What We Learned from Hyatt Gold Passport’s Live Milepoint.com Chat

Mommy Points offered a useful summary of the live Milepoint.com chat with Jeff Zidell, the Hyatt’s Vice President for the Gold Passport Program.

A transcript of the chat is available here.

Loyalty Traveler offers a pretty critical take.

Bottom-line is that Hyatt didn’t break a lot of news in the chat, but they weren’t expected to, as Randy Petersen explained

There was some talk to only have chats when a program is ready or has just made some major change, thus there would be a specific news purpose. However, we asked Hyatt to come on despite there not being a particular news item they were releasing right now. They have been wonderful in their support of the MegaDos, wonderful in support of various other frequent traveler and very much supportive of the young and new forums called milepoint. We sort of see having a series of chats, even without news purpose as part of the continued effort to have a constant dialogue with the industry. Sort of like with my friends. I don’t just want to get together with them when there is something important to share, I actually like to get together with them just to be in touch with them.

Anyway, we asked Hyatt to come on despite knowing they had no actual product or benefit news at this point and remain very appreciative that they are interested in communicating and listening. All good.

Hundreds of people came out to participate live in the chat, and @HyattPR live-tweeted it as well. An interesting innovation with this chat was a Twitter hash tag for folks to participate and comment in real-time, while questions were in the queue and being answered by the head of the Gold Passport program. Hyatt was listening, reacting, and responding on Twitter even as Zidell was answering on Milepoint.

Here’s what we did learn:

  • A new hamburger bun, light-hearted to be sure but I’ll certainly prefer the brioche. And finally getting rid of the terrible Portico White Ginger bath amenities in Spring 2012 (We finally have a target timeframe!).

  • Earning and redeeming points for food and beverage and spa services while not a hotel guest will be coming, this is being beta tested now.

  • Improved Hyatt.com functionality (storing more profile information so it doesn’t have to be re-entered) and Gold Passport membership cards as room keys.

  • We should expect to see cash and points awards, and also discounted award nights at specific properties.

Popular promotions like Faster Free Nights and property-specific bonuses aren’t on the immediate horizon. My take, hotels have been full and these promotions (at least in their previous form) are pretty expensive to run. So the economics don’t make sense in the current environment, although Jeff isn’t as direct as to say that.

Still, I always hear “free nights aren’t gone” and these certainly remain in their quiver, the economy is an open question, we could certainly see their return but I don’t think we’re getting a head fake here, I doubt Faster Free Nights will be a first quarter 2012 promotion.

Similarly, Jeff didn’t seem too inclined towards double stay promotions to expedite elite status, so their elite ranks aren’t shrinking and he’s got to worry about fulfilling benefits for the elites qualifying based on standard criteria. (He also sounded skeptical about counting award nights towards status as Hilton and Starwood do, he didn’t think it would affect a large portion of his membership, that answer tells me they’ve looked at data on the question.)

He seemed to have a positive reaction to the idea of awarding confirmed suite upgrades when members qualify for Diamond rather than waiting until the new program year.

When asked about his contributions to the program since coming on board 3.5 years ago, he shared program improvements (though earnest guy that he is didn’t take personal credit) — complimentary Internet for all elites, full breakfast for Diamond members, guaranteed availability for elites (and in my experience at better pricing than competitor chains), confirmed suite upgrades and 4pm late checkout for Diamonds.

Don’t expect to see too many non-stay ways of earning points (mileage malls, etc). Zidell sees those as floating too many points chasing rooms, and forcing point inflation/award chart devaluation which he would like to avoid. I’d like him to avoid that, too!

He talks about using the program to create loyalty rather than as a profit center, which sounds a bit too corny for the cynics (like me) but I think what he means is better-described by a comment he made at the Randy Petersen Travel Executive Summit in April, that the program is meant to drive “heads in beds.” In other words, they’re not in the business of selling points, they’re in the business of helping to fill hotel rooms. And I do think that describes their general philosophy.

Today there will be a giveaway of (4) $250 Hyatt gift cards to folks who participated in the chat. Somehow I don’t think I’m eligible to win, it wouldn’t be cool if I did, but I certainly wouldn’t mind!

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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