Hyatt Just Announced a New Head of Loyalty, What Do You Want to Ask Him?

Hyatt just announced that Mark Vondrasek will be their new head of loyalty (and ‘business platforms’). I’ll be speaking with him this afternoon, what would you like to ask?

Vondrasek was with Starwood for 15 years, from 2001 to 2016, and in mid-2015 became Senior Vice President for Commercial Services overseeing sales and revenue management as well as distribution, loyalty, and partnerships. (Then-SPG head Chris Holdren, also an SVP, reported up to Vondrasek.)

Projects that reported up to Vondrasek during his tenure at Starwood included,

SPG Keyless, SPGPro, Your24, SPG Lifetime, Delta Crossover Rewards, and SPG Preferences. He has also overseen Starwood’s strategic marketing partnerships, including a long-standing, co-branded credit card alliance with American Express as well as high profile entertainment partnerships. Across Starwood brands, these partnerships – Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Coca Cola, Mercedes AMG Petronas, and Uber, among others – offer guests access and experiences like no other through SPG Moments.

He’s also a highly regarded horse breeder. His MBA is from Loyola University in Chicago so he’s no stranger to Hyatt’s headquarters city.

Here’s a McKinsey interview where he talks about the reason Starwood added benefits to the 75 and 100 night levels, making mobile relevant to guests, and delivering elite benefits consistently.

And here’s Vondrasek offering his recollections of what he’s most proud of Starwood for, a sort of requiem for a brand being swallowed by Marriott.

Here’s Hyatt’s press release:

HYATT SELECTS MARK VONDRASEK TO DEEPEN LOYALTY ENGAGEMENT AND ADVANCE BRAND GROWTH BEYOND TRADITIONAL HOTEL STAYS

Industry veteran and demonstrated innovator will help to build new experiences in high-growth areas

CHICAGO (Sept 25, 2017) – Hyatt Hotels Corporation (NYSE: H) today announced the selection of Mark Vondrasek as executive vice president, global head of loyalty & new business platforms, reporting to Mark Hoplamazian, president and chief executive officer. In this newly created leadership position, Vondrasek will direct Hyatt’s integrated experience strategy, which currently includes the World of Hyatt loyalty platform as well as Hyatt’s wellness initiatives including Miraval and exhale. Vondrasek will also be charged with creating and scaling new business opportunities, products and services.

“Mark’s successful track record, working in a brand-led, global organization makes him the ideal candidate for this role,” said Hoplamazian. “We are fortunate to welcome a leader with a reputation for transformation who can accelerate Hyatt’s loyalty platform, advance innovative products and expand Hyatt’s partnerships. This work is critical to our experience-based growth strategy and will deepen the relationship we have with our existing guests as well as expand our base of customers.”

Vondrasek joins Hyatt with more than 25 years of experience in building strong brands through the effective integration of marketing and operations. Most recently, he spent 15 years in leadership roles at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the latest of which as senior vice president and commercial services officer. In the position, Vondrasek was responsible for the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program, 10 customer contact centers, mobile applications, digital initiatives, business-to-business sales strategy, revenue management and sales. During his tenure at Starwood, he spearheaded many of the company’s most successful loyalty initiatives as well as oversaw Starwood’s strategic marketing partnerships. Vondrasek also held previous roles at Northern Trust, Fidelity Investments and Kemper Financial Services.

“This is one of the most exciting times in the history of the travel and hospitality space. I’m intimately familiar with, and have great respect for the Hyatt brand, the company’s entrepreneurial mindset and the strong foundation they’ve built with their loyalty platform and approach to growth and innovation,” said Vondrasek. “I’m eager to collaborate with the amazing team Mark has built to accelerate the forward momentum powered by World of Hyatt, the company’s movement into wellness and other opportunities to expand beyond traditional hotel stays.”

During the American Airlines bankruptcy The Onion reported that they planned a business stategy pivot from being an airline to focusing on their core business of producing American Way magazine. That’s how I feel about ‘advancing brand growth beyond traditional hotel stays’ through acquisitions like Miraval (to cleanse your this-and-that) and Exhale.

And watch out because according to Hyatt’s CEO the hire means that their “loyalty platform” will be “accelerate[d]” — is that like enhanced?

But Vondrasek certainly knows something about building irrational brand loyalty among customers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I would like to ask him how they plan to enhance the program to make it more competitive to the SPG/Marriott benefits, especially for those not at the Globalist level. Given the limited footprint of Hyatt it is very difficult to meet the 60 night threshold for Globalist and I would like to know why someone would invest 30 nights in their program to achieve Explorist level with such weak benefits. At 25 stays, you can achieve Platinum status at SPG(and you get the benefit of credit card nights, free nights, multiple rooms)…plus you get Platinum benefits with Marriott.

  2. When you talk loyalty, can you tell you the logic of Hyatt treating function organizers with the attitude of “thanks, but no thank”? As a volunteer, I book about 150 room nights each year and get credit for 3 nights. This year took my business elsewhere.

  3. A great choice
    I’m really excited to see him take over and hope he can take
    World Of Hyatt to the next level
    Much respect for him and a really wonderful open minded out of the box thinker
    Known him for many years back from the SPG days
    He worked along side some of the industry greats
    My only concern is the amount of targeted marketing that Starwood did in their SPG program influenced by their outside consultants
    It was excessive and poorly executed which alienated many a member
    The marketing budget was too constrained trying to get the magic spending lift out of those select members which imho which had a negative effect on the membership
    That has never been an extreme issue at Hyatt historically y
    Hopefully Hyatt will allow him the empowerment to really engage members like the best of the early SPG glory day years when they were Program of the Year in North America
    Hyatt Ambassador @Flyertalk.com

  4. I would like to ask why after 20 years as a Hyatt loyal customer, all my points (accumulated and never redeemed) were lost when I was inactive for a year. (I called and spoke to several reps indicating I had not traveled in Hyatt locations for several months and then and had not traveled at all due to a health issue.) I also indicated that I had receive no notice of forfeiture. (They responded that they had either emailed or mailed, though they could not tell me either address).

    Why would I ever book a Hyatt after the ignored me in year 21?

  5. Does he know what is broken about the program?

    That would be my question. Then what is he going to do about them – examples

    Things like not wanting to stay night #60 until the end of the year because of TSU expiration
    Things like not having awards count for stays means that we can’t take award nights, as we need the night credit.
    The breakage on the Free night certs giving them a bit of an off smell given how hard they are to use and still meet the 60 night criteria.
    The inability to use TSUs for early spring travel given the issue dates and expiration dates.
    The lack of a clear answer as to whether 60 nights or 55 nights are needed for TSUs when you are already a Glob and requalifying.

    Thanks!

  6. More of a this is what I want please either do it or explain why not:

    Count award stays toward night stays.

    Allow us to earn nights/stays with credit card spend up to Globalist. Even if it’s a silly high number like $100k I’d like it to exist.

    Update the credit card to have real benefits. A cat 1-4 night and free low tier internet are not cutting it compared to new credit cards.

    Fix the issue with hotels messing with award availability.

  7. What is he going to do to make Hyatt the preferred place to stay for casual individuals (ones who stay 10-20 nights a year in a hotel)? We are not chasing status (although likely have the low or mid tier thanks to CC) but want to feel connected to a brand. I feel connected to Hyatt, with my last 3 vacations at their brands. What will he do to enhance this and make me search Hyatt first when looking to book?

  8. What is he going to do for all of us decades long Diamond members who have been sent to the back of the bus. 60 nights is a long haul for someone like me who is self-employed and always chooses Hyatt, but now the program favors corporate clients who have not personal loyalty, and unlimited expense accounts. I have stayed in Hyatt Place(s), the only game in town, in many of the locations for my consulting, but the dollar requirement for life-time status of any sort, favors the corporate client. That guest may switch to a different chain the minute they move to a different corporation that has a contract with a hotels other than Hyatt. Meanwhile, I am true-blue loyal.

    So….. re-think that 60 night problem, and re-think the dollar problem and focus on building loyalty.

  9. I have 2 questions. I live in hotels, and I really like my hyatts and Andaz, but the value at my level of loyalty dwindles, I easily do 200+ nights a year in hotels. These two items are what is forcing me to stay at other brands, it’s basically money that Hyatt has and is giving back to me to spend elsewhere. I stay at 250-300 a night.

    1. The program perks slow down after 60 nights. They stop after 100 nights. There is no roll over, no higher recognition, no reason to stay. How will he fix this.

    2. The certificates for 30 and 60 nights expire after 90 days. My vacations are towards the early part of the year (too fast) and the end. I have a choice of stopping to stay at Hyatt at 59 nights in April/may or lose the value of the certificate. Thy give you 20k vs 30k value which is a kick for being loyal. Should these not be extended for people who continue to stay for money?

  10. It’s very easy to attain Starwood/Marriott status these days, because there are so many properties. So that makes it more difficult to justify staying with Hyatt when they effectively increased their threshold for recognition. They seem to have neglected this market effect when coming up with the latest program, can we expect any changes?

  11. To add…

    despite my high number of nights, which is just luck that I have a nice Andaz nearby the client, there are issues that will force me to leave the chain once I am in a different position, like many others.

    1. The lifetime requirement is just too much using base points alone. Does he realize that once I stop traveling for work and I will want to stay from time to time or with family, I will go to the hotel that gives me perks. This will be Marriott as my benefits are lifetime there. They have me as a lifetime client.

    2. Lack of roll over nights for status is a major problem. I feel all my nights over 60 are wasted. Just like with the lifetime, I could be a customer who stays 200 nights and the following year do 50 and lose my status and then, after that….well, to be honest, they lost me. I refuse to stay without elite status and the perks of free breakfast, lounge, etc. Why would I when I have a choice.

  12. Q: When do you plan to roll the WOH changes back to Gold Passport? (this will give me an indication of when my business will come back to Hyatt)

  13. @ Gary

    Hilton, Starwood and Marriott have been announcing great Q3 and Q4 promotions. Hyatt “responded” by announcing a fast-track to Globalist by way of their credit card, while turning their backs on existing loyalists. Where are the promos?! Is this what we can expect from Hyatt moving forward?

    —JRL

  14. MWWALK has a great point.

    Why are the corporately owned hotels the worst at playing games with award availability and create BS suites just for using TSUs.

  15. Some insights in general as to whether they plan to roll back changes to make it them competitive to SPG again. My primary program before WOH used to be Hyatt, I was a 75 night a year Diamond (in addition to SPG platinum) for the last 4 years. At the end of it I decided to shift all my stays to SPG for the following reasons:

    1. Lifetime Status: The biggest one for me as I don’t plan on being a road warrior for life and want to spend my family years with status. I’m Lifetime Gold with SPG and closing in on Platinum. But with Hyatt I’m only 20% of the way there with about as many nights but even on $200 a night rooms it’s pretty hard to rack up $200K of lifetime spend (especially when award nights etc/obviously don’t count).

    2. Award redemption: Hyatt needs to realize that most members (especially outside the US) make a sacrifice to stay at Hyatt and this is especially true on the award front. I tolerate work travel because it gets me sweet vacations, but for older travelers if they want to go international there are very few non Park Hyatt type properties in Europe etc. Don’t get me wrong love these places, but give me a decently located Hyatt or HR somewhere. Hyatt could use a foreign based hotel flag acquisition in the long run or some strategy to organically grow the international footprint, not just building HP’s in small town America and PH in international locations.

    3. Mid-tier strategy. I loved being a Diamond and thought Hyatt service/properties were better than the competition, but I would have not been a member (and the reason I have 0 stays to date) if I was mid-tier. There is no value proposition vs. the other chains, what is the strategy to clsoe that gap?

    4. Reward Partnerships: Marriott has United, SPG Delta, Emirates, China Eastern but Hyatt has nothing. While I don’t consider this a key value, I know lots of co-workers who choose chains based on this. Will Hyatt try to build this? Also I think there is some value given the smaller footprint in pursuing transferable partnerships like SPG nights and flights, anything like this in the works?

    5. Earning and the end of the common promotions. I get it, occupancy was probably up but other chains still ran good points promotions so I like a good consumer followed those. In the end I used to fund a great weeklong vacation at nice Hyatt properties for my 75 nights a year, but with the watering down of promo’s, the loss of the check in bonus and the lack things like SPG’s green choice option I just didn’t see the value for me directing my stays. Any shift in strategy or will short term profit orientation dilute the focus on building long-term loyalty?

  16. I would discuss loyalty program fraud with him and ask what his strategies are for identifying it and preventing it.

  17. (1) Cat 1-4 certs provided annually with Chase-hyatt credit card are not as valuable as comparable Chase-IC hotels free night – expect to see many people dumping Chase card as there are no other benefits with real value (bonus spend categories aren’t even competitive with CSR card).
    (2) They are losing business because Explorist breakfast benefits/lounge access are not comparable to Marriott/Hilton Gold.
    (3) Should consider off-peak discount awards for slow seasons.

  18. 1) Will 55 night Globalist Qualification award TSU certs.
    2) will he allow awarded TSU certs. to go from program year to program year instead of one year from when you are awarded them.
    3) will award nights ever count towards status.
    4) will separate bookings at the same property and date ever count for more than one night.

  19. Agree with all the points Beachfan raised. For me, in particular, the inability to use a TSU when making an advance reservation for a stay in March or April of each year due to the expiration of the TSU’s at the end of February. At least let them be good until June 30th of the following year. Free parking only on award stays is another annoyance – should at least be given to all Lifetime Globalists.

  20. Why do you have to ask for elite benefits instead of them being given? Having to push properties into honoring what’s is promised isn’t very rewarding.

  21. With the dropping of Gold Passport, I dropped my Hyatt CC. Hyatt was my preferred choice of Hotels until then.
    What would bring me back?
    For starters, 2 free nights at any Hyatt when getting the card again. Very appealing.
    Also, anniversary cert at Cat I-IV doesn’t make it anymore with bracket creep. Needs to be at least I-V to compete, and why not improve to any hotel in Hyatt family, Like IHG?
    Also, growing Hyatt would be helpful. Perhaps can find Synergy with another group. Unfortunately, Starwood, Kimpton, Fairmont and others were snapped up by more aggressive hotel groups.
    I would like to be involved again in the Hyatt family, if welcomed in ways I mentioned above.

  22. Would love to see a way to increase status from Discoverist to Explorist via a “nights” credit for having the Hyatt cc. Once you hit Explorist, the credit card literally means nothing since benefits start at 30 nights regardless of cc membership. How about a 5-7 night credit for having the card?

  23. I’m a long time diamond and Hyatt enthusiast. I historically have strongly encouraged friends, family and employees to stay Hyatt .

    Because of changes to world if Hyatt, looks like I’m moving credit card usage and nights along with enthusiasm to a competitor. New plan looks very weak for those who are only able to stay 20-50 nights.

    Sadly
    Cmf

  24. Long time Diamond member. Just 6 nights this year as I felt 60 was unattainable

    Give us an honest assessment of WoH. What were they hoping to attain? Are they satisfied? Really happy kicking long term loyal Diamonds out?

    Please bring back reasonable 25 stay qualification or ways to accelerate qualification

    And please bring back reasonable comprehensible names like Diamond

  25. Of course, the big Q: How do they plan to resurrect what was previously one of the best, if not the best, loyalty/status recognition programs? And if Hyatt will gain any of Starwood’s airline partners. Presumably, Marriott can’t have both Delta and United moving forward.

  26. As a business owner three things maximize my satisfaction/ value desire in a hotel:

    1. Late checkout
    2. Free internet
    3 Free breakfast, coffee, snacks

    The suite upgrades are fine but mostly irrelevant. For my 4-5 vacations an upgrade is nice but for my 150 stats a year not feeling nickle and dimed for captured consumer pricing on those issues is key to my loyalty. My question:

    What is required of a program to provide those benefits to customers and also be profitable to the company? Literally what is the cost per stay for those services and can it be provided at cost at a ” reasonable” status level. Maybe road warrior pewter.

  27. I would ask him if this is Hyatt’s admission that the World of Hyatt revamp was a major failure in their eyes, as it is in this former customer’s.

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