The new Waldorf Astoria Maldives

Again. If you’re reading this and thinking “I swear Hilton already tested pre-arrival room upgrades before”, you’re correct. They did, they were. Apparently, they’re back at certain properties, again.

Hilton loyalists currently face a conundrum when checking into most hotels: check in online for greatest ease with a digital room key, but likely miss out on an upgrade — or wait to do the small talk with the front desk, and hope an upgrade materializes.

For this reason, most Hilton Honors elites have avoided using mobile check in, since it eliminated the chance of a free suite upgrade. Now, Hilton appears to be making travel better, with upgrades processed in advanced, rather than upon arrival, on a trial basis.

According to Loyalty Lobby, Hilton is in the process of testing advanced upgrades in the app, which could streamline things for all. Why now? It’s a brilliant way for Hilton to cut costs, at a time when hotels are hellbent on cutting every cost possible.

Hilton Testing Upgrades Again

The pandemic has shifted the hotel industry more than many initially expected, with some hotels hardly distinguishable from Airbnb, in terms of level of service, as brands look to cut back on expenses.

Hilton recently did away with daily housekeeping in the USA across most of its brands. Many hotel chains have opted to cut “free breakfast” benefits for elite guests, as they work with hotel owners to make their loyalty programs inferior more “owner friendly’.

Cost savings are the flavor du jour, and tech projects which reduce staffing needs are getting a brand new look, after being largely overlooked during boon times. For Hilton, this could be a win-win.

Suite upgrades are a standard feature for top tier guests of the Marriott Bonvoy and World Of Hyatt loyalty programs, but not as typically with Hilton Honors. Pre-arrival upgrades are also virtually non existent.

Hilton, in an effort to win favor with travelers, while also cutting back on hotel staffing, is making an IT push to allow automatic pre-arrival upgrades through the Hilton mobile app and online channels. It could mean upgrades to standard suites for elites, too.

An email with the good news is being pushed out in advance, when checking into select hotels.

This means Hilton Diamond members would theoretically stand equal chance of an upgrade by using the Hilton mobile app to check in, as they would by visiting the front desk. Expansion of more secured ‘digital room keys’ makes the Hilton app even more attractive, and ending a fear of missing out on upgrades would be significant.

Loyalty Lobby reports pre-arrival emails of “upgrade success” on this front at hotels in Europe. A Hilton rep also confirmed the second round of testing for 72 hour pre-arrival upgrades.

“As an enhancement to Hilton Honors’ complimentary, space-available upgrade benefit, we recently began testing a new member experience across a small number of hotels globally, which will secure and notify the member of a complimentary room upgrade 72-hours prior to arrival,”

Hilton Hotels

Get On With IT

It’s clear that the functionality exists. It’s clear that every party involved would benefit, yet a global rollout, we’re still “testing”. Many travelers live for the front desk check-in experience, but many don’t.

Having a “no lose” option for both traveling groups, which helps the Hilton brand cut back even marginally on staffing would be a big “upgrade” for travel.

In many ways, it’s sad to see technology replacing the excitement and friendly feelings of “welcome” created by a good hotel front desk team, but it’s clearly the way brands are headed. Perhaps Hilton will put an end to tests and officially mark the beginning of pre-arrival upgrades, for once and for all?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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7 Comments

  1. Cool. Devalue points to a ridiculous degree, skip the free breakfast, no more clean sheets/towels each day but give me a chance at a marginally better room. They’re really sparing the effort on this one. What next, remove the bath towels and shift to a “bring your own toilet paper?”

  2. I’ve been Hilton Diamond for years. Now I stay at whatever is going to be the better place regardless of brand. In fact, I’ve been having significantly better service at IHG properties. Crowne Plazas have been full service with all amenities available. Heck even Holiday Inns have daily housekeeping, FULL breakfast and full service restaurant. Crowne Plazas even have valet parking. All things that Hilton has gotten rid of. Makes little sense to stay at a Hilton these days. This will be the first year in over a decade that I do not re-qualify for Diamond with Hilton. But really, Diamond status has little to no benefit with them anymore.

  3. Status with Hilton means nothing anymore. Hilton isn’t “loyal” so why should we be loyal to them? I say this as someone who earned Diamond status, it wasn’t automatically given to me. But after this breakfast debacle and now the housekeeping failure, why should I give Hilton any more of my money?

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