Which Hotel Program Is Really The Best?

We’ve seen re-launches of several hotel programs during the pandemic. Smaller programs like GHA Discovery and Shangri-La Circle are brand new. GHA, which has around 500 hotels but is adding several hundred more, was just a benefits program – but now offers cash rebates to spend at their properties (‘Discovery Dollars’). I really wish I had more opportunities to stay with both chains.

IHG Rewards has branded as IHG One Rewards – the one meant to signal that they’ve now ‘unified’ their brands, with all new elite benefits that even apply at Kimpton and Intercontinental hotel properties.

At the Freddie Awards in New Orleans on April 21 the most under the radar programs cross three regions of the world – up and coming programs delivering the most value but voted on by fewer than 10% of those casting ballots – were World of Hyatt (Americas), GHA Discovery (Europe and Africa) and Shangri-La Circle (Middle East, Asia and Oceania).

In the Americas, Marriott won program of the year – a category they’ve dominated over the years.

  • They have a huge footprint, so they’re everywhere you want to be
  • They have outstanding aspirational luxury properties
  • With the exception of a few of their best hotels, award availability is very good
  • And they have arguably the best published benefits of any large hotel program, certainly better than Hilton’s.

The problem with Marriott is consistency. Too many hotels fail to deliver promised benefits at the property level, or skirt rules on breakfast. And Marriott’s customer service isn’t helpful, often making up excuses to justify whatever a hotel does rather than advocating for members.

Marriott certainly wins my award for most frustrating program. But that’s a function of the disconnect between the programs promises and on-property reality.

In contrast, Hilton rarely disappoints because it promises so little.

  • No guaranteed late checkout
  • No advance suite upgrades
  • Not even suite upgrades, hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites but are under no obligation to do so, if there are empty entry-level suites and a top elite doesn’t get it at check-in the hotel has done nothing wrong under the terms of the program.


Conrad Bora Bora

Hilton no longer even promises breakfast in the U.S., offering an on-property food and beverage credit instead – flexible for those who wouldn’t do hotel breakfast anyway (or that’s expensing it) but in an amount too low to cover the cost of breakfast at many hotels, think of it as a discount that might encourage even more spending at the hotel.

IHG’s new program is an unquestionable improvement,

  • Free breakfast for top tier Diamond members that spells out what a hot breakfast is (it’s not even merely continental)
  • Confirmed suites out of revenue inventory, bookable within 14 days of arrival (but only on post-paid rates, no awards or prepaid rates)
  • Club lounge access as a benefit choice


Intercontinental Tahiti

The IHG One Rewards program still lacks guaranteed late check-out, but I’d now take their program over Hilton’s and confirmed suites start as an option after staying just 20 nights. So for a member slogging it out for 20 nights in a Holiday Inn Express, and splurging on a paid Intercontinental or Kimptom resort vacation, this is an incredible opportunity – and not just for top tier elites.

Marriott isn’t very rewarding for entry level elites. Neither is Hyatt. But they’re the best programs for road warriors, probably, Marriott because of its ubiquity and occasionally living up to its promises and Hyatt for consistently delivering at a higher level than any other program but without the presence in smaller cities and towns.

IHG and Hilton are better for lower tier elites, since the primarily Hilton benefit – that food and beverage credit, or club lounge access – applies to Gold members and IHG offers compelling benefits at 20 nights.

If you’re going to reach 60 nights (through a combination of hotel stays and credit card spend, potentially) and the footprint works for you then Hyatt is the overall winner.

  • The breakfast benefit is spelled out, full buffet or a hot entree’, plus coffee and juice not either-or.
  • Open standard suites aren’t just available (and promised!) at check-in, they’re confirmable in advance with earned suite upgrade certificates, a 60-night Globalist earns 4 a year and a lifetime Globalist who requalifies earns 8. At 70, 80, 90, and 100 nights an additional confirmed suite is available as a choice benefit and each one is valid for up to 7 nights.
  • Not only is 4 p.m. late check-out guaranteed at non-resort properties I do not recall the last time this wasn’t pro-actively offered at a hotel.
  • Globalists can even gift their status for a stay when redeeming points for someone else.
  • And points can be redeemed not just for standard suites, but for premium suites too, and the rates are often quite good (contra Marriott and Hilton).


Alila Marea Encinitas

If there’s a drawback to Hyatt, it’s that while the program is generous with rebates for base members, elite bonuses are the most limited of the chains. As a result Marriott and IHG become more rewarding for actual on-property spend.

Hyatt won the award for being the most under the radar and, effectively, underappreciated program. They’re not under the radar to blog readers. If you know, you know. But for the mass consumer market, Marriott offers the best mix of footprint and benefits, even if there’s so often a gap between program promises and reality.

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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Comments

  1. Hey DCS,

    Let’s reveal the fallacy of your arguments. You are claiming that in a program offering the Nth night free, the quantity N does not matter. Right? Let’s say one hotel program offers a 100th night free. Another hotel program offers a 2nd night free.

    A free night is a free night. They both save you the points or cash equivalent to a night. Therefore, the above program benefits are equal in value. Do I have that right?

    — Ultra High Net Worth Individual

  2. @ UHNWI — I think you are on to something. To erase all doubt of which hotel loyalty program is best, Hyatt should immediately make the 100th night of all award stays free. 😉

  3. Wake up peeps

    Awards are PAID FOR

    Automakers pay tens of millions to JD POWER for ratings and recognition and pass it off to the rubes as something they earned based on honest evaluation

    Marriott has gutted its rewards program, shows disdain for highest tier guests by disempowering ambassadors and supports properties that avoid honoring earned benefits, skim points or add fees that border on fraud

  4. “5th night free is just as good as 4th night free because if I’m in the Maldives I want to stay for 5 nights.” Anyone else just here for the logical fallacies in the comments?

  5. 5 nights is a long time to spend anywhere in the world, no matter how remote.

    But, somebody not having gotten a BA or PhD from an Ivy League school, is not an issue. First of all, PhD program reputations do not track the undergrad rankings. A PhD from Harvard in computer science is laughable compared to the same degree in the same field from UC Berkeley or, in fact, any number of state colleges. “Ivy League” is an athletic conference, first and foremost. It so happens that a number (but not all) top undergrad schools are in there, but so are some much worse ones like Dartmouth or Brown University.

    Putting aside PhD differences and just focusing on undergrad reputation, let’s remember that not everybody has the resources or inclination to matriculate at a top ranked school even if they were qualified. This fact is especially true for persons of color. I do not know how Prof. DCS identifies racially, but let’s just say that Jackson Waterson (a white supremacist) is not likely to take up his offer of a lunch even though they both live in the same city.

    Broadly, in academia, educational background is not that interesting. Peer reviews are blind to the author/institution. When researchers wish to superficially judge one another, they use publication counts and citation metrics, which Google Scholar helpfully provides, although it doesn’t distinguish sole or first authorship vs. being author number 100, for those fields where authorship order matters.

  6. @ Gary

    Wow – what a rambling and unstructured download of poorly aligned information!

    Firstly, you need to qualify geography. “Best” can depend on where you live and travel. For example, Hilton Honors was the only reasonable choice over the last two decades of domestic travel in Australia to state capital cities. That Virgin Velocity gave an easy path to Diamond (granted with Platinum status for one year) made the choice even easier. As you allude to above, GHA Discovery is a program to watch, if you work and travel within their footprint (more below). Does your article just presume most readers are in and only interested in US?

    Secondly, surely you need to qualify how easy is it to reach elite status on each of these programs in the first place before any of these benefits kick in? Again, in my own case Hilton Diamond came with a certain credit card so once Velocity’s first year expired, no mattress runs were needed to continue at Diamond level for years to come. The earn rate at HH for Diamond members are very generous, especially with periodic point bonus earn promotions, and easily offsets the higher higher burn cost (as discussed extensively elsewhere).

    Arguably, the easiest elite status to earn is that of GHA Discovery. Top Titanium level is achievable in just three nights (provides you stay at three different brands which can be hard or easy (e.g. Melbourne, Singapore) depending upon your location). Otherwise you need to make the clear comparison between the other programs (nights needed, opportunity to offset credit card earn for status, etc). Without such a basic comparison, your overall article is meaningless.

    Currently, IHG is offering a status challenge – presumably there is still one for Bonvoy (?), etc.

    Also, you can effectively buy Platinum status in IHG through their Ambassador program.

    Thirdly, then and only then, can you start to compare the benefit set for comparable status tiers.

    Fourthly, you then need to draw one the real life experience of whether promised benefits are actually delivered or not. IME experience, Hilton Honors has always delivered, appropriate upgrades every time as a Diamond (Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Venice, Bora Bora, etc), excellent buffet cooked breakfast at every property, and travelling partners upgraded on the back of my own Diamond status when I’ve booked two rooms (e.g. Guam, Narita, etc). Regardless of your pointless argument about “promising little”, the real world experience of HH has been excellent. I have limited experience in other programs on which to make a comparison. IHG Ambassador has delivered about 80% of the time. Hyatt redemptions in Sydney and Milan Park Hyatts have offered good value off the back of purchased points.

    I just had a howler of an experience with the local Marriott folk in Venice (details on FT) and would not consider rebooking at any of their properties under their management team (Gritti, daily, JW). But that does not tarnish the whole brand. Suffice to say, we have our own personal goals, expectations and perceptions of value.

    We just don’t know yet with the newly minted GHA Discovery and IHG programs are going to consistently honour benefits, whether their staff have had the adequate training to do so.

    But that’s where you can cue in your readers for a focused and directed discussion to encourage sharing of their own personal experiences of delivery of promised benefits, rather than sitting back and allowing another round of obnoxious personal attacks, with the bullying starting before the familiar object of hatred has even posted. That you allow such is to your utter shame, Gary. Seriously, how can I recommend your blog to the many people who I advise on frequent travel matters when that is the standard? It’s childish, rude, often racist, highly personal, stuff.

    Fifthly, you make no substantive mention about the relative opportunity between programs to derive value from the earn / burn of hotel loyalty points. You just assume everyone is obsessed with status and the associated benefit sets (presumably, many are), but that’s not the entirety of this gig! With few exceptions, the only person who addresses such is @ DCS, only to be met by dumb comments by yourself about 5th and 4th nights and howls and derision by others too locked into their own myopic stupidity and / or disinclined to do the math.

    And there you have one huge and gaping hole (you’re absent the math), into which your lazy and poorly articulated and incomplete article slips. Not a good example of being a “thought leader”, especially one claiming some sort of literacy in matters economic.

  7. Wow – what a rambling and unstructured download of poorly aligned information!

    Classy introduction, buddy! You were clearly raised right, to either say something nice, or to say nothing at all.

    Firstly, you need to qualify geography. “Best” can depend on where you live and travel.

    This is plainly obvious. “Best” always depends on a set of personal variables. It needs no qualification.

    Does your article just presume most readers are in and only interested in US?

    Yes? This is a US centric blog, evidenced by the credit card advertisements that are only applicable to US residents.

    Secondly, surely you need to qualify how easy is it to reach elite status on each of these programs in the first place before any of these benefits kick in?

    While not as neck and neck as the old 25k/50k/75k/100k mileage tiers of airline programs, hotels are generally well aligned on tiers and qualification requirements. Hyatt requires fewer nights and delivers more at the top tier because they have fewer hotels. Marriott requires the most nights and delivers the least because the capitalist market lets them get away with that.

    Suffice to say, we have our own personal goals, expectations and perceptions of value.

    That single sentence could have been the entirety of your comment without loss of information to readers.

    That you allow such is to your utter shame, Gary. Seriously, how can I recommend your blog to the many people who I advise on frequent travel matters when that is the standard? It’s childish, rude, often racist, highly personal, stuff.

    Free speech is not shameful. Quite the contrary. It is a point of pride. Anyways, you can advise people to read this blog without reading the comments? The comments actually reveal one very important thing about fellow travelers. Despite taking an ostensible interest in diversity and other cultures, by virtue of being interested in traveling to new places, many people are bigoted through and through. Sad but true, and better to know that, than to carry a false impression that travel cures bigotry, as some sayings proclaim.

  8. @ UHNWI

    This has been discussed at length previously.

    FIRSTLY:

    In absolutely terms, you get the same benefit if you spend 5 nights through one program as you do spending 4 nights at another. This @DCS has repeatedly, unambiguously, and mathematically stated in many posts.

    If you choose to spend exactly 4 nights you’ll be better off in the latter program, hence the discussion about how long people prefer to stay in one hotel at a time. If you stay 5 nights, it makes no difference.

    Furthermore, and in relative terms, there is NO DIFFERENCE in the benefit offered if you choose to stay in various numbers off nights (1,2,3,5,6,7,10,11,15, etc). The relative benefit trends quickly down for longer stays (6-10%), so it isn’t as great as many challenged brains initially presume.

    Certain fools herein (looking at you @Gene and @ Mr Juice) keep denying the math and offer personal vitriol to hide their ignorance. Sad people.

    SECONDLY:

    The net value derived in any of these loyalty programs depends upon the EARN RATE as well as the redemption rate.

    If you start your comparison by ignoring the original earn rate, you end up with factually incorrect (mathematically) statements about the relative values of the respective loyalty points.

    Savvy?

  9. “If you choose to spend exactly 4 nights you’ll be better off in the latter program, hence the discussion about how long people prefer to stay in one hotel at a time. If you stay 5 nights, it makes no difference.”
    — So we agree. One program is sometimes better. The other program is never better. That’s logically equal to declaring straight up that one program is better.

    “The net value derived in any of these loyalty programs depends upon the EARN RATE as well as the redemption rate.”
    — We earn proportionately more Hilton points for a Hilton hotel stay, than Hyatt points for a Hyatt hotel stay. However, the bulk of our points accrue at a fixed rate through credit cards. By this I mean we earn 1x-5x Chase points or Amex points per dollar and these points transfer 1:1 to any hotel. (Generally speaking.) That is where the high value of Hyatt points outshines Marriott, IHG, and Hilton. When you’re at the Chase or Amex web portal to transfer points, you get the most value with Hyatt.

  10. Wow! @platy – soon someone will accuse you of being my alter ego!

    In any case, another reason @UHNWI scenario of 2nd night free vs. 100th free is nonsensical is the way the free night benefit works:

    – To get the 4th award night free, one must book an award stay consisting of 4 consecutive nights, then the 4th is free.
    – To get the 5th award night free, one must book an award stay consisting of 5 consecutive nights, then the 5th is free.

    Therefore,
    – To get the 100th award night free under the same rules so that we are comparing apples and apple, one must book an award stay consisting of 100 consecutive nights, then the 100th is free.

    See the problem? The benefit remains exactly the same (1 free night + enough points or cash saved for one award or revenue night), but who can afford to book or even want an award stay of 100 consecutive nights?

    In short, @UHNWI nuked his own argument by something called reductio ad absurdum [1].

    [1] re·duc·ti·o ad ab·sur·dum (/rəˌdəktēō ad abˈsərdəm/);
    noun [Philosophy]
    noun: reductio ad absurdum
    meaning: a method of proving the falsity of a premise by showing that its logical consequence is absurd or contradictory.

    G’day!

  11. DCS, are you saying my technique of argument which you identified correctly, is invalid? I rejected your premise (the Nth night free false equivalence) by taking your logic to an extreme, making it easier to see your fallacy.

    reductio ad absurdum means the premise is absurd, not the argument.

  12. When you’re at the Chase or Amex web portal to transfer points, you get the most value with Hyatt.

    — UHNWI

    I’ve addressed that canard ad nauseam., going as far back as when SPG (R.I.P)† was still the darling of self-anointed “travel gurus”, and the Starpoint was the single most “valuable” points currency in hotel loyalty.

    The short of it is that it all depends on what one means by “value” or “valuable”, so let’s see whether you can answer this simple question that can begin to provide clues about just how more “valuable” are transfers of Chase UR points to Hyatt points:

    How does it benefit Hyatt, the for-profit company, to have credit points earned elsewhere transferred to Hyatt points that are then used to redeem free nights at Hyatt properties, especially st its most “aspirational” ones (hint: SPG is no more)?

    The soapbox is yours, @UHNWI. We’re waiting with bated breath for you to knock yourself and everyone else out…

  13. So typical of DCS to divert to another subject when he is clearly wrong. So predictable.

  14. @UHNWI — I am saying that you went for broke with a nonsensical argument and it got nuked precisely because the premise was also nonsensical. There is a reason for why programs that offer the free award night perk selected to do for ever 4th or 5th award night. They pay people a lot of money to figure out such things because not every scenario or premise makes sense. Therefore, one must make sure that things are kept in realm of the practical. Your scenario was simply off the wall.

    Reductio ad absurdum:
    Suppose a program awards, not every 4th or 5th award night free, but every 1st award night free. 😉

    Q.E.D.

  15. DCS, I agree it is a simple question you posed:

    How does it benefit Hyatt, the for-profit company, to have credit points earned elsewhere transferred to Hyatt points that are then used to redeem free nights at Hyatt properties, especially st its most “aspirational” ones (hint: SPG is no more)?

    There are two key benefits. One is marginal revenue. Hyatt sells points to Chase. They are not freebies. The second is growth marketing. Every brand dreams of being on your mind even when you’re not actively a customer. The non-partnered hotel brand is only relevant to you when you’re taking a trip. Hyatt, by partnering with Chase, is relevant in your daily life. Buying toothbrush at the drugstore, filling up your gas tank, a round of drinks at happy hour, the fitness class at SoulCycle, each is a moment to earn points toward your next vacation with a Hyatt.

    The more people think of Hyatt, the more net revenue they bring to their company, either directly or indirectly (word-of-mouth, referrals, etc.).

    That, Professor, is how Hyatt benefits from points earned “elsewhere.”

  16. Wow – what a rambling and unstructured download of poorly aligned information!

    “Classy introduction, buddy! You were clearly raised right, to either say something nice, or to say nothing at all”

    So, the self-appointed champion of “free speech” for this blog, dissembles their own argument before even offering any substance. I call you out for blatant hypocrisy.

    “This is plainly obvious. “Best” always depends on a set of personal variables. It needs no qualification.”

    I agree it needs no qualification in @ Gary’s mind and evidently the minds of many of his acolytes, and your good self. But a couple of us disagree. We seek to construct an objective framework upon which to form the basis of discussion and guide personal choices. I have provided some very basic steps towards a logical structure for such, which you have elected to totally dismiss. Your choice. Your narrowness of thinking.

    “Yes? This is a US centric blog, evidenced by the credit card advertisements that are only applicable to US residents.”

    Yes, but no? Remarkably, even some Americans dare to leave the safety of their homeland and explore the world, which is why we still find non-USA content on USA-based travel blogs. In fact many seem to seek the better value redemption opportunities of non-USA properties.

    “While not as neck and neck as the old 25k/50k/75k/100k mileage tiers of airline programs, hotels are generally well aligned on tiers and qualification requirements.”

    Yes. But, per the examples offered, there can be huge differences, such as 3 nights rather than dozens of nights for top tier. Some of us are seeking opportunity, rather than being ossified in conventional travel blog thinking.

    “Suffice to say, we have our own personal goals, expectations and perceptions of value.
    That single sentence could have been the entirety of your comment without loss of information to readers.”

    Sure, if you think that “best” is entirely defined by personal variables per your comment above. I don’t. And, apparently, nor does @ DCS. There is objective (the $100-bill in your wallet) as well as subjective perception (how much it means to you or how you decide to spend it) – it’s still worth $100 in absolute terms. Many get confused when trying to rationalise objective and subjective value.

    “Free speech is not shameful. Quite the contrary. It is a point of pride.”

    The bullying in this thread started before the person in question had even posted. Nasty stuff, which you would defend on the basis of free speech, even declare as an expression of pride. Some of us take the position that free speech comes with self-responsibility, in this case, being on topic, respectful of other people and opinions, not prone to abusive and bullying behaviour. I am not a lawyer, but the articles I have read on US laws on free speech and social media appear to uphold the position that @ Gary can decide to set standards for commentary without infringing the First Amendment. He doesn’t. His website, his choice. But he can legally elect to set some rules, which, I would argue, would enhance rather than detract, from any relevant debate. The First Amendment would still be intact despite your misinterpretation of its application.

    “Anyways, you can advise people to read this blog without reading the comments?”

    Yes, indeed I could. Or, I can simply direct them to other travel blogs, which offer carry similar articles on similar topics without the bigotry confident in a more polished and professional package, which is regretful since I like many of @ Gary’s articles.

    We should all get together to have beer and a laugh some day!

  17. @ Yin Jing

    “But, somebody not having gotten a BA or PhD from an Ivy League school, is not an issue…”

    Sure, but please may I add some context?

    My perception is that qualifications and professional experience have become an issue, in part, due to commentary on many previous blog articles on COVID. There is some history of which you may or may not be aware. Some were called out for their ignorance of the medical /scientific literature, misunderstanding of the scientific method, distrust of experienced research scientists, or devotion to denialism.

  18. @UHNWI — There are only a couple of small problems with your response. It ignores the simple fact Hyatt is just recycling its own points — selling them to Chase with the left hand, while “buying” them back with the right hand when they are used to redeem free stays at its properties for what it is essentially a zero-profit game. Moreover, people can earn UR points from many sources that are not part of points that Hyatt sells to Chase. Oops!

    The only reason Hyatt is safer than SPG is that Hyatt does not make the transfer of WoH points to airline miles as favorable as did SPG, and Hyatt’s awards are much more affordable than were SPG’s. Without that, Hyatt would be struggling financially for giving away all the benefits of its loyalty program — its “cash cow” — like SPG did.

    Just before SPG’s demise, the Starpoint had become more popular not as point for redeeming free stays at Starwood properties (too expensive!), but as a points currency to earn on the SPG AMEX without ever setting foot in a Starwood hotel, and then to redeem for free airline tickets. It is a flawed model that Hilton, IHG, Radisson and Marriott avoided by using points currency scales that make the transfer of bank points to their respective point currencies unfavorable, thus making sure that the only way members of their hotel loyalty programs can earn significant numbers of points is by spending real money on revenue stays. Marriott understood this concept, which is why one of the first its acts after acquiring SPG was to cripple the transfer of BonVoy points to airline miles — I can still hear the screams of former SPG loyalists in response to that “heretical” act.

    Hyatt would be a lot more profitable if WoH members were forced to earn the program’s points through revenue stays at Hyatt properties, instead enabling them to earn bank points from a gazillion sources that are then used to redeem free stays at Hyatt properties. It is a flawed financial model… jut ask SPG 🙂

    Gotta go.

  19. @ UHNWI

    “One program is sometimes better. The other program is never better. That’s logically equal to declaring straight up that one program is better.”

    Yes, absolutely, but also not a practical conclusion. One is only better is certain circumstances. You’ve generalised to the point of a trivial and thereby potentially misleading comparison. If you take that position, arguably, you have succumbed to the marketing and sales spin. Here’s the tricky part. Two programs ((1) 4-night free and (2) 5-night free) . People instantly think, oh great, program (1) is the best, they may even (mistakenly) perceive a universal 25% discount, not realising that only applies in one case, a booking of exactly 4 nights.

    Per my comment above, for the majority of combinations of number of consecutive nights booked, the real saving is exactly the same in both absolute and relative terms (1,2,3,5,6,7,10,11,15, etc).

    Now we would need to know the frequency distribution of average stay length to make any meaningful assessment of the relative merits of the two programs.

    On a personal level, if you always stay exactly 4-nights then go for your IHG credit card and book up four night stays. Happy days. The new (and untested) IHG program start too make things a little more interesting, pending the earn / burn math to calculate…

    “We earn proportionately more Hilton points for a Hilton hotel stay, than Hyatt points for a Hyatt hotel stay. However, the bulk of our points accrue at a fixed rate through credit cards”

    OK, sure thing. Just remember, however, that the number of points you can earn by paying for a hotel stay is many times more (10x?) than that earned from your credit card for making the payment for that hotel stay.

    I am not US-based, but surely, if you are using your credit card generally for (hotel or other) spend, you would be far better off earning credit card points and transferring them to airline miles / points? If that is the case, then the comparison of transfers from credit cards on points earned through credit card spend becomes moot.

    By this I mean we earn 1x-5x Chase points or Amex points per dollar and these points transfer 1:1 to any hotel. (Generally speaking.) That is where the high value of Hyatt points outshines Marriott, IHG, and Hilton. When you’re at the Chase or Amex web portal to transfer points, you get the most value with Hyatt

  20. A Parting Shot

    Below is why anyone who thinks that the host of this forum is remotely the “thought leader in travel” that he claims to be and is qualified to call winners and losers needs to have their head examined.

    Long after Hilton’s new Global Automated Upgrades went into effect and I provided objective evidence on this very site of having been upgraded to a suite — automatically — 3 days before a Hilton hotel stay just last month, @Gary Leff remains in denial, because he offered the following, claiming that “Hilton rarely disappoints because it promises so little”:

    No advance suite upgrades

    See? He has been saying the same thing for a decade even though during the same period I’ve scored more complimentary suite upgrades as Hilton Honors Diamond than he has as a top SPG and/or Hyatt elite. Now, even after he’s been provided with objective evidence, he cannot let go of the bogus claim because he wishes to deny that Hilton Honors can offer members so-called “confirmed” suite upgrades. Well, it does not matter what he wishes. Hilton’s Global Automated Upgrades are here and I suspect that they will become the model for the industry as IHG is already toying with the idea offering something similar.

    Then there is the following absolutely mindless claim that he’s also repeated for a decade even though it has never had a basis in reality:

    …[As opposed to his preferred programs’ hotels, Hilton] hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites but are under no obligation to do so.

    The reality:
    There is not a single program in which hotels are under the obligation to upgrade members to suites. This site and others and their kool-aid drinkers call it “properties playing games with availability” whenever the claim is contradicted at a Hyatt property or another, but I have news for you: properties are allowed to play games with availability because it is at their sole discretion in every program, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. The only program that may, in fact, prevent properties from “playing games with availability” for the first time ever is Hilton Honors, because its automated room upgrades, which hotels cannot opt out of, may sideline hotels in the process since it is presumably computerized. Stay tuned as we learn more about how HH’s automated upgrades work.

    Lastly, @Gary Leff, a word of advice: You really need to stop feeling entitled or qualified to constantly call winners and losers in a game that is inherently subjective. You are simply not objective enough, and you definitely are not as all-knowing as you may actually believe you are. You don’t know Hilton Honors for sure…

    G’day

  21. I guess a surefire way to generate “engagement” on a travel/credit card blog is to declare a hotel loyalty program “better” or “best.” That will guarantee a stream of comments that deteriorate into personal arguments. There will also be a stream of informative cliches that include:

    “Your blog is focused on the US and not Uzbekistan. It ignores the fact that I get guaranteed presidential suites for 5 points at every Uzbekistan IHG hotel I stay in.”

    “A burger joint that gives you a $5 discount for every $50 you spend is infinitely superior to a pizza place that gives you a $10 discount for every $100 you spend.”

    “Bonvoyed again.”

    It’s almost enough to make me want to see posts on less controversial topics. Like Covid restrictions, politics, or religion.

  22. @ DCS — Where is your evidence of the following?

    Gary “has been saying the same thing for a decade even though during the same period I’ve scored more complimentary suite upgrades as Hilton Honors Diamond than he has as a top SPG and/or Hyatt elite.”

    You need to stop putting words in people’s mouths. You have no idea what Gary’s (or any one else’s) upgrades are at hotels unless he writes about them, and I’m sure Gary only writes about a small fraction of his stays. I suspect that my suite upgrade percentage is better than yours (across multiple chains), but I’m sure you will explain that away, just like you explain that magically 80% < 75%.

  23. @Gene – funny, I haven’t stayed in anything OTHER THAN a suite with Hyatt in the past year. My next 7 Hyatt stays this summer are all confirmed in suites already. [Full disclosure, my very large room at Wentworth Mansion did not have a separate living room, I used Hyatt points to redeem for it, but this is *not a Hyatt* it’s an SLH property and Hyatt elite benefits don’t apply.]

    I’d love to know the U.S. Hilton that’s given DCS a room remotely comparable to this one 😀 https://viewfromthewing.com/seabird-resort-review-grand-estate-suite-oceanside-california/

    Update: oops, I remembered a stay last June or July at a Hyatt Place that has only one suite where I did not get that suite, it was just me traveling solo and I certainly did not care.

  24. @ Gary Leff

    Thanks for the laugh, fella. Your ego has really fallen for the bait.

    You proudly link to the (admittedly very spectacular) Seabird suite. BUT, oops, you’ve already explained at great length and in self-aggrandising detail how you had to persistently argue your way into such accommodation when offered other dissatisfactory alternatives by the property, which “walked you”.

    Now if your article had a cogent logical framework or even basic attempt at defining subjective value (which it doesn’t, per my earlier post) you might have more credibility to make a case. But you don’t.

    Thereby, in your limited world view, if you like Hyatt, you like Hyatt. Be happy at Hyatt. And be joyful at your next 7 suite upgrade stays, or whatever. I am delighted that you are pleased with your choices. If you want to believe that that somehow defines “best”, then happy days, your ego can luxuriate in self defining self satisfaction. Break out the bunting. You have enough fools herein, who can’t think for themselves, who’ll lap it all up.

    @ Gene

    Cue one those fools, who is too dumb to understand the simple math, even once repeatedly explained to them, who is too illiterate to read the words written, rather twists them to mean something they do not say and then cry foul at their own misinterpretation (e.g wantonly confusing absolute and relative saving, failing to grasp the irony and sarcasm in another’s post) and then adds absolutely nothing of value to the discussion. Sad.

  25. My next 7 Hyatt stays this summer are all confirmed in suites already.

    You need to do a post about that, considering that (a) the number of ‘confirmed’ suite upgrades awarded by the program is limited, unless one spends a ton to earn more, and (b) members constantly complain about being unable to ‘confirmed’ suite upgrades because “properties play games with availability” and the confirmation process is tedious. A post on how you get around those impediments would be more useful to your readers than those that purport to call winners and losers based on self-serving and bogus standards.

    I’d love to know the U.S. Hilton that’s given DCS a room remotely comparable to this one.

    LOL. You mean the one you were recently comped because they felt sorry for bumping you from the one you would have paid for?

    As for my claim about clearing more complimentary suite upgrades since 2012 than @Gary cleared as a top SPG and/or Hyatt elite (perhaps combined), @Gary should remember the post on the now-defunct MilePoint forum because he did post a comment on it at the time. In that post, I documented with actual photos clearing 12 of 12 (100%) complimentary suite upgrades in 2014, I think.. My record overall has been about 80% over a decade. In the meantime, Hyatt GP was awarding only 4 ‘confirmed’ suite upgrades a year, and SPG went belly up. It does not take rocket science to figure out who spent more nights in suites.

    In any case, you have no credibility when you continue to make claims like Hilton Honors provides “no advance suite upgrades” despite clear evidence to the contrary. The reason I came back here was to confirm something that @platy stated that suddenly struck me:

    Fourthly, you then need to draw on the real life experience of whether promised benefits are actually delivered or not.

    I thought that was the best advice that anyone has given to @Gary because nearly all his (bogus) claims of programmatic superiority are based on his own reinterpretation of benefits to make those of his preferred programs seem better than they actually are, like “…Hilton hotels are allowed to upgrade to suites but are under no obligation to do so”. As I stated above, there is not a single program in which properties are under the obligation to upgrade members to suites. @Gary simply reinterpreted SPG’s and Hyatt’s T&Cs (even Marriott’s) to claim that those chains’ properties were under the bogus obligation to upgrade members to suites. In practice, however, what happens does not support the claim, which hilariously led to SPG being accused of duplicity for correctly interpreting their own rule! or to the claim that “properties play games with availability.”

    you then need to draw on the real life experience of whether promised benefits are actually delivered or no

    When the chips were down during the pandemic and programs needed to show reciprocal loyalty to their members, Hilton Honors repeatedly and automatically extended the elite status of every member and the expiration their free night certificates. What did Hyatt do? See what @platy meant? It is the true reason why Hilton rarely disappoints.

    “Hilton rarely disappoints because it promises so little” but goes above and beyond to deliver on whatever it promises , especially when the chips are down.

    G’day

  26. @platy –I was composing the above when you posted your latest gem. I am afraid you make too much sense for folks who dwell in these dark recesses of travel blogosphere. Make up and repeat nonsensical claims of superiority and they believe you. Give them logical, unvarnished truths that contradict the kool-aid they’ve imbibed and they are ready to burn you at the stake for heresy.

    Cheers, mate!

  27. @ DCS — “e.g wantonly confusing absolute and relative saving, failing to grasp the irony and sarcasm in another’s post) and then adds absolutely nothing of value to the discussion. Sad.”

    Glad you are finally waking up and realizing the absurdity of 80% < 75%.

  28. @ Gene

    You have attributed a quote from my post to @ DCS.

    Are you getting confused – are you able to follow the flow here?

    I’ve looked back over all of your own posts on this thread. You have provided no argument, no data, no reasoned opinion, just snide personal comments from your first post.

    Now let’s focus on the one single defined statement to which you attach:

    “…the absurdity of 80% < 75%…" and similar versions thereof.

    Nobody is saying 80% < 75%. They are saying 0.2(5) = 0.25(4) = 1.

    Paraphrasing the equation, they are saying that 20% of 5 nights (which equals one free night) is the same as 25% of four nights (which equals one free night). You get exactly one free night either way.

    BUT and it is a BUT, and it is a BUT recognised and accepted by myself and @DCS (if you read the content of the posts rather than create fake argument to rant against), the free night kicks in at 4 nights in one program and 5 nights in another.

    The point being made is that this seemingly wonderful benefit, which folk seem to believe miraculously raises some hotel loyalty programs to the dizzying heights of supreme benefit surpassing unchallenged over that of another, is not as spectacular as some would love to think. Why?

    Here is the proof in baby steps, since my previous posts on this and similar threads have obviously been too complex for some of the tiny minds frequenting this blog.

    The reality is exposed by doing the math. Write down two columns of the number of consecutive nights for a stay, 1,2,3,4,5 etc.

    On the first column circle every multiple of 4 (4,8,12,16,20, etc).

    On the second column circle every multiple of 5 (5,10,15,20, etc).

    Look at the two columns. Each circle represents on free night. Now you can easily compare the absolute benefit offered by the two differently defined programs, fourth night free versus fifth night free.

    As repeatedly stated on earlier posts, there is no difference in benefit for stays of 1,2,3 nights. Nobody gets a free night.

    You are better off in Program One if you stay EXACLTY 4 nights to get your fourth night free. I know this, @ DCS knows this, the math is irrefutable.

    BUT at 5 nights the benefit is exactly the same (one night free in both programs). Hence the math offered repeatedly by @ DCS on this and other similar threads per the above.

    Look at the columns. One circle only on both columns of numbers, until you get to 8 nights. So, both programs offer exactly the same benefit (one free night) for stays of 5,6,7 nights.

    Take a moment. So far we have established that both programs offer the same benefit if you spend 1,2,3,5,6,7 consecutive nights.

    Now at 8 nights Program One offers you 2 free nights, but the second program is still stuck on one free night. So, yes Program One is "better" if you choose to stay for 8 nights. The same same applies to 9 nights, because it's only the tenth night that Program Two catches up and also offers two free nights.

    At 10 nights both programs once more offer the same benefit of 2 free nights. This also applies to the eleventh night, as both still only offer 2 free nights.

    Take stock – so far Program One is "winning" for stays of exactly, 4, 8 and 9 nights. The two programs offer equal benefit for stays of 1,2,3,5,6,7,10,11 nights. And we could keep going.

    Now here's the big question. Just how much more benefit is Program One offering over Program Two. The key revelation is that in only one case (4-night stay) is Program One the big winner.

    To find out why we need to do a little more math. Let's create two new columns. In these we list the benefit as the percentage of the cost of the whole stay, Column one for Program One and Column Two for Program Two.

    For Program One the percentage benefit runs: 0%(0/1), 0%(0/2), 0%(0/3), 25%(1/4), 20%(1/5), 16.7%(1/6), 14.3%(1/7), 25%(2/8), 22.2%(2/9), 20%(2/10), 18.2%(2/11), 25%(3/12), 23%(3/13), 21.4%(3/14), 20% (3/15), etc

    For Program One the percentage benefit runs: 0%(0/1), 0%(0/2), 0%(0/3), 0%(0/4), 20%(1/5), 16.7%(1/6), 14.3%(1/7), 12.5%(1/8), 11.1%(1/9), 20%(2/10), 18.2%(2/11), 16.7%(2/12), 15.4%(2/13), 14.3%(2/14), 20% (3/15), etc.

    Now the final step. Let's compare the benefits between the two programs for stays of various consecutive nights. This is the "delta". This is simply calculated as the benefit for Program One minus the benefit for Program Two:

    0% (1 night), 0%(2 night), 0%(3 night), 25%(4 night), 0%(5 night), 0%(6 night), 0%(7 night), 12.5%(8 night), 11.1% (9 night), 0%(10 night), 0%(11 night), 8.3%(12 night), 7.6%(13 night), 7.1%(14 night), 0%(15 night), etc.

    Conclusions:

    – In 9 out the first 1 through 15 day stay lengths the benefit is exactly the same
    – In 6 out of the first 1 through 15 day stay lengths Program One offers a greater benefit than Program Two
    – The maximum delta is 25% (4-night stay)
    – Otherwise the delta ranges from 7.1 to 12.5% (8 night stay)
    – The delta gets smaller the longer the length of stay

    So, fellow loyalty nerds, if you are the sort of person who wants to spend exactly 4 nights at properties, you might well rank a loyalty program offering a 4th night free benefit as superior to one which offers a 5th night free benefit.

    But, if you are not, you may want to take a look at the analysis to decide whether (1) a 4th night versus a 5th night benefit is even relevant (since the former offers no difference for the lengths of stay listed above), or (2) if there is a delta, whether the additional relative benefit of Program One over Program Two for a given length of stay is significant enough to factor into your decision making process. Other factors may or may not outweigh the relative benefits in cases where there is not a substantive difference (5-10% or whatever you perceive as valuable).

    @ Gene, I have no doubt that @ DCS knows all of the above. You have misinterpreted his posts. Luckily, there is more than one way to advocate the same narrative.

    Now @ Gary presumably has the smarts and economic literacy to offer up such a basic analysis on this and other criteria relevant to comparing different hotel loyalty programs. His website, his choice. One suspects that he is pitching to a level of audience rather than exercising his true ability. Beer's on me, Gary, if you ever get further north than Brissie!

  29. @ DCS

    Per the inscription on the statue of Giordano Bruno in the Camp de’Fiori in Roma:

    A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE

    Be well. Be brilliant.

  30. @ DVS / platy — It is borderline insane to be posting as the same person under two names. Given the circumstances, I guess it should be no surprise.

  31. Regardless, you both should write a lot of words that no on reads. Keep up the good work.

  32. @ Gene

    OK, so your tiny brain can only cope with a limited input of words and ideas. No worries, mate.

    And now you’ve decided two people are in fact one. Talk about insanity, or more properly paranoid delusion to even propose such on a public forum.

    Clue – try looking at my historic posts and you’ll find an emphasis on issues Australian, about country 1,000s miles from any Ivy League institution….;)

  33. @platy – The fate of Giordano Bruno is an apt analogy, and you see that what I predicted (“soon someone will accuse you of being my alter ego!”) has now come to pass.

    @Gene — @Gary has info about every commenter, and he can tell you that @platy and I are, in fact, different people. I suggest you quit before all your little gray cells explode…

  34. @ DCS — Frankly, I don’t care who you or your alter-ego are or what either of you have to say. These things do not interest me in the least. Yawn.

  35. Of course, you care or would not be obsessively addressing every comment I post here, despite all of it being way over your head. You will fizzle, just like many others before you…

  36. @ DCS — As I’ve said before, I am not going anywhere. Ive been here long before you. I know it is hard to believe, but I don’t even read most of what you write. I do appreciate your hard work though.

  37. @ Gene

    What, you don’t care (…sobs…)?

    For clarity, I’m addressing you, but not writing the content for your consumption. You are the targeted representative of the unthinking mob on this blog.

    @ DCS and I have similar positions because we both use the same approach, we are both trained and practiced scientists – the whole point of the scientific method is that it is robust and repeatable.

    I am here in Australia, you know, the country without the 1 million COVID dead, the country where gun wielding nut jobs don’t murder dozens of 8-10 year old kids and their heroic teachers (we have effective gun control), a country which is socially progressive (voting in assisted doing legislation rather than regressing decades of women’s rights), a country which has just voted out the right wing runt from its national government in last weekend’s election in the biggest purge ever in the nation’s history.

    Now a competent scientist tackles a question (which program is “best”) be adopting a rational approach, rather than dancing round like a rabbit on speed, seizing upon the most obvious carrot as the one to grasp and chew, such as a mantra “suite upgrades good”.

    We seek to create a framework – (1) footprint of program, (2) scope of point earning opportunity (3) point earn rates (4) ease of attaining status tier (5) benefits of relevance (6) redemption rates (7) probability of accessing promised benefits, etc., etc.

    Here’s the curious thing, @ DCS is the ONLY person I have ever come across on ANY TRAVEL BLOG who understands the most vital reality of the above – thatvthose parameters cannot be treated in isolation, because they are inter-related. Furthermore, those relationships are not necessarily linear. A cogent analysis demands a model based on a system. There are ways to do that, which I’m not going to reveal, because I don’t want to steal the revelation of @ DCS’s (or my own) work. Suffice to say, we’ve both (independently) done the math.

    The bottom line is that the rest of you are simply way behind in your thinking, understanding, analysis.

    Remarkably, rather than seek to expand your horizons and potentially achieve better results from your engagement with loyalty programs, you choose to shoot down new concepts, ideas, approaches, without even making any basic effort to understand a novel perspective.

    In fact, no, you can’t shoot down the new because it is beyond you – instead you resort to denigrate those willing to share a new way of looking at stuff. Which is why, no, I’m not addressing you, you are too closed minded and ignorant for me to bother with, I’m simply using your responses as a handle to address others.

  38. @ DCS

    “…if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory…”

    Robert M. Pirsig

  39. @ platy — More non-read comments…looks like it took alot of work though. Good job.

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