Hilton Honors 2023 Loyalty Expo Session: Innovating Hospitality with Delight and Surprise Upgrades

Last year, Hilton Hotels & Resorts launched its newest customer loyalty initiative: Automatic Space-Available Upgrades. In the initiative, Elite, Gold, and Diamond Hilton Honors loyalty program members are automatically given room upgrades — an innovation in the hospitality industry. Space-Available Upgrades are focused on the luxury lifestyle and full-service hotels, which possess an upgrade path that the business and travel-focused locations do not have.

While the offering surprises and delights guests, the Hilton Honors loyalty program has seen significant growth in its guest satisfaction rates and overall interaction with the program. The success of the Space-Available Upgrades placed Hilton Honors as an award finalist for the upcoming Loyalty Expo, from May 8-10 in Orlando, FL.

Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty360, spoke with Amanda Jamerson, Senior Director of Hilton Honors, about her upcoming awards presentation at the Loyalty Expo, how the Space-Available Upgrade program works, and what attendees can expect from the presentation.

Could you give us a brief overview of your awards presentation at the 2023 Loyalty Expo?
Jamerson: We want to make sure people know who we are and know what Hilton Honors stands for. We are a loyalty program for Hilton’s portfolio of 19 brands comprised of 7,100 properties across 123 countries and territories, which is huge in the scale of how we’ve grown in the 11 years I’ve worked for the company. Hilton Honors places members at the heart of everything we do, and we continue to listen, evolve, and innovate to make sure we’re giving choice and control over every individual stay because we know that’s so important.

One of the recent technology enhancements we’ve implemented — which has been unanimously celebrated — is around our complimentary Space-Available Upgrade program. Elite, Gold, and Diamond members cite that upgrades, in general, are one of the most valued benefits that our program offers, especially for our business travelers who look forward to comfort and care when they are truly on the road and away from their homes and families. So, we went to the market to understand how we could lean in and differentiate ourselves to show up in a way that is valuable and meaningful to the customer. When we did that market analysis, it showed that no one in the industry was doing upgrades well. To provide a step change into that experience for our members, we created a truly automated process that combines traveler data with the hotel inventory to award space-available upgrades 72 hours prior to arrival. Across the industry right now, most upgrades programs require submitting requests for upgrades. You don’t confirm it until you arrive at the property, or you ask at the front desk if one is available. Our program allows one in four members to be confirmed in advance, which has been a great win for us.


Who do you think would benefit most from your award presentation at the conference?
Jamerson: Because of the way we’ve used data and worked with our brand partners, I think brand leaders, technologists, and service providers will find a lot of value on how we did this, how we went about it, and what we ended up building. From a technical enhancement perspective, we were able to focus on efficiency, reducing cost to owners and the corporation, and the overall end-to-end user experience. I think that will have an impact as well.

I also think all brands and companies struggle with consistent execution. The more consistent we can be, the easier it is to maintain that level of trust and loyalty. Being able to create that consistency for our members has been critical and crucial. I think across the gamut, people will find value in this.

What are a few key takeaways attendees can expect to learn from your awards presentation?
Jamerson: I have four that come to top of mind:
  1. Our program — Hilton Honors — is committed to providing members with choice, control, and personalized flexibility through our benefits and how we innovatively distribute and make sure customers get them. Most importantly, our program strives to show appreciation for our members and their loyalty.
  2. Hilton is the first hospitality brand to create this new upgrade process. We’re first to the market, which is exciting. Combining the traveler and hotel inventory with automation brings the process to life.
  3. Since we launched the Space-Available Upgrade technology, we’ve discovered that early confirmation has impacted our members’ satisfaction. We’ve seen the appreciation satisfaction go up 6% and our accommodation satisfaction increase an additional 2% compared to those who did not receive an upgrade. Being able to compare the customer experience of those who are upgraded to those who are not, we’ll be able to share more about that.
  4. Now that one in four of our elite members are awarded early confirmation, we’ve hit our two million upgrade mark in just one year. The fact that we can quantify and tell owners in the business how this program benefits them holistically is exciting.

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