Hotel loyalty programs have gotten too complicated. Too hard to earn and redeem points, travelers said. Now hotels are changing course.
Hilton is the latest major hotel company to overhaul its loyalty program.
In addition to rebranding from HHonors to Hilton Honors, and also changing the company name from Hilton Worldwide to just Hilton, the chain is making four major changes to its program.
Hilton Honors members will now be able to use points on Amazon.com (the exact conversion rate has not been determined). Members will be able to use a combination of points and cash to redeem rewards. They will also be allowed to pool points with up to 10 friends and family. And elite Diamond members will be able to keep their status even if they do not travel within a year if they encounter any reasons for not being able to get away, such as an illness.
“Contrary to popular belief, we want our Hilton Honors guests to use their points,” says Mark Weinstein, senior vice president and global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships for Hilton.
It’s a reversal of strategy fueled by the fact that travelers now have so many choices to book their stays. In addition to getting hotel rooms from online travel agencies (OTA’s) such as Expedia and Travelocity, they also can stay in people’s homes via AirBnB and vacation rental websites.
And hotel companies have complicated the process by introducing one brand after another. Marriott, after its purchase of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, now has 30 brands. Hilton just introduced its 14th brand last month—The Tapestry Collection of high-end hotels.
“If you think about the old days of hotels, the only competition we had to sell our rooms was travel agents,” says Jamie Russo, vice president of loyalty for Choice Hotels. “That changed pretty dramatically with the advent of OTA’s … We have another alternative lodging…