On February 20, I posted about cheap Hilton sweet spot redemptions in the Americas and Europe. On February 26, I posted another piece on redemptions in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Guess what: in just one month, Hilton has managed to devalue some of these properties. Gee, how dynamic of them!
The History of Hilton Honors Devaluations
Just like most other hotel chains, Hilton Honors (then HHonors) used to price their hotels and resorts by categories. Category 1 hotels cost 5,000 points, Category 2 hotels cost 10,000 points, etc., so the members could tell how many points a property would cost. Just like other hotel chains, Hilton would devalue change categories once a year, and, while these devaluations sucked and people kept bitching, members did have an idea how much they would have to pay for a hotel room until the next-year devaluation. That was a conservative and common-sense thing, and it meant that Hilton couldn’t devalue their redemption rates on a whim.
That must’ve sucked, and in 2015, Hilton executives came up with an elegant solution. “What if,” they must’ve figured, “we devalued our redemption rates not just once a year, but once every couple of months? Wouldn’t that be swell!”
And it was – for a while. But there was a problem; Hilton still couldn’t devalue as fast and as often as they would’ve loved to. Equally troubling was the fact they still had to publish the lists of changes. That made no sense for Hilton Honors people, who were looking in awe at whatever Delta Airlines was doing with their loyalty program, so when Delta boldly axed the SkyMiles award chart in its entirety in 2015, the fate of the Hilton Category chart was sealed, too. Why offer any kind of transparency to Hilton Honors members when it’s so easy to keep them in the dark?
So in 2017, after a series of experiments with “dynamic” pricing, Hilton decided it was time to go full throttle and remove the categories altogether to make sure the members had no idea how much one property or another is supposed to cost in points. In other words, they can now turn a Category 1 hotel into a Category 2 hotel virtually overnight without any warnings and notifications, whatsoever.
And, oh boy, have they been wasting no time!
Again, my post What Are Hilton Honors Points Worth in the Americas and Europe? came out on February 20, and What Are Hilton Honors Points Worth in Asia, Africa and the Middle East? – on February 26. Since then:
- Hampton by Hilton Medellin in Colombia has gone from 10K per night to (mostly) 16K-20K points per night.
- Hilton Salalah Resort in Oman has gone from 5K per night to 10K points per night.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melaka in Malaysia has gone from 5K per night to 10K points per night.
There have been other changes, too, that are less pronounced, so check these updated posts again.
So it’s only three hotels, what’s the big deal?
It’s the big deal for three reasons.
- It’s only three changes that I’ve caught, I’m sure there are more.
- I’ve only covered the cheapest hotels, a tiny segment of their inventory.
- Some of the former Category 2 hotels (at 10,000 points) were already devalued recently. 5,000-point hotels have already become extinct in the U.S. Check this and this, a couple of Flyertalk threads, for more recent Hilton Honors devaluations.
For the sake of fairness, Hilton did add some real benefits to the program in 2018, the most important (to me, at least) being the elimination of the transfer fee for sharing points between friends and family. But the outrageous lack of transparency (and the casual way Hilton approaches devaluations nowadays) are not instilling confidence. Hilton might feel it can afford to act like Delta, but it might be a mistake. After all, Hilton is not one of the only three major hotel chains in America.