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For a bit of background, a few weeks ago, Hyatt’s SVP of Loyalty, Jeff Zidell, hosted an AMA (Ask me anything) over on reddit about Hyatt’s new loyalty program World of Hyatt.  There was definitely some frustration with the AMA where many folks felt that they didn’t get their true questions answered.  I reached out to Hyatt and Jeff agreed to chat with me to help get some of those questions answered.  But really I wanted YOU (the readers) to have a say in asking the questions, so after getting some question ideas, and picking the best ones, we spoke for about 30 minutes.  We didn’t get through every question, but I found Jeff to be open and very interested in hearing our thoughts and opinions.  There were only a FEW times where I felt that maybe he was “dancing” around the question 🙂

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Talking stays and nights

I think one of the biggest frustrations many people have is the fact that the new World of Hyatt program eliminates being able to qualify on stays alone.  Currently you can qualify for top level (Diamond) with 50 nights OR 25 stays, while the new World of Hyatt program only allows you to qualify on nights (60 for top-tier Globalist status).  When I asked Jeff about why they completely removed the stay requirement he mentioned that Hyatt was trying to create a program that was simple as possible – specifically:

Everybody understands a night – that’s a universal thing.  In the airline industry, the equivalent is a seat.  In our business it’s a night, and everybody understands that.

From there, Jeff explained that they also wanted to include dollars, because (unlike airlines) hotels have always worked as a “revenue based” system where you get points based on your spend, and then they felt that they didn’t have a need for any other metric such as stays.  In my thinking yes, that certainly disadvantages some people, but at least I can understand the logic

The Hyatt CC and the M-Life partnership

m-life-logoSeveral of you talked about the evolution (devaluation?) of status with the Hyatt credit card as well as changes in the Hyatt / M-Life partnership.  With Gold Passport, Hyatt Diamonds get top-tier M-Life Platinum status, whereas with World of Hyatt they will only get M-Life Gold.  Similarly, Hyatt credit card holders used to get mid-tier Hyatt Platinum, whereas now they will only get introductory World of Hyatt Discoverist status.

For the M-Life partnership, Jeff went back to the difficulty of mapping 2 (now 3) Hyatt statuses to 4 or 5 M-Life statuses.  He also mentioned that for both Hyatt and M-Life it was

important for (both of us) to maintain integrity of the most elite tiers and really reserve that for the people who were loyal to Hyatt or loyal to MGM

Jeff fell back on saying that the Hyatt credit card is the best way to accrue Hyatt points (though I’d say that the Chase Sapphire Reserve which also gives 3x on travel is probably a better travel credit card if you’re only going to get one) and he hinted at possible changes coming to the credit card benefits.  When I mentioned the fact that spending $40,000 on a Hilton credit card gives top-tier Hilton Diamond compared to spending $50,000 on the Hyatt credit card only giving mid-tier Hyatt Explorist status, he said he was

not opposed to it but just not there yet.

Though given what USUALLY happens when banks / airlines / hotel programs change their programs (devaluations!), I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be excited or scared if Hyatt looks to change the benefits on the credit card 🙂

The evolution of World of Hyatt (award nights and credit card spend)

world-of-hyatt-square-logoIn our interview, we touched on a few points where Jeff specifically mentioned that the folks at Hyatt felt that World of Hyatt was a “marathon” not a sprint, and they would be looking at various portions of World of Hyatt as time went on.  In addition to continuing to review the credit card benefits and status for spend mentioned above and the MGM/M-Life status, Jeff specifically mentioned that

I think award nights counting toward tier (status) is a good thing

He said that counting award nights toward status was not something that they would be launching with World of Hyatt right away (he mentioned counting them is complex technically with the systems that they have in place and they “couldn’t get there for March 1 for the launch”) but it would be something that they had been looking at even before the introduction of World of Hyatt and they would look at going forward.  I followed up on timing for both of these but Jeff said he wasn’t comfortable giving a timing.

How World of Hyatt affects the Hyatt House / Place traveler

I know that personally, I’m a big fan of the so-called “budget” hotels (READ: 3 reasons “budget” hotels DESTROY “fancy” ones). I had an amazing experience at the Hyatt House San Juan, and I rated my first true “5 star” experience at a Hyatt House.  But obviously at places like Hyatt House or Hyatt Place, where you already get breakfast and wi-fi and (almost) all the rooms are the same, having top-tier status doesn’t really get you a ton.

Talking to Jeff about that, he went back to the fact that this is a common scenario across all brands / chains.  You stay at the more “basic” hotels to earn your status, so that you can vacation at the more “aspirational” hotels.  So I guess the answer for the Hyatt House / Place traveler is that you still are earning your status so you can stay at the Grand Hyatt / Park Hyatt hotels (same as it was).

Rapid fire questions

I finished up the interview with a series of “rapid fire” questions – questions intended to be answered quickly

  • Why should I stay loyal to Hyatt? He talked about feeling that Hyatt is “a family” and if that resonates with you as a customer, then Hyatt is the place for you.  Personally, my travel profile says that I don’t chase elite status (either hotel or airline) and am much more a fan of the Milenomics “Be your own elite” philosophy, and I do think that everyone has to make their own decisions and decide for yourself if you feel that Hyatt (or any other company) is truly loyal to you and deserves your loyalty in return.
  • For people who may have status matched or challenged to Hyatt (Diamond) in the past, is W.O.H. a distinct loyalty program so that they may be able to match/challenge again? Jeff said that status match is generally once per person per lifetime, so it does not sound like they will allow a status challenge if you’ve challenged previously through Gold Passport
  • Who do you think benefits from this change? Who gets the short end of the stick on this change? While I don’t know that I was necessarily expecting Jeff to really answer this question (especially the 2nd part), I’d say that this is probably the one answer of his that I felt most frustrated with – despite my trying to follow up / pin him to an answer, he stuck with the “I’m a glass half full” guy and wouldn’t really give specifics.
  • What is the one program change that would personally be most exciting for you if you did the same number of Hyatt stays you do now? Jeff shared 2 changes – first that you will get a free night just by trying 5 different brands, and then also that as a Globalist you will get confirmed suite upgrades on award nights or paid nights.

Hopefully this interview gives you a better insight into some of the behind the scenes workings of the creation of World of Hyatt.  And while the changes may impact you negatively, I hope that this can give you insight into the World of Hyatt changes and where Hyatt loyalty may be going in the future.

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