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On Monday morning, Hyatt announced that Mark Vondrasek is its new executive vice president, global head of loyalty and new business platforms. Vondrasek was previously responsible for the popular Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, so his arrival at Hyatt could bode well for the future of the chain’s loyalty program at what many would argue is a critical time.
Hours after the announcement, we spoke with Vondrasek about his thoughts and plans at Hyatt, especially in regards to the introduction of World of Hyatt earlier this year. As you might expect, Vondrasek didn’t yet have revolutionary strategies to share on his very first day on the job, but he did acknowledge some of the customer feedback expressed over the past few months, including from readers of The Points Guy. “I’ve read all of the blogs and I think anytime you change from a program that’s been around a long time to a new platform, there’s clearly elements of the relaunched World of Hyatt program that members are having challenges with,” he told us. “But that’s the reason that on this very first day, we’re having discussions like this with people like you.”
Does that mean Hyatt customers can expect changes to World of Hyatt, especially on the contentious issues of no longer being able to qualify for elite status based on stays, and award nights not counting toward status? We posed both of those questions directly to Vondrasek — he wasn’t prepared to commit to making changes but noted that he’s “on a fact-finding mission to gather these concerns and, at a minimum, provide the greatest amount of transparency, and at a maximum make changes based on listening to our members.”
The future of Vondrasek’s previous program, Starwood Preferred Guest, remains cloudy due to the merger between Marriott and Starwood. But Vondrasek said he was excited by the opportunity at Hyatt because he saw similarities between Hyatt and SPG. “When I was at Starwood, from a loyalty perspective, the program that we felt shared our DNA were always the folks at Hyatt,” he said.
“This whole notion of thinking beyond traditional hotel space was shared between what we did at Starwood and what they do at Hyatt. I think the reality is that you’ve got traditional loyalty programs, and then programs who are trying to redefine the space,” he added. “True loyalty is not defined in 12 month increments. Loyalty is about reciprocity and recognition.”
While it’s nice to hear Vondrasek saying all the right things on his first day on the job, it remains to be seen what tangible actions the chain will take going forward, if any, in regards to its revamped loyalty program. Vondrasek, whose duties also include overseeing recent Hyatt acquisitions such as Miraval Group and Exhale, noted that Hyatt will be moving quickly to bring a senior vice president of loyalty on board by the end of 2017. So today’s announcement is just the first piece of a shifting Hyatt loyalty puzzle.
Featured image courtesy of John Greim / Getty Images.
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