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Updates to Hilton's loyalty program will soon make Hilton Honors more lucrative for elite travelers. Between those tweaks and last year's cash and points upgrades, Hilton is bringing a strong loyalty program to the table for 2018.

Nearly a year after Hilton revamped its loyalty program to emphasize member spending, changes to Hilton Honors are still afoot. On Tuesday, Hilton plans to increase point bonuses for elite members and add further incentives for super-elite travelers.

Additionally, the program is starting a rollover program that allows members to push unused qualifying hotel stays to the next year for a head start on earning status.

Upgrades to point bonuses focus specifically on elite Honors members and are roughly in line with the hotel’s direct-booking campaign from last year. Under the changes, Honors members that book direct will earn an additional 20 percent in points for Silver up to 100 percent Diamond members on each stay. Program member earn Points based on the cost of the booking.

Beyond the direct-booking bonuses, Hilton is also starting a program that awards members 10,000 bonus points for every 10th night after the traveler stays 40 nights. In this way, extended loyalty can be built. Members can earn Diamond status, for example, after 30 stays, but the additional bonus can keep those top-tier members from defecting to another hotel chain after that milestone.

Two more perks that Honors is adding on April 3 are elite rollover nights, a common instrument used to extend unused status nights through the next year (Marriott has a similar program) and the ability for Diamond members to assign elite status to a friend after staying 60 nights.

Hilton’s upgrades, in aggregate, are great news for loyalty program members and a clear incentive for heavy travelers who regularly earn elite status with the program. And it may be a move in preparation for what may be a rocky year in hotel loyalty.

Later this year, Marriott and Starwood plan to unveil a combined loyalty program, which may be disruptive to hardcore enthusiasts from either side of the merger. Defectors from those programs will eventually need a place to call home.

Hyatt’s World of Hyatt program has suffered in the last year. By providing a reasonable, mainstream alternative, Hilton may be able to poach some of that program’s disgruntled travelers.

It is worth noting how the changes contrast to how the program developed through 2017. As View from the Wing suggests, last year Hilton Honors focused its program on making points easier to spend for entry-level travelers through cash and points transactions and an Amazon partnership.

This year, the tune seems slightly different. But with better value for low-end travelers last year and now with better incentives for elites, Hilton may be well-positioned to capture  significant market share from the full spectrum of travelers.

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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, hilton, hilton honors, loyalty

Photo credit: An exterior shot of the Hilton Midtown in New York June 7, 2013. The chain is making some big changes to Hilton Honors. Andrew Kelly / Reuters

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