Hilton tries hard to lose my business

When it comes to elite status downgrades, the landing can be either hard or soft, and each company in the travel industry has its own rules. Hilton’s harsh and inflexible policy has just made it easier for me to defect — a move I’ve been contemplating for more than a year.

I have previously written columns critical of Hilton HHonors, the hotel chain’s loyalty program. I haven’t enjoyed it, because I like the person in charge of the program — Jeff Diskin, senior vice president for global customer marketing at Hilton Worldwide. However, Hilton HHonors has lost much of its competitiveness in recent years…

Wyndham today, Sheraton tomorrow

I’m no expert in hotel management, but it seems reasonable to expect that, when a Wyndham property becomes a Sheraton, there would be a transition period — even just one day — during which the hotel would be closed to make various changes. That didn’t happen in Miami, and hundreds of guests are still being disserviced as a result every day.

I stayed at the Sheraton Miami Airport last week and was stunned how easily a hotel can get away with charging high rates but failing to provide basic necessities, such as heat. I’m all for letting the market determine prices, except that guests book rooms at the Sheraton not knowing they will be cold and their TV won’t work…

All your loyalty programs on one screen

Are you tired of logging in to dozens of accounts for your airline, hotel and rental car loyalty programs? It was high time a website came along that displayed all those balances on one page, so you can see quickly when your miles expire or how many more hotel points you’ve earned since your last log-in.

Last year, I received an e-mail message from one of the founders of AwardWallet.com, suggesting I write a column about the new site. I wanted to wait until I’d tried it, and that took a while, but now that it’s been a few months since I signed up, I’m glad it came along. The site supports hundreds of programs, including schemes for credit cards, dining and shopping, such as OpenTable, iDine and CVS’ ExtraCare, and it’s constantly adding new ones…

How not to sell hotel rooms

If you are in the hospitality business and a potential customer inquires about a product or service you are not offering at the moment, would you suggest an alternative or simply send the person away? The reservations office at the Dorchester South Beach Hotel did the latter last week, which I attributed to poorly trained staff.

I noticed on TravelZoo’s Twitter page a very attractive deal at the Dorchester, promising a room “across the street from the ocean in Miami’s trendy South Beach Art Deco District for $69 per night.” I just booked a trip to Miami in January, and though it seemed the promotion wouldn’t last that long, I thought I’d inquire anyway. I called the hotel’s in-house reservations number, and an agent named Alvaro told me the low rate was valid only through late October…

Travel companies teach customer-service lessons

One of the biggest misconceptions about the travel industry is that it offers the worst customer service around. In fact, in the last couple of years, airline and hotel companies have achieved significant improvements, and it would be wise for other businesses to watch and learn.

Regular readers of this column can testify that I’m no apologist for the travel sector — I try to point out both good and bad practices, though the criticism may sometimes outweigh the praise. But I get angry when I read or hear in the media that airlines are synonymous with bad customer service…

Hilton embraces ‘games-players’

It’s no secret in the hotel loyalty business that Hilton HHonors has been probably the least creative and attractive among the major programs in recent years. Fortunately, its management has recognized that weakness and begun to address it, albeit cautiously.

While competitors such as Starwood, which includes the Sheraton, Westin and other brands, and to a lesser extent the InterContinental Hotel Groups Priority Club, came up with various promotions quarter after quarter, Hilton’s strategy seemed heavily reliant on name-recognition and reputation…

Free hotel Internet for elites slowly becomes the norm

Another domino in the hotel fees game has began falling. Three of the world’s largest chains — Starwood, Marriott and Hyatt — now offer free Internet access to their elite members. Another two, however — InterContinental and Hilton — are holding out. For how long?

Like most frequent travelers, who are usually also elite members of various loyalty programs, I’ve become accustomed to free hotel perks, such as breakfast, room upgrades and lounge access. At the same time, I’ve oddly got used to paying Internet fees that are sometimes higher for one day than my monthly charge at home, and for speed several times lower…

Hilton, InterContinental cross swords

Fierce competition in the hospitality business is nothing new, but last week one of the world’s largest hotel companies took the game to a new level with a bold move aimed at enticing customers of a major competitor.

The InterContinental Hotels Group took advantage of many frequent travelers’ anger with Hilton Worldwide for devaluing its loyalty program, HHonors, last month and offered them bonus points if they also have an account with InterContinental’s scheme, Priority Club. As I reported in November, Hilton decided to increase the number of points required for “award” stays at many of its hotels…

Hotels steps away from airport gates

It’s puzzling why in the United States, one of the most lucrative travel markets in the world, the concept of airport transit hotels is so foreign. There are signs that may be changing, but current plans seem more like baby steps than bold decision-making.

A recent trip to Asia reminded me of the lack of entrepreneurial thinking exhibited by many U.S. airport operators. Readers of this column may remember my praise for terminals in Hong Kong and Singapore earlier this year. Beyond design, comfort and cleanliness, having such a time- and hassle-saving convenience as a hotel under the same roof as your departure gate…