The peculiar uproar in the blogosphere re: Hyatt's new "World of Hyatt" loyalty program

My travel schedule picked up quite a bit about two years ago, and I've been sorting out my preferred brands. The airline seemed a given, living near Denver, and for hotels I just sorta stayed at random places. Then I realized I had a bunch of orphaned points spread across programs where the top tier were catastrophically expensive (looking at you, Marriott) or where I could get a bunch of nights in hotels I didn't much care for (hello there, Hilton). Because I was already tied in with Chase's Ultimate Rewards program, and because they were 1:1 transfer partners, I took a look at Hyatt. The chain is geographically pretty limited, especially outside the US, but the Hyatt Place chain has exploded of late and god bless 'em every room I've stayed in at a Hyatt Place has been identical (this is really nice on business travel). Their Cash & Points is valuable, their top tier hotels can be got for 25-30k points a night (compare to 90k for Hilton which, yes, Hilton gives their points out like candy so the actual value I get out of a Hilton stay is comparable to a Hyatt stay on a per-dollar basis, but if I need to top it up I'm doing 1:1 transfers at about one third of the value), even their mid-tier hotels like the Grand Hyatt Berlin are pretty nice, etc. etc. on and on I decided that in 2017 I'd be trying out Hyatt's loyalty program.

Shortly after I made this decision, back in late October, Hyatt decided to make a drastic change to their loyalty program. Out with Gold Passport, in with World of Hyatt.

Looks like one of my half-assed high school science posters.

Looks like one of my half-assed high school science posters.

The blog-o-world of travel writers and the sentient snark-factories of Reddit immediately latched on to the fact that this looks like the CEO of Hyatt sat down with Word and hammered this logo out in thirty minutes. Then they found out the names of the new tiers: Platinum and Diamond were gone, and in came Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalist. Never mind that the first two aren't even words, and that the three names make the hierarchy damn near impossible to remember, this was a huge overhaul of the Hyatt loyalty program, and a lot of the aforementioned travel bloggers were pissed, and here's why. In the previous Gold Passport program, you could qualify for Diamond status purely with 25 total stays in Hyatt hotels. For that, you got what was probably the best top tier loyalty benefits in the industry: a bunch of suite stays, automatic room upgrades, and a bunch of point bonuses. In World of Hyatt, the top tier Globalist (honestly, I would rather they call the tiers '1' '2' and '3') can only be got with sixty nights in Hyatt hotels. This hurt a lot of the aforementioned bloggers because a lot of these guys's travel patterns are two nights in one city then on to the next. Now we're talking about 12 solid work-weeks in Hyatts over the course of a year to get to the top tier Globalist. Even though the perks are much, much better, it was still better to have the old Gold Passport Diamond than the crummy new World of Hyatt Explorist. Ditching the stays for pure nights was the hotel loyalty equivalent of the US carriers switching to a revenue-based miles system.

But see this is where I differ from those guys, because I'm guessing the best revenue-generating travelers are not doing 25 or 30 individual stays for two nights or so, but are traveling for three, four, five nights maybe once a month. And these travelers (myself as one of them) had no reason to stay with Hyatt because there was just no way we'd hit the 55 nights required to hit Diamond, and Platinum doesn't buy you much (and can be got with the co-branded credit card, making staying at Hyatt a nice option but by no means a loyalty requirement). Hyatt had abandoned these travelers to the other brands, most notably Starwood, who have solid mid-tier loyalty status (Gold status for Marriott, Gold w/ Starwood although it's their first tier it was harder to get than Hyatt Platinum and is worth more, Gold w/ Hilton, IHG has Platinum, see Hyatt, what's with 'Explorist'?).

So now Hyatt went from two tiers -- one you can get from a credit card and one that only very frequent travelers can get -- to three, which brings me to my actual point: Hyatt's Explorist is probably the best mid-tier hotel loyalty status out there. Hit 30 qualifying nights for Explorist and you get a free night in a Category 1-4 hotel, upgrades to the best non-club non-suite room (so think high floors or whatnot), and 4 club lounge passes, among other various unremarkable perks. Starwood, the gold standard of business travelers, offers for 25 nights an upgraded room which one time got me into the club level but that was a happy accident. There are some damn nice Category 4 Hyatt hotels including the Andaz Savannah (before you laugh, Savannah is a really neat town, I had to go there for a conference two years ago and I was sorta rolling my eyes at it but the riverfront area has some killer restaurants and bars and it's a cool atmosphere and I'd totally spend a weekend there wandering around), a few Park Hyatt locations in Asia (including Siem Reap and Saigon, which are both cities high on my 'To Visit' list), and about six Grand Hyatt locations in Europe. That perk alone is probably worth $200-$300, and you can chain it with the free night from the Hyatt credit card you probably have for a weekend stay.

Park Hyatt Saigon, from the ol' Park Hyatt Saigon website

Park Hyatt Saigon, from the ol' Park Hyatt Saigon website

So to me, as a semi-frequent traveler, Explorist is a pretty nice intermediate tier. Assuming I get the status every year and keep the credit card I can get a free weekend every year at a four to five star hotel in a pretty cool location (again, Park Hyatt Saigon), plus upgrades for those rooms to club level. I see the problem the change poses to the super-frequent travelers, but for the intermediate travelers this is a pretty big win.