Any luxury hotel cardholder will tell you that part of the appeal of climbing the ranks of a hotel loyalty program is the guaranteed room upgrade. For members of the highest tier, that upgrade includes suites. Marriott and Hyatt are well-known for their confirmed suite upgrade awards to elite loyalty members. This is a huge perk, especially if you will be traveling with your family and need to know in advance if you will be accommodated in a suite.
At last, Hilton will be joining its competitors in awarding its members the same elite benefit. The brand is currently testing a pilot program where select Diamond elite members can confirm a suite upgrade at the time of booking. If the program goes well, Hilton plans to unveil it publicly for all users later in 2019. With the absorption of SPG into Marriott Bonvoy, this new feature could give Hilton a serious edge over competitors, increasing its value and attraction to consumers.
The pilot program works in a similar way that Hyatt’s upgrade benefit works. Hotel members, at the time of booking, can choose to confirm a suite upgrade. The upgrade acts as a certificate that covers stays for a duration of up to seven days. For example, if you book a standard room for seven nights, and use your upgrade certificate during the booking process, your entire stay will be in the suite. Additionally, the certificate is applicable to both cash and award stays, making it an extremely lucrative redemption for users who use points for a stay. Hilton’s pilot users are a lucky bunch. A small group of the brand’s most valued customers was each given a single upgrade certificate to use by the end of March. From the start of the program, January 21st, until after the redemption, Hilton will work with its participants to acquire helpful feedback that will shape the rollout of the larger program.
Jonathan Nouri, Vice President of the Honors Strategy and Program Management is familiar with the importance of upgrades and the value they bring to customers. In a press release, he affirms that Hilton is committed to enhancing loyalty benefits for Gold and Diamond members in the future, conveying that this pilot program is the first step in making those changes a reality. However, before that happens, there are a lot of complexities to work out in terms of the program. Nouri did not have any defining parameters to share, so it is unclear if credit card spending will count towards qualifying, or if the certificate will be awarded based strictly on qualifying nights stayed (it currently takes 60 nights to earn Diamond elite status). While there is no official date on the program’s launch, it seems likely that we will be hearing more about it later on in the year.
If you are not currently a Hilton Honors Aspire cardholder, now could be the perfect time to join. The card, from American Express, gives card members complimentary Diamond status, which is valued at over $2,200 annually when you consider bonus points, airport lounge access, breakfast, and upgrades. As a new member, you will also receive 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. With the imminent suite upgrade certificate, this could be just the boost you need to dive into Diamond elite status.
Overall, Hilton is taking a step in the right direction by aiming to keep up with other competing loyalty programs. The suite certificate will certainly work to keep elite members in the Honors program, as Hilton has figured out, not offering it is a detriment to those high-earning members. To really stand out, however, the luxury chain should strive to offer something competitors don’t have, instead of simply trying to keep up. Today, when all incentives are the same, how do members choose where to place their loyalty? At least, with this new pilot, Hilton is helping its current members make that choice easier.
What do you think about the introduction of confirmed suite upgrades by Hilton?
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Source: frugal travel guy