Hyatt unveiled a new website late last night with a new look that it hopes will make the brand more engaging with users. It also includes a variety of features that make it a little easier to earn and take advantage of your Gold Passport elite status. All of the images in this post were taken from a promotional video released before launch, so I apologize for any lack of clarity.
(The video is accessible if you log onto your account. You may need to clear your browser’s cache.)
For some history, the Hyatt website has been buggy for years. I personally have not faced many issues. But it is known to go down for maintenance very frequently and sometimes for long periods, requiring people to call in for assistance. There were also some actions that couldn’t be performed online until recently, like booking certain types of award stays.
These issues have been slowly addressed along with slight tweaks to the site’s appearance, which suggests that Hyatt was working on both the design and the function of the website in parallel. What’s still not clear to me is how much of the relaunch today is actually a new site and how much is just further polish of the existing work in progress. Right now it looks like the latter, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been successful in addressing those problems, too.
After watching the video, the main functional improvements I see are mostly convenience factors that make it easier to review, search for, and book hotel reservations. For example, links to useful information are provided as big boxes on the front page, and each reservation is now a discrete window on your account profile rather than a list of property names and reservation numbers.
Another new feature is the option to rebook stays at past hotels. But, frankly, if I like the hotel that much I can probably type the name faster than I can select it from a drop down menu.
I’m a little more impressed with some of the changes made to how the Gold Passport program is promoted on the website, since I think one of the biggest issues most loyalty programs have is explaining their value to potential customers. (If it were so obvious, this blog wouldn’t exist.)
For example, I think a new chart comparing all the benefits of each elite tier was desperately needed. Maybe not for my most loyal readers but probably for the general public. Previously these benefits were listed individually on separate pages for each tier in a bulleted list. Showing how benefits evolve could make the rewards of a higher tier more apparent.
I also appreciate a new award search tool that allows members to screen properties by factors such as available points, award category, brand, and hotel amenities. When redeeming points I’m usually on vacation and don’t care too much about the location. What I do want is an Andaz, Park Hyatt, or Grand Hyatt to make my wife happy. It also helps if it’s a Category 4 (which means I can use my credit card’s free night) or a Category 5 or 6 (which are good values for Points + Cash).
A few features are still missing, or at least weren’t revealed in the video.
The first priority is an option to search for multiple discount rates at the same time, including AAA, Costco, and any eligible corporate rates. The radio buttons that Hyatt currently uses limit me to just one option, which requires me to search for the same property two or more times just to find all the different rates available to me. I recall that selecting more than one used to be possible one or two years ago, but recent small updates seem to have removed it.
A lesser priority to me — but probably important to all of you — is the ability to view award rates and paid rates side-by-side. I do appreciate that Hyatt has made it easier to view and book all types of awards online. It used to be only free night awards were online, while Points + Cash and the annual credit card free night had to be booked by phone. But… I still need to check a box and refresh the page to switch between paid and award nights. That’s annoying if I want to compare my options and see which is the best value.
Finally, and perhaps least important, is the chance to get more clarity on suite upgrades. I’d like some kind of marker that shows which inventory is used for the Diamond Suite Upgrade at each property and even the option to secure that upgrade online. This is probably more complex to implement, but right now it is the reason for 90% of my calls to and frustration with Gold Passport.