Kimpton, I’ve eaten in restaurants or frequented bars at their hotels more often than I’ve stayed with them. And much of what I write about is from personal experience, hence limited coverage.
Kimpton has renamed its program from InTouch to Karma Rewards.
And with that rebranding comes a number of changes.
There are (4) elite tiers instead of (2). Top tier is a little bit easier to reach — 14 stays or 40 nights instead of 15 stays/45 nights.
Suites are specifically excluded from elite upgrades. That, to me, kills the program — although there are really interesting personalized and unique benefits to it.
Here are the benefits and qualification requirements:
All members get free wifi. And all members also get a $10 beverage credit to use at the hotel’s bar or mini-bar ($15 credit at the Muse in New York). This certificate must be turned in at checkout to have the charge removed from the bill.
After just 3 stays or 10 nights you earn elite status and become eligible for a one-time one category room upgrade, subject to availability on request at check-in. The tier also comes with a $30 in-room spa treatment credit valid on each stay.
At 7 stays or 20 nights you become eligible for late checkout priority (not guaranteed late checkout) once. And a one-time welcome amenity (not on every stay). And also get an additional one-time one category room upgrade. Seriously, staying 7 times and 20 nights only gets you two one-category upgrades for the year both subject to availability and only confirmed at check-in. And these upgrades exclude suites. Finally, identify yourself as a tier 3 member in the hotel’s restaurant (don’t you know who I am?!) and get a complimentary chef’s taster item.
Top tier members continue to get a free night at each new hotel they open, and that comes with a $50 restaurant credit too. (Status matched top tier members don’t get this benefit until they’ve stayed 3 times with Kimpton.) Top elites get a one-category upgrade (excluding suites) on availability at check-in each stay. Welcome amenity and late check-out priority is available on every stay.
And unique among hotel chains, there’s a formalized benefit for top tier members having access to the hotel chain’s CEO. Michael Depatie really does answer top tier members.
Free award nights It still takes 7 stays or 20 nights to earn a free night, which isn’t especially generous. Award nights are capacity controlled and availability cannot be checked online. Top tier elites get access to better availability.
Hilton’s Jeff Diskin explained a devaluation 4 years ago as being because the HHonors program was “over-indexed”. Kimpton probably was as well. I don’t think of this re-brand as an improvement.
Update: Kimpton tweets a clarification on suite upgrades:
We wanted to clarify on the #InnerCircle Suite upgrade perk: Suites were never guaranteed, but often given if available. That won’t change.
I still think the upgrade benefit is quite subpar. The only entitlement is to a one category upgrade, if available.
And suites – even if available – are only given at the discretion of the hotel.
Every suite could be empty and the hotel isn’t doing anything wrong if they choose not to upgrade top tier elites.