Park Hyatt Aviara Has Figured Out A Loophole In World Of Hyatt To Keep Out Award Stays

The Park Hyatt Aviara was once a Four Seasons. Rather than make capital investments in the property it converted to Park Hyatt. At the time this Carlsbad hotel offered fantastic service but a tired physical plant. Fortunately a $60 million renovation was completed during the pandemic, updating the lobby and pool area, refreshing the restaurants, and updating guest rooms.

Room rates are up, and it’s become a popular hotel. When I was in the San Diego area recently the property was completely sold out weeks in advance. They’re pulling higher room rates, and they don’t seem to like guests staying there on points.

I reached out to Hyatt when I couldn’t find a single standard room for the entirety of the next 13 months. Some properties ‘game the program’ with minimum stay requirements for a paid or award standard room so it was possible I wasn’t seeing space that was actually available. I wanted to know whether it was possible to get an free night award at this property, and if so how would one go about doing so?

Hyatt offered that the hotel is “in compliance with offering free night awards when standard rate rooms are available.” But here’s the trick they’re pulling simply not offering standard rooms for sale most of the time.

Currently, Park Hyatt Aviara does not have any standard rooms available but when they do, the hotel honors award redemption for those nights. Upon closer inspection it appears that standard rooms are most often available closer (several weeks out) to guest’s desired check-in date.

Based on this explanation it appears Hyatt does not require hotels to offer standard rooms for sale even when the hotel is completely empty without a single booking. I’ve asked Hyatt to confirm this. Marriott expressly sets a minimum percentage of rooms that all non-suites only hotels must offer as standard and thus eligible for redemption.

The Hyatt Centric Waikiki figured out how to avoid gussts booking award stays. Since any time a standard room is for sale it has to be bookable as an award, they impose minimum stay requirements on standard rooms. It’s just a small subset of rooms, anyway, that may sell for $5 less than an almost identical base room. It’s a similar trick to the one the Andaz West Hollywood uses.

What’s technically against the rules, and hotels don’t get away with when they try it, is to sell standard rooms only as part of a package and since the award rate plan is tied to the standard rate no awards are offered. That’s non-compliant, and hotels like Hyatt Regency Sonoma and Hyatt Regency San Francisco that have tried it get straightened out. But all they have to do is shift to the game Park Hyatt Aviara and others play, it seems, and they can get away with it with impunity.

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, 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 don’t really understand why they hate points stays so much. If they really are close to capacity most of the time, don’t they get almost 100% of the room rate from a points stay?

  2. Proof that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

    IHG is looking better and better, although you really, really have to like staying in Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn properties since IHG lacks good alternatives to Hyatt Regency, Marriott, Westin, Renaissance, and JW Marriott.

    On the other hand, you can always find a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express, which isn’t the case for Hyatt.

  3. @Omar:

    Almost nobody is at 100% occupancy all of the time. This is a way to make sure you’re at 100% cash stays, 0% awards when you’re at 80% occupancy, which would be pretty good to always be at, and a very sustainable model for a luxury hotel that has high BARs all the time.

    Maybe you allow some standard rooms into the pool when you’re close to 100% occupancy and you’ll get your full BAR comp from Hyatt.

  4. Omar – the issue is that in the new world, a hotel can make more money by charging a lot more and getting 80%, 85% occupancy. In the pre Covid times, hotels prioritized occupancy – now rate is more important for many, especially with staffing issues across the board. Hotels only get the “full” rate on a redemption room if they hit an occupancy threshold, typically well above 90%.

    The solution to this is to change how hotels are reimbursed. A reward booking coming in at a nominal rate well below the market rate doesn’t represent incremental profit – it may come with additional costs (housekeeping and such) that make it unprofitable. Maybe hotels should instead get reimbursed the prevailing room rate at any given night regardless of occupancy levels. Make the hotel owner truly agnostic between a cash and points booking. And then you will see availability skyrocket. The obvious downside is that the brands will have to pay for this via higher redemption costs passed on to the customer.

  5. Gary, the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile seems to be blocking awards in a way you suggest is breaking the rules. Any date I checked this summer only offers standard rooms bundled with Club Access (useless for Globalists) and is priced at the club level rate. If this is against the rules, who can I take this up with? Will my concierge be able to get me a standard award?

  6. Yeah, I don’t really blame the hotels anymore for this type of crap anymore. The blame lies mostly on the programs themselves, and the industry as a whole for the methodology they created for paying out the hotels on these awards. Until that changes, expect these kinds of shenanigans to continue.

  7. The Hyatt Centric Dubai Jumeirah is playing the same game Gary.
    Do you mind taking a look?

  8. It turns out the Park Hyatt Aviara is owned by Xenia Hotels & Resorts, which owns around 12 luxury hotels split between brands like Andaz, Fairmont, Park Hyatt, W, Loews, and Waldorf Astoria, and Ritz-Carlton.

    Also included in their portfolio are upscale Kessler Collection properties, which are jointly flagged under Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand. Kessler properties are notorious for shafting Bonvoy elites with $7-$10 breakfast credits that don’t cover anything on the menu.

    I wonder if Hyatt operates the property?

    I thought that when compared to Marriott, Hilton or IHG, Hyatt manages a majority of its full-service branded properties. If Hyatt operates this property, the GM works for Hyatt. And if Hyatt operates the property, doesn’t the GM report to Hyatt, not the owner? If that’s the case, shouldn’t a Hyatt employee not actively work with the owner to screw Hyatt’s best customers since the GM’s responsibility is to Hyatt, not the owner?

    If the property in question is operated by the owner then this is more proof that you really need to consider who owns or operates a hotel before booking as it seems like ownership and third-party management companies screw elites across all their properties.

  9. This is some marriott level of service. Hotels are getting greedy. When there is a rate mistake they wont honor, but also pull shit like this. Makes loyalty even less valuable. This hotel is nice, but the cash rates are insanely high. So many nicer choices in So cal.

  10. Is there anything particularly special about this Park Hyatt Aviara? About 6 years ago I stayed at the adjacent Four Seasons Residence with Amex Platinum FHR and got a great stay in a 1200 square foot villa including daily full breakfast plus a $100 dining credit for less than staying at the Four Points Sheraton. Also, no nickel and diming with resort fees, mandatory valet parking, etc.

  11. @Omar they get their average daily room rate, but not premium rates they can charge for last rooms on nights they’re full, so paid stays are still better

  12. FNT – Even if the hotel is managed by Hyatt (it is), big ownership groups can have influence on operations, including how award inventory is allocated.

    Another point is that a valuable Hyatt customer can be a very bad (unprofitable) customer for any specific hotel. Let’s take Park Hyatt Aviara. The hotel seems to be asking $1,000 per night on the weekends this summer. Let’s say they achieve $800 room nights at a 75% occupancy all summer. Nice numbers for that kind of property, with plenty of customers paying cash and happy to do so.

    The issue is that because occupancy is below 95% or whatever, any redemption gets reimbursed at some rate set years ago – maybe $250 or $300 or so.

    You argue that is incremental revenue without a cost? Not really. What if the person redeeming points is an annoying, entitled Globalist. The Globalist will show up, demanding a suite that the hotel is trying to sell for $2,000 or more, demanding full breakfast for two every night for free, demanding late checkout, demanding daily or twice daily housekeeping, and making other costly demands that the hotel needs to pay for. So that $250 booking, marginally profitable to begin with, starts to lose money.

    What needs to happen is that Hyatt needs to start paying the hotel the true market value of the hotel stay, which is basically whatever the prevailing cash rate is.

  13. Sep 11 – Sep 18 available
    Oct 2 – Oct 9 available
    Oct 16 – Oct 23 available
    Oct 23 – Oct 30 available
    Nov 6 – Nov 13 available

  14. The Hyatt hotels can play this game as there are no rules at Hyatt that they must offer at least one standard room. Ventana plays the same game now where you will see no availability of any standard rooms even a year out, and that’s hotel is now owned by Hyatt. Others play the game that you must stay for more than a certain number of days. IHG does the same thing despite the dynamic pricing (seems to be particularly prevalent at Mr & Mrs Smith hotels).

  15. @khatl: In my experience Ventana always has standard rooms 13 months out (not 12 months), but you have to be on it before other people book them. I have done it many times. Now that peak nights are 45k points, standard room availability should be much greater.

    I for one am not rushing to book at 45k. In Fall 2020 it was 30k minus 25% points rebate with a 24-hour cancellation option. THAT was a deal, and I even booked one for the same day. Anyway, Ventana is not a bad actor except that they found a way to fleece Hyatt by combining sky-high cash prices with high occupancy of customers redeeming points.

  16. Think many hotels do this, where a standard room and a “deluxe” room is literally the same room and when both are available the cash rate for the deluxe is a few bucks more but impossible to redeem points for. When the hotel gets in the mood with enough unsold inventory close to the day, they will magically make some award redemptions avaiable by “releasing” some rooms by converting the deluxe ones to standard.

  17. Lots of good comments here, thank you! It does make a lot of sense with staffing levels where they are not to get to 100% occupancy and therefore to avoid points bookings.

    I do feel that Ventana has the opposite strategy which is to charge absurd cash rates and try to get to 100% occupancy with points bookings. I have personally seen the reimbursement rate on a points stay that I had there and it was close to $3k a night.

  18. I jumped off the mythical loyalty train a few years ago when I finally learned what W.O.P.R. (Joshua) learned back in 1983… “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

  19. That’s too bad, but honestly I don’t much like the Park Hyatt Aviara. The decor and rooms are definitely not Hyatt style, which makes sense as it wasn’t a Hyatt to begin with. To me, the rooms are kitschy and overall the whole vibe of the place looks like a weird bad taste attempt to create an Americanized concept of European style, except in poor taste.

    We booked a two night award stay with no problems whatsoever months ago before the summer surge in travel, literally RIGHT after the omicron wave had crashed, so it was an ideal time. But honestly, I’m not sure I would ever stay there again, points or no points.

    However it is disappointing that Hyatt doesn’t enforce their program a bit more strictly.

  20. @Anthony, Even if an annoying Globalist, as you put it, shows up with a list of demands…it cost the hotel ABSOLUTELY ZERO to say NO to an upgrade, NO to a late check out, and NO to daily room service…and if you think these places are laying out $100 breakfast spreads every morning you are off your rocker my friend.

    They can print whatever price they want but you certainly aren’t getting that kinda spread in the morning and I’m sure they buy the stuff in bulk and is getting it for next to nothing. So if they’re getting $250-$300, they’re still winning.

    So, what are these other “closely demands” that Globalist could be making that is bleeding these poor hotel owners dry?

  21. One thing I noticed is how they’re charging an arbitrary rate + 9,000 points for a premium suite. IIRC, supposed to be the price of a Deluxe room at standard rate + 9,000 points.

    For example, on one night the most expensive non-suite room is $1015, but the premium suite upgrade is $1335 + 9,000 points. Unless things have changed, that’d be against T&C.

  22. I absolutely love the Aviara, and found it to be the best value for using points since the room rates are so high for cash. It’s my favorite hotel. I’ve been trying to book a reward stay for any weekend for the next year and have been unsuccessful. I even put my concierge on it and she was unsuccessful. There is definitely some trickery going on. I am a globalist, and don’t ask for late check out, I usually don’t ask for suite upgrades there (since the regular rooms come with two King beds, we only need one room for the family), and don’t ask for room cleaning. They usually come when I’m trying to nap anyways. Breakfast is pretty huge at the aviara. It’s also a good breakfast and it’s absolutely free. That is definitely a nice perk. Also there is no charge for
    valet parking, when booking with points. You get a lot for a little. I noticed the same thing happened with The bacara in Santa Barbara when I I had higher Marriott status. It was a great run and then they changed their availability affordable points stays. It sucks finding a great hotel, and a great routine, and have it taken away. Any suggestions on Southern California hotels would be greatly appreciated. Always looking for some quick getaways.

  23. I like the Hyatt reward program but underhanded tactics like this really make me mad. Loyal customers save hard for rewards and this isn’t how to treat them. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of what is happening in the gaming industry where fans are rebelling against the micro-purchase culture and are totally trashing the review for new games that have excessive micro-payments with thousands of negative reviews. Now bear with me. There are many characteristics that go into a 1star or 5star review but if a hotel totally manipulates the system to stops rewards customers this way (who by definition are loyalty customers) then I think that should be reflected in the review given to a hotel.

  24. @Shai – have you tried Mar Monte in Santa Barbara? It’s not at the Park Hyatt level, of course, but both the property and the service are lightyears better than back when it was a Hyatt Centric. Reasonable rates in both cash and points, and solid Globalist recognition. Breakfast is quite good, too.

  25. Another reason I think they limit points redemptions (I don’t agree with it) is that the cash paying guests would prefer the hotel not be fully booked for restaurant and pools/amenities. The hotel might prefer 90% occupancy + the chance they sell late bookings, or at least keep guest satisfaction higher than to sell every room for whatever redemption rate Hyatt reimburses. That makes more sense than being anti-Globalist.

  26. The same game is being played with the Hyatt Regency Aruba. For every weekend in December, there are standard rooms to book, but they are not available on points. To make matters worse, for the same weekends that standard rooms can not be book on points, suites are available on points. To add insult to injury, Hyatt has gone full dynamic pricing. I ended booking a stay during the week for Aruba. For my upcoming December reservation, I was charged 3 different points redemptions, 21k, 25k and 29k. I have noticed this at other Hyatt properties as well.

  27. Why even bother with hotel programs? Too much work for meager benefits. And know that the hotel doesn’t even want you anymore. Top tier guests are viewed as a liability, not an asset.

  28. @Anthony: Cry me a river for Hyatt and their hotel owners.
    I guess I’ll keep getting tier credits for $23 each to get to Globalist for the time being, until checking in and out of the Excalibur becomes too tiresome.

  29. What can we do about this? Write bad reviews until they become fair? Tell me. There must be something.

  30. This is so annoying. I enjoy staying at this location. I used to frequent it. I still use Chase Ultimate Rewards, but obviously it’s not as advantageous. I really wish WoH would clamp down on this practice.

  31. We all just need to write bad reviews of the hotel and not give them a penny till they change this.

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