McLEAN, VA. – Remember when Hilton Worldwide’s loyalty program adopted the peak-period pricing program in March 2013?
Since then, some hotels – especially those in high-demand markets such as New York – began charging Hilton HHonors members more points to redeem a free night during peak times, and fewer points during slower times. The move was intended to make hotel owners happy since they felt they weren’t getting a fair redemption rate during heavy demand periods when they could sell rooms for much higher rates.
In New York, peak periods would include Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, while in Austin, Texas, the dates during which the South by Southwest festival runs would be considered peak time.
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So when I sat down recently with Mark Weinstein, the Hilton HHonors program chief, at Hilton hotel restaurant next to Hilton’s headquarters building, I asked him about consumers’ reaction.
The reaction has been mixed, he said.
Some hotels (with the year-and-a-half-year-old peak pricing model in place) saw no change in terms of HHonors points redemptions during peak periods, while others saw a decrease, Weinstein told me.
“When members want to go on vacation, they figure out a destination and then figure out how to pay for it,” he said. “Most members who want to go to Orlando, for instance, make the decision to go and then figure out how to use points. They don’t make decisions based on points themselves.”
Some members, he said, have been trying to maximize their loyalty points in markets when peak pricing is in effect by choosing to book a trip during a slower time of the year or by staying outside of the city. As an example: a stay in a Category 5 hotel might require 50,000 points during its peak period and 30,000 points during its off-peak period.
The HHonors program, by the way, now has 41 million members; Hilton doesn’t release what percentage of them are active. The program covers brands including Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Doubletree by Hilton, Curio, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria.
Readers: What about you? Did Hilton’s adoption of seasonal pricing prompt you to alter the way you redeem your points in some way?