The Hilton Hotels HHonors points program is about to be devalued. Beginning January 15, 2010, points will be worth about 20% less than they are today, meaning it will take 20% more points to book a free hotel room at a Hilton property. The announcement has created quite a stir among Hilton HHonors program members and among hotel industry analysts.
“It’s just an absolute boneheaded move,” travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research said. “It is the absolutely the wrong decision to make at a time when hotel demand is down from corporate business, conferences and leisure.” “If demand was strong, if Hilton was turning away paid business from (profitable) events like conferences, I could understand raising points you need to redeem for a free night,” he said. But with demand down, Harteveldt says that raising point requirements could mean that “Hilton is handing its some of its best customers to its competition.”
Hilton did not send out a press release on the change, but says that members of the program were notified by either email or mail and that the changes were posted on their website, as well. Some members of the program received one free night voucher in the communication from Hilton, as well. In addition, the current point requirements will hold until Jan. 14, 2010, which means that you can book a stay for 2010 by that date. If you change your reservation after Jan. 14, the new rates will apply, the site says.
It seems that such a change will hit the most frequent travellers the hardest. Many business travellers belong to reward programs and choose their business hotel stays based on the points they can earn. They then redeem those points for personal vacation travel. According to Forrester Research, 35% of business travellers belong to a hotel loyalty program, and of that group, 27% use loyalty programs to earn free personal hotel stays.