Oh Hyatt. We have such a love-hate relationship right now.
Before I begin, I will level with you.... I absolutely -LOVE- the Hyatt the hotel brand.
Growing up as a kid, my father used to be the controller of the Hyatt Regency Macau (now Regency Art Macau). I remember growing up attending the GM's Christmas parties, as well as roaming the hallways, with fond memories of the staff who worked there, as well being exposed to all types of different guests from different cultures that now it feels completely normal whenever I relocate to different countries for work or travel there's hardly any culture shock anymore.
Maybe I am biased because of these fond memories, perhaps, that I always held the brand in such a high regard.
It always felt homey to stay at a Hyatt property. Maybe it's the corporate training. Maybe it was the hotel hardware itself, after all, it is Hyatt's corporate strategy to "recycle" their hotels to make sure they sell older assets to acquire newer updated properties. But I always felt Hyatt was always a very.... comforting a hotel brand, and one I will sometimes go out of my way to make a stay there work with my travel plans.
Even at some of the more outdated or aging properties, the stellar staff and management would manage to deliver an above average experience for me and anyone I was traveling with.
However, I definitely don't feel the same level of affection for Hyatt's loyalty program, that was introduced earlier in 2017 replacing Hyatt Gold Passport. In fact, the loyalty program has terms so onerous that it is pushing me into exploring brands like.... Marriott (gasp).
To understand the issues, you have to dig into the corporate level of hotels and hospitality as a business.
Hyatt has always been a brand that tries to focus on destination locations, trophy hotels, and a higher level of service. It was only recently in the last decade they started to operate brands like Hyatt Place and Hyatt House to diversify from their higher-end business model.
As a result, Hyatt has one of the smallest footprints with just around 300 hotels. This compares to Marriott or Hilton.... with THOUSANDS of hotels, each. This was their long standing strategy, to focus on high quality hotels and targeting the high-spend travelers.
Yet, it was extremely awkward Hyatt's loyalty program changed from a program that required more stays, to one that requires more nights. The current top tier at World of Hyatt, "Globalist" (who came up with these names anyways.... this millennial disapproves), requires a total of 60 (!!!) nights with the chain to qualify.
Now with a hotel footprint as small as Hyatt's, and usually at a higher price point of properties than Marriott, Starwood, or Hilton (who has been developing a vast number of excellent mid tier hotel brands and choices in the last decade), it is almost impossible for the average traveler to ever achieve those kinds of requirement for loyalty status.
For most people, we don't aim to blow our budget on every single trip. There will be ordinary business or family trips where we simply want a comfortable stay in a clean room without any frills. And on this angle, Hyatt's main competitors certainly delivers.
What is Hyatt corporate exactly trying to tell us here? Isn't a loyalty program supposed to foster that relationship for someone to have an INCENTIVE to stay at their properties? With such a narrow footprint, it almost seems like the program at its current form is trying to DISINCENTIVIZE people from being loyal to Hyatt even.
And this is the most frustrating part for me personally. My inner finance geek is telling me Marriott is currently the chain that will give me the most bang for my buck, and for a Hyatt-die hard loyalist to come to this conclusion and struggle with brand loyalty, I can only wonder what other guests of the chain who may not have the same level of affinity for the brand would be doing.
I go out of my way to persuade my friends to stay at Hyatts for their higher end vacations. Some of the hotels and resorts in the portfolio like Park Hyatt Tokyo is just simply magnificent. And Hyatt as a hotel is still in my opinion, one of the best mainline hotel brand out there.
But it doesn't mean I won't take Marriott out for a date... or maybe a little side fling for all these business trips I have lined up in the coming months.... oh just imagine all the value and savings out of their smartly fitted loyalty program.
Hyatt, we may need to have a talk, or some changes may have to happen sooner rather than later. A merger with someone, perhaps?
How about you? Do you go out of your way to stay with a hotel chain to build up loyalty? Or is it common for you to explore other chains and brands as the value proposition of hotel loyalty programs changes (and it seems like it changes all the time nowadays.) I would love to hear what you have to say about the industry as a whole and your own loyalty to brands!