For many years Hilton has been the backup to my backup chain. They have plenty of hotels around the world, and many markets where they have 4 or 5 choices. However, the elite program has never really been appealing to me. For many years I was an SPG loyalist, though the problems with the Marriott merger have dimmed that enthusiasm considerably. For years prior to the merger, I had moved a considerable amount of my business travel to Hyatt hotels. They provide exceptional recognition to their elite members. Recently, Hilton has moved into more of a backup role ahead of Marriott when I can’t find a Hyatt hotel. That’s mostly just due to my frustration with Marriott. My reasons for picking Hilton as a backup may be changing based on a recent announcement.
Hilton Testing Confirmed Suite Upgrades
The Points guy reports that Hilton is beta-testing a confirmed suite upgrade program with the intent to roll it out systemwide later this year. This is fabulous news for Hilton Diamond members. Let’s go over how these major chains handle upgrades for their most loyal customers:
- Hyatt sets the gold standard. Top-tier Globalist members receive 4 confirmed suite upgrade awards each year. These can be redeemed at time of booking for a stay up to 7 nights in length. If you’re a lifetime Globalist who also qualifies for Globalist each year, you get 8 confirmed suite upgrades. Hyatt recently segmented the different suite types, but I’m still receiving upgrades to beautiful suites when I travel.
- SPG used to have Suite Night Awards. In theory, members would redeem these to tell SPG “this is an important stay”, and they would get bumped up the list for an upgrade. However, members would only learn whether their upgrade cleared 5 days prior to arrival. Largely, these certificates were useless. You’d have to figure that would be my opinion if I wrote a post titled “I Guess I’m A Moron” in relation to these awards. Post-merger, Marriott has reduced the number of Suite Night Awards you can receive. I still have no faith this solves the problem.
Hilton appears to be testing something very close to what Hyatt is offering. Members can redeem their test certificate for a stay of up to 7 nights. Similar to Hyatt, these can be redeemed on both paid and award stays. There’s no guarantee that Hilton decides to use this formula for a larger rollout to all Diamond members. But, it’s promising that they’re trying something very similar to the Hyatt system and talking publicly about it.
The ability to confirm a suite upgrade at the time of booking is critical for families. The chance at a suite upgrade 5 days prior to arrival with Marriott just doesn’t add much value for a family. For a long trip, I need to know in advance whether I can get a suite or I need to book multiple rooms. Hilton seems to recognize this the way Hyatt does, at least according to the parameters of their current beta test.
There’s no doubt in my mind this would leapfrog Hilton past Marriott in their treatment of top elite members. I’m also fairly certain it would earn Hilton the spot as my #2 choice when it comes to hotel loyalty. It’ll be hard for someone to unseat Hyatt in my mind. But, given the regression at Marriott (very tone-deaf right now) and the efforts Hilton has made to improve how they recognize their best customers, it’s pretty easy to see where Hilton can move up the ranks.
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