Back in May we learned that Jeff Zidell was stepping down as the head of loyalty at Hyatt. Jeff is a great guy, and one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met when it comes to loyalty programs. He’s the guy to thank for what a creative and well executed program Gold Passport was, given that he had been in that position for almost a decade. I have the utmost respect for Jeff, and his replacement will have big shoes to fill.
Unfortunately earlier this year Hyatt introduced World of Hyatt, which didn’t prove as popular with members. To this day I wonder what exactly the thought was that went into the program.
While not a direct replacement, today Hyatt announced that Mark Vondrasek has been appointed Hyatt’s executive vice president and global head of loyalty & new business platforms. So not only will Mark be responsible for World of Hyatt, but he’ll also be responsible for the addition of resorts like Miraval to the Hyatt platform, and for “creating and scaling new business opportunities, products, and services.” Eventually Hyatt will also be hiring a senior vice president of loyalty, though that person hasn’t yet been announced.
For some background on Mark, he spent 15 years in leadership roles at Starwood, most recently as a senior vice president and commercial services officer. There he managed Starwood Preferred Guest, 10 customer contact centers, mobile applications, digital initiatives, business-to-business sales strategy, revenue management, and sales. When I first heard that Hyatt had a new head of loyalty I had hoped that s/he would be from Starwood, and I’m happy to see that’s the case.
Per the press release, here’s what Hyatt’s CEO and also Mark Vondrasek had to say:
“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.”
“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.”
I don’t think I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting Mark, but he seems like a good guy. Last year Starwood did a series where Starwood employees could share what makes them “#StarwoodProud,” and here’s Mark’s video:
I appreciate how passionate he is about innovation and all the Starwood “firsts,” and hopefully he can bring a similar spirit to Hyatt. So in addition to hopefully making positive changes with World of Hyatt, I’m also excited to see what new partnerships Hyatt can come up with.
I’ll have the chance to speak with Mark this afternoon, so will report back on that conversation. If anyone has any questions they’re especially curious to know the answer to, leave them below, and I’ll try to ask them.