Hyatt recently introduced a new loyalty program, called World of Hyatt. In a push to showcase the new features, to answer members’ questions, or just for publicity, Hyatt decided to do a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). Jeff Zidell, SVP of Loyalty for Hyatt, was on hand to answer questions submitted by Reddit users.
For those unfamiliar, a Reddit AMA is technically a chance for anyone to ask the “original poster” anything (though that is not really the case here). Using Reddit’s usual comment system, users can upvote or downvote a question, which increases or decreases its visibility in the post.
Recap of World of Hyatt
If you’re reading this post, chances are you are already familiar with all the changes that Hyatt is making. You have also likely made your decision as to whether you like the changes or not, so feel free to skip this section.
In World of Hyatt, there are now 3 elite status tiers. In a nutshell, it will now be harder for everyone to qualify for top-tier status, called Globalist, which requires 60 nights or $20,000 in spending annually. But top-tier status is also getting better, at least on paper, since Globalist can get upgraded to basic suites with every stay, subject to availability. They also get waived resort fees, free parking on award stays, and a free night (Category 1 – 7) when they qualify.
The big “controversy,” if I can use that word, is that Hyatt is no longer allowing you to qualify for top-tier status by number of stays. This hurts a good number of existing Diamond members, who can swing 25 stays a year, but not 60 nights, mostly because of Hyatt’s limited footprint.
But with the new program, there are also new ways for everyone to earn free nights. All members can earn a free night (Category 1 – 4) by staying at 5 different Hyatt brands, and another one when they stay at 10.
Anyway, moving on to the AMA.
A Good Number of “Non-Answers,” A Somewhat Disastrous AMA…?
The Reddit AMA has just concluded, and I am a bit disappointed to say that there aren’t a lot of new information that we don’t already know. But part of it might just because Zidell was made available to many bloggers and reporters when World of Hyatt was announced. The company also have an extensive FAQ on their website, so we already know a lot about the program.
Many Reddit users also found it frustrating, though, that Zidell chose to ignore some of the more “upvoted” questions (that are likely more important to more people). A lot of responses also seemed canned, sounding like corporate spin and boilerplate responses.
For example, user laptoptravel asked about Hyatt’s rationale behind eliminating number of stays as a way to qualify for status. S/he cited Hyatt’s small footprint for a reason why the changes are particularly harsh, and wondered if Zidell is concerned about alienating a large portion of the current Diamond member base. Zidell’s answer was disappointing to many, as evident by “downvotes” to his response.
We understand your point, and we do hear it from members. The good news is we are very well represented in large and mid-size cities. Since 2009, we’ve grown from 424 to 679 properties worldwide (more than 60 percent!) and we keep growing. As we shared on our latest earnings call, our executed contract base is ~61,000 rooms, which means we expect to add more than 35% of our current room base.
To be honest, I personally don’t think you should create a program designed for now, and hope the development of the hotel chain’s future will catch up to it. Others share the concern. Reddit user rcschumann, who is based in Europe, was frustrated that achieving top-tier status is now basically impossible. He asked:
Zidell’s response cracked me up a bit.
I took my family to Rome last year, and I couldn’t stay at a Hyatt hotel. So I definitely share your frustration.
But then again, this isn’t all that surprising. I think we all know that a lot of the “why” questions chart up to the fact that Hyatt is a profit-driven company. It’s kind of Zidell’s job to say anything but “because we have our bottom line in mind.” He did admit in an answer that the program change is not a cost-saving measure, though.
Regardless, this is definitely very much a commercial AMA, not so much a “I’m interested in what you do/your life” AMA. But if you’re curious, you now know that Jeff Zidell’s favorite Hyatt hotel is the Andaz Maui.
Jeff Zidell Responds to the World of Hyatt Branding!
Hyatt was ridiculed for the World of Hyatt branding, including the name of elite tiers and the new logo. Many think it’s childish, including Reddit user kepler1, who asked whether we are “stuck” with it.
Mr. Zidell, are you pleased with the marketing look/feel and branding of the new loyalty program? What composition of marketing team came up with the materials and look/feel of the new brand and how long did they spend on this? Did they test this with elite customers? Because to me, and many others I believe, the names of the new elite tiers, the look of the new logo, etc. are just terrible sounding and looking. Doesn’t make me feel very cool to tell anyone that “oh, I’m Explorist with Hyatt”. It just sounds stupid. Are we stuck with this crap?
To that, Zidell has this to say (emphasis mine).
I love the new look, and I really think it will grow on you. We choose the name World of Hyatt and this logo because we think of World of Hyatt as a window into the people, places and stories that make up each of our guest’s unique lives. It’s a platform to create a community of engaged travelers. So we don’t just want to welcome you to our world, we want to understand yours. My favorite part is the logo framed around things that make you, you.
To be honest, I think he’s trying really hard, and I appreciate the effort. But part of me can’t even take his response seriously. But then again, he has definitely stared at the logo way more than I have, and maybe it will grow on me… You decide for yourself.
Some (Tiny) Insights…
While there were a lot of non-descriptive or boilerplate responses, there are also tidbits from Zidell’s answers that are actually helpful. Here are some of the highlights.
As a current Hyatt Diamond, how many nights will you need to qualify as a Globalist in 2017?
To qualify for the top-tier Globalist status in World of Hyatt, you need 60 elite-qualifying nights per year. However, to re-qualify, you only need 55.
This was a point of confusion for many current Diamond members, who will automatically be granted Globalist status in 2017. However, it looks like they would still need 60 nights in 2017 to qualify for Globalist status through 2018, since it’s a new program. Then, in 2018, they would need 55 nights to re-qualify. As a corollary that Zidell confirmed, current Diamonds will also need to stay 60 nights in 2017 to earn 4 Suite Upgrade certificates for 2018.
Will award stays earn elite-qualifying status?
Many have wondered why Hyatt doesn’t count award nights as elite-qualifying, especially since all major competitors (like Hilton and SPG) do. Reddit user griffinjm asked about this, and Zidell said that they “are looking into this option,” though he made no promises.
Glimpses into Lifetime Globalist…
Hyatt hasn’t officially announced changes to Lifetime statuses yet. Zidell revealed, however, that all Lifetime Diamond members will transition to Lifetime Globalist status come March 2017. Lifetime Globalist members will receive all the benefits of Globalist members, but it appears they will also be able to get confirmed suite upgrades on award stays.
Can we actually count on hotels to deliver the “best room, including suites” Globalist upgrade?
Globalist members will get upgraded to best room in the hotel, including suites, under World of Hyatt. On paper, this is a great benefit. However, Hyatt currently already grants upgrades to the best room (excluding suites) to Diamond members, and the execution is very mixed, at best.
I share Reddit user johnnylim81’s concern, that hotels might not actually executive this properly, and customers will have to “arm wrestle” with the front desk to get their promised benefit. This is Jeff Zidell’s response.
In developing this benefit, we worked closely with our hotels to ensure the integrity of its delivery. The ultimate customer experience is highly important and we will continuously monitor feedback from both our hotels and guests to ensure the benefit is being delivered as envisioned. So if you experience any inconsistencies, we want to hear from you.
So ok, I lied. This one isn’t a new insight at all. You can interpret that how you want, but I’m not confident about actually being upgraded to suites based on availability, though I’d love to be proven wrong.
As I had suspected, there aren’t a lot of new information through the AMA. But then again, any important changes should come through an official channel anyway, and not through a Reddit AMA in which only certain members will partake. Hyatt did already give us a lot of new information about the new loyalty program. As for situation-specific concerns, a public forum wouldn’t be the best way to address those anyway.
There were a lot of boilerplate non-answers, but as a commercial AMA, that’s more or less what I was expecting. I am happy to hear that Hyatt is looking into making award nights elite-qualifying, considering most competitors do it, though I’m not super hopeful.