The anticlimax of becoming a Hyatt Globalist: Was it worth it?

Jun 7, 2021 by Yihwan Kim. 4 min read.

I woke up to this in my inbox today:

Email from Hyatt that says: You just got upgraded to our most elite tier

This is the first time I’ve actually earned top tier hotel status. Even when I traveled for work nearly every other week, back when SPG was still around and Hyatt’s reward program went by a more staid name, the top tiers of each program remained elusive and just out of reach.

I used to obsess over hotel and airline status in my younger days — which wasn’t that long ago. In fact, I felt one of the more compelling benefits of being a consultant was banking a minor fortune in points and miles, not to mention the accompanying elite benefits. I was enamored by the complimentary upgrades to first class and spacious suites, the airport and club lounges, and all the other supposed freebies that came with forking over more cash to hotels everywhere. The idea of becoming a Hyatt Diamond member (or sure, a Hyatt Globalist) would have been thrilling.

Yet now, I can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. Nostalgic too, but mostly underwhelmed.

What’s changed? Well, a lot. I’m not a consultant anymore, and I haven’t been for a while. I don’t travel for work, though I travel full-time now that I’m giving the whole “digital nomad” thing a shot. This means most of my stays are in AirBnBs or other venues more suited for the long-term, with fewer nights in hotels. So it’s ironic that I eked out just enough nights to qualify for Hyatt Globalist anyway thanks to drastically reduced stay requirements this year.

But I’d say the biggest change is in what I value — and I don’t know if I value hotel status that much anymore.

The hotel industry has shifted quite a bit since I last took a close look at it, and its rewards programs have changed along with it. The names have certainly changed — to ones that still induce a mild cringe factor years after unveiling. Hyatt Gold Passport became World of Hyatt, Marriott Rewards became Bonvoy, and Starwood Preferred Guest (the aforementioned SPG) is simply no more. Programs consolidated, benefits diluted, and status qualification requirements inflated away.

Still, the core benefits of hotel status haven’t changed. With little variation and nuance across programs, this typically includes:

  • Early check-in and late check-out.
  • An upgraded room upon arrival, which rarely (mostly just for Hyatt Globalists nowadays if that) includes standard suites.
  • Access to a club lounge.
  • Complimentary breakfast.
  • Accelerated points earning.
  • Bottles of water and other miscellany.

These are all nice things of course. I’m not usually one to turn down free food or a bigger room. But the question isn’t whether hotel status is nice. The question is whether it’s worth it — whether it’s worth paying a premium to stay loyal to a single hotel brand.

For me, the answer is increasingly: probably not.

We all value different things, and we value things differenty. These values tend to change over time, as I’ve witnessed first-hand.

I used to think a full breakfast was a quintessential part of the hotel experience. After enduring more than a lifetime supply of American Breakfasts, I’d much rather skip the greasy eggs and mediocre coffee and enjoy a more interesting meal outside the hotel. I used to revel in room upgrades, including to the occasional suite. But now I’ll take a comfy bed and workstation over increased square footage packed with mismatched furniture any day of the week.

As I grow older, I can’t help but feel I’m starting to appreciate the simpler things: a good night’s rest, a comfortable desk chair, and fast WiFi. With my Starbucks-fueled all-nighters long behind me, I’ve re-discovered my love for good coffee, which almost never comes from a hotel and certainly never from a Keurig.

I’ve also learned you can just pay for the status and the benefits if you really want it.

Many hotel-affiliated credit cards offer at least mid-tier status simply for holding the card, and that’s usually enough to score a decent room with a view or more leeway on check-out times. The AMEX Hilton Aspire card will even throw in a free breakfast and club access in exchange for a steeper annual fee.

When status only goes so far, you can buy the benefits too. Besides programs like AMEX Fine Hotel + Resorts, which is typically only available at higher-end properties, each hotel chain offers comparable benefits for its mid-tier hotels through special programs and rates. For example, Marriott’s Luminous program offers benefits on many standard Marriott-branded properties, while Hyatt Privé extends to many Hyatt Regencies too.

You do need to book through a travel agent to get these benefits, and I’ve had good experiences with Live Luxe Travel Co (no affiliation or commission, just a friendly mention). The rate should be identical to the lowest flexible rate, and you shouldn’t have to pay a fee, though this can vary by travel agent.

In any case, I imagine these benefits might come in handy if you know you’ll need them. Maybe you’d rather brave the breakfast buffet after all or perhaps you know you’ll need to check-in early after getting off an early-morning flight. Why go through the hassle of staying with a hotel for months to get these benefits — when you can essentially just buy them when needed?

Globe avatar with caption: You are a Globalist

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Travel is starting to open back up, and I’m not discounting the possibility that a couple suite upgrades could make everything seem worth it in the end.

I see my newfound status is good until 2023, a year that will mark a whole decade (!) since I embarked on my first “business trip” as a fresh-faced consultant. A lot has changed since then, but some things have stayed the same. I still keep tabs on hotel reward programs, and I’m still excited to see the world and everything it offers. I’ve never been a Hyatt Globalist before (and I’m still really, really lukewarm on the name), so who knows how that changes things.

I guess I’ll just have to find out.

Comments? Thoughts? Let me know! @yihwan 🐦

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