Hyatt: Past, Present, and Future

Todd Tomlin, formerly an executive with Hyatt Gold Passport and now in charge of plans to relaunch Hyatt gift cards, is a fellow travel junky just like you and I. He even shared a few tricks for evading Chinese visa requirements on mileage runs! I grew up a Hyatt fan, so it was great to hear him talk a bit about the history of Hyatt and the distinction between some of its brands, which has often confused me.

Hyatt started in 1957 as, believe it or not, an airport hotel. The original Hyatt House at LAX eventually branched into a chain of Hyatt House airport hotels before becoming the more upscale company it is today (of course, Hyatt House has returned as the new name for its extended stay brand after acquiring Summerfield Suites). Oddly enough, today there are no Hyatt hotels anywhere near LAX with shuttle bus service.

picture of Hyatt House in 1957

The first Hyatt House, opened in 1957 at LAX.

Hyatt architecture is certainly distinctive, and I should try to get Megan to write more about this. Hyatt helped launch the atrium concept in hotel design with the help of architect John Portman. Examples remaining today include the Hyatt Regency San Francisco-Embarcadero and the Hyatt Regency Houston. These hotels are also where Hyatt launched the first rotating restaurants, although most today do not rotate and have been converted into Regency Clubs. The little boy in me wishes those motors were still in action. :D

Todd gave a brief overview of the different Hyatt brands, which I found interesting because I’ve been confused lately why certain hotels may be called a Regency property (or not) when they don’t really seem to be in the same league. Apparently the Regency designation has less to do with quality and more with the approach to service and amenities.

The three main Hyatt brands are Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, and Grand Hyatt. Other brands are either economy or super-luxury hotels. Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt hotels are large, full-service hotels that have meeting facilities and sometimes full-scale convention centers.

What is Hyatt, then? This brand was only started a couple years ago and always has a tagline for the city where it’s located (e.g., Hyatt Olive8 Seattle). They are geared to smaller cities that may already have another Hyatt brand or can’t support a Hyatt Regency and aim to include local influences. For example, the Hyatt Olive8 serves local wine and cheese in its Diamond welcome amenity (instead of serving Canvas wine, which is still good) and is LEED certified. Its restaurant, Urbane, partakes in the movement toward locally grown food. Some Hyatt hotels fulfill this local spirit ethos better than others, but at least now I know what to expect.

As for Hyatt’s future, I can relay that Hyatt has plans to limit cross-branding and cross-promotional exercises. Unlike, say, Starwood, which allows you to redeem your Starpoints with dozens of airlines and for non-hotel experiences, Hyatt wants you to use your Gold Passport points for Hyatt stays. And I’m fine with that; their award table is generally pretty good. Currently Hyatt has 175 hotels in the pipeline, meaning a 30% expansion to their portfolio, so you can look forward to more destinations to redeem your points in the future.

image of interior of Andaz Maui

Rendering of the new Andaz Maui at Wailea, opening in 2013.

Hyatt is also considering the addition of cash + points awards and letting award stays count toward elite status, much like Starwood already allows. The main reason for not offering these earlier seems to be that Hyatt has some definite IT issues, as I’m sure we all know from using their website. Hyatt.com now allows you to store your credit card information in your profile and will soon add the ability to book award stays directly from the same page when searching for paid stays (currently you have to use different search tools for paid and award stays).

What about bath amenities? I shared last week that Portico White Ginger is on the way out. Although hotels still have to work through existing stock, new bath amenities will be appearing very soon. KenetMD is the new brand for main Hyatt brands, including Hyatt and Hyatt Regency. Hyatt Place and Hyatt House will be getting Be Well, a sub-brand of KenetMD. Some of you, like me, have already experienced June Jacobs at Grand Hyatt properties, which will become the new standard, while Park Hyatt properties will get Le Labo or Miller Harris. Andaz boutique hotels, as is their nature, will continue to choose their own toiletries individually.

Finally, someone piped up and asked how to get a Private Line agent, one of Hyatt Gold Passport’s personal reservations agents offered to Diamond guests for booking and managing all of their hotel stays. The short answer: by invitation only. I’m about to start my second year of Diamond status, so I’ll keep holding out hope that one of those invitations lands in my inbox. ;)

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Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • Kathy

    Ha…I’m a 5th grade level points junkie…glad my question was a good one. I’m bettin’ this blog post will help. ~ Kathy

  • Tim

    You do know there’s a Hyatt Place LAX hotel opening next month right?

    • MilesFromBlighty

      But have you seen the prices?

    • Scottrick

      And it won’t have shuttle service, either, last I checked. Not really an airport hotel if I have to pay $20 for a cab each way.

      • http://twitter.com/sjsheppa Stephanie Sheppard

        Actually, it will! :) Free shuttle service to & from LAX. Accepting reservations from December 12 and beyond.

        • Scottrick

          Thanks for correcting me, Stephanie! I’m glad to hear that service has been added.

  • Peter S

    So what are the tips for avoiding visa when transfering through China?

    • Scottrick

      Todd asked that we not share that. But if you take a close look at the visa requirements, you can probably figure it out.

      • Is It Satan?

        That’s pretty idiotic. Crow about a trick for not needing Chinese visas in the first paragraph, and then not even mention anything more about it.

        While I’m sure it’s just the 24 or 48 hour transit visa, it’s quite bad form to tease and not deliver.

        • Scottrick

          It really wasn’t the point of this post at all. It was an anecdote about how Todd is a frequent flyer junkie just like many of us. If I had said “Read here to learn how to evade the Chinese visa requirement” you might have a point.

  • Mommy Points

    I’m looking for my invitation, too. Ha ha. I’ll be quite excited if/when some of those proposed improvements make it down the pipeline. ;)

  • Carl

    I’m still confused about the relative quality and brand features among Hyatt, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency. I used to think it was Park Hyatt > Grand Hyatt > Hyatt Regency > Hyatt in descending quality order. But lately I’ve seen some Grands that seem to be no better than Hyatt Regency’s, and it seems more confused than ever.
    They promised to get rid of White Ginger in Sept 2011 at Starmegado3, as soon as they worked through their inventory…
    I wish they would throw in an additional Diamond amenity like a drink and appetizer at properties that have no Club Lounge

    • Scottrick

      I thought so, too, and it’s supposed to be true at the upper scale. But there is no implied difference in quality between Hyatt Regency and Hyatt, just a difference in the level of service promised. A Hyatt Regency has multiple restaurants, a spa, meeting facilities, etc. A Hyatt is a smaller hotel, usually in areas that can’t support a full Hyatt Regency (or in the case of places like Seattle, there’s already a Grand Hyatt next door).

      So a good ranking would be Park Hyatt > Grand Hyatt > Hyatt Regency = Hyatt. I’ve stayed in good and bad Hyatts in both the Regency and non-Regency designations. But the Grand Hyatts have always beat both of them.