StarMegaDO4: Media Roundtable With Jeff Zidell And Other Hyatt Execs

Jeff Zidell, who’s been a big supporter of the Milepoint community and the MegaDOs for quite some time, took a few minutes to sit down with members of the media and blogsphere during StarMegaDO4.  He covered some of the recent highlights for Hyatt and there are a bunch:

Hyatt continues to grow, increasing the number of properties 15% over the last two years.  Hyatt has invested over $1 Billion in modernizing and building hotels.

They currently have 175 properties in the pipeline.  This number actually came as a bit of a surprise to me.  When you consider that Hyatt has roughly 500 properties now, if the 175 in the pipeline all come to fruition that increases their size by over 30%.  More importantly, Hyatt is positioning itself for that growth to be in emerging markets outside the United States.  As someone who enjoys aspirational properties like Park Hyatt Tokyo, that international development is perfect for me.

The common theme through most of Jeff’s short intro was on innovation.  It’s clear Hyatt wants to be on the cutting edge when it comes to implementing new technology to improve the guest experience.

I got the chance to ask Jeff about what’s coming next.  Hyatt has filled in some big blanks in the past year or so, adding a co-branded credit card as well as points earning for non-stay spending such as spas and restaurants.  Jeff shared with us that Hyatt has 8 “lab hotels”, with Gold Passport being the 9th lab.  He shared that they believe in empathetic learning and they have a bunch of tests ongoing.  He said one of their challenges was being able to test things quickly enough to get them into the marketplace effectively.
He also covered their philosophy on re-positioning their funding.  They recently shut down some parts of the program that aren’t used frequently (Passport redemptions) to focus on other areas of innovation.

I also asked a follow-up question about the Hyatt credit card.  I remember Jeff fielding a question from the audience at an event earlier in the year where he clarified that Hyatt sees their credit card differently then other hotel chains.  They don’t see the card or the points program specifically as a profit center, but more as a way to drive incremental revenue (heads in beds).  He also confirmed that they see a big percentage of people participating in the quarterly promotions are also credit card holders.

We also got a nugget about upcoming innovations.  Hyatt has tried to push forward on technology, and it looks like they’ll be the first major chain to launch Passbook integration for the iPhone.  I’m a huge fan of Passbook, and I’m thrilled to hear that my go-to hotel chain is going to be making my life easier with Passbook in the near future.

Finally, there was talk about a revamp of Camp Hyatt.  Jeff brainstormed a bit with us, saying he’d love to see something like kids picking up a book from each property they visit.

I’ve always found Jeff to be very approachable and brutally honest.  I’d never miss an opportunity to sit down with Jeff and hear him talk about what’s happening at Hyatt.  This sit-down did not disappoint.

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