Are You a Hotel Loyalist?

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Earlier this week, I met with Jeff Diskin, one of the executives in charge of the honors program at Hilton Hotels worldwide, which encompasses 10 brands including Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and DoubleTree. Jeff shared a trend that they are seeing—members opting to cash in points for hotel stays as opposed to airline miles (Hilton Honors partners with over 60 air carriers, which means their loyalists can redeem points for airline tickets if they so choose).

It's an interesting trend, and leads one to speculate as to why—is it because members of a hotel loyalty program sign up because they're more interested in the promise of a free hotel stay to begin with? Or is it because airline loyalty has become such a minefield of complications these days, between blackout dates and expensive surcharges, that it's just easier to put those points toward a night in a hotel?

Either way, it's about to become much easier for members of Hilton's Honors Rewards program to redeem those points. Here's what's new: Previously, the company only allowed guests to book certain rooms with points, but now rewards members can book any available room in the system. They will also allow loyalists to use points to buy a standard room and upgrade (something airlines have offered travelers for years). Finally, guests will be able to pay for rooms using both points and money, effectively netting a discount even if they don't have enough points to cover a full room. These new benefits are already in effect in some properties and will be available to all guests starting on October 1.

With international brands like Hilton (and earlier this year, the InterContinental Hotels Group) investing in guest loyalty, it leads me to wonder—how much does earning points factor into your decision where to stay when going on vacation?


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