Hyatt’s Head Of Loyalty Is Stepping Down

Filed Under: Hyatt

Jeff Zidell has been Hyatt’s head of loyalty for about nine years, and is a great guy. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him on many occasions, and I’ve found him to be one of the most passionate people working in the industry.

Earlier this year he led the effort of rebranding Hyatt Gold Passport as World of Hyatt, which was no doubt a huge project, and easily one of the biggest loyalty program transformations we’ve ever seen.

Well, I’ve just received word that Jeff Zidell has decided to leave Hyatt. With the launch of World of Hyatt behind him, he has decided that now is the best time to embark on the next chapter of his professional life. Hyatt is in the process of finding a replacement for Jeff, and in the meantime Gina Tallarico will step in to take his place. She’s Hyatt’s VP of Marketing, Planning, and Implementation.

I wish Jeff all the best, and I think he’s the guy to thank for what a great program Gold Passport was. He built a program that was transparent, under promised and over delivered, and had some of the most innovative promotions we’ve ever seen. Remember the incredible Faster Free Nights promotion Hyatt used to run? That was all Jeff.

While I’ve been a critic of the World of Hyatt program, I suspect many of the principles of the program came from over his head. I’d rather not speculate on that in relation to this decision, and for me Jeff will have a very positive legacy at Hyatt. I’ve taken so many incredible, unforgettable trips thanks to Hyatt Gold Passport, and I have Jeff to thank for those.

I’ve loved redeeming Hyatt points at the Park Hyatt Maldives!

Good luck to Jeff on his future endeavors. I’m curious to see what this will mean for the future of the World of Hyatt program.

  1. Congrats, Jeff, on showing yourself out. Thanks for destroying something truly beloved and special in Hyatt Gold Passport!

  2. they lost a diamond in me. @DCS will likely find solace in knowing I’m with Hilton now…

  3. Are we sure this world of hyatt debacle wasn’t the reason he is leaving? I don’t think I’ve seen anybody that likes anything about the new program and I am sure it has led to a very large population of defections from mid tier elites as well as top elites who weren’t down with running on this new tougher treadmill. The very highest spending customers may like it, but everyone else got a worse deal.

  4. You’d rather not speculate, but we’d actually prefer that you speculate… give us something? What are your thoughts on this? This is very interesting and the timely seems a bit too coincidental… come on, speculate, you know you want to!

  5. @Lucky, completely disagree with your sentiments regarding Jeff.

    FFN existed long before he got there in 2008. A quick Google will turn up this press release from 2005:

    More likely, the Twitter debacle, his refusal to answer more than two questions on AMA, his recent silence, and the decimation of Gold Passport are the reasons for his ouster. Both Omaha and Marion Call Centers have said Hyatt Executives have been closely monitoring the feedback of Diamonds — of which, it has been dominantly negative.

    And let’s not even get into the fact that he could never answer a single email from the Diamond base directly — always shuttling it off to people on his staff that were not empowered to answer the questions…or his strangely “targeted” promotions that happened to never “target” those of us who have been Diamonds from the very beginning.

  6. The Hyatt program has been totally destroyed by this WOH marketing disaster. In the next cycle of elite renewals, Hyatt will truly see the results from Jeff Zidell’s horrible slaughter of their beloved program. The status match efforts will soon be in full throttle mode in an attempt to rescue the program.

  7. Interesting…reloaded the page five times, cleared the cookies and the cache, reloaded the page…still didn’t see the comment. Then, after just posting, it appeared. Very strange…

  8. I think this shows that #WoH was enforced from above.

    Truly wish nothing but the best for Mr. Zidell.

  9. @ Louie It probably got flagged as spam because of the link, and had to be added manually.

  10. I feel confident he did not choose to leave and was made to leave. I was a loyal Diamond member who made an effort the last several years to ensure I re-qualify. I haven’t stayed once this year at a Hyatt because I can’t make the new requirements so I mine as well move my spend and stays to someone else. I will blow through the rest of my points this year and then move on.

    The “he’s decided to leave” wording is core within corporate America when they try and allow someone to save face in being fired.

  11. Sorry, but saying that WOH isn’t the fault of the guy who did it is just pathetic, Lucky. Just pathetic.

  12. Is it really his fault? Surely he must have been given instructions, parameters, targets from above. It’s unlikely that he would have undertaken such an unpopular step in isolation. The one thing he did get badly wrong was the unlimited status match fiasco of a couple of years ago.
    In any case, who’s to say Ms Tallarico is going to be better; after all, she is VP implementation…and that’s been the biggest cock-up by far.

  13. It might be good to revisit your presuppositions, Lucky. The fact that Jeff is such a great guy seems to have clouded your view about both a) the mess of a program WOH is, and b) who in fact created said mess. Just a thought–but is it possible that good guys sometimes screw up and create crappy programs? Similarly, your presuppositions about the Hyatt brand in general sometimes surface in response to problems you encounter with them–often in the form of ‘C’mon Hyatt, why are you doing (insert issue). You’re better than this!’. Question: if Hyatt were indeed ‘better than this,’ why are they allowing these things to happen? And the follow up: how many of these things have to happen before your presupposition about the brand is altered? Is there a tipping point at which you finally say, ‘well, I guess they aren’t better than this after all.’ Just some food for thought.

  14. The latest is that Hyatt is offering expedited Globalist status to employees of many companies, as reported on Loyalty Lobby and FT. One wonders how that will sit with those required to get 60 nights ( 20 nights for those getting the targeted offer). Pretty pathetic, in my view.

  15. Ben- you’re such an idiot. To think because “he’s a great guy” that it somehow justifies the disaster that is World of Hyatt is crazy. To personally thank him for your trips – you’re insane! Good grief!

  16. “…..has decided to leave Hyatt” LOL!!!! LOL!!!! LOL!!!! Having worked in Corporate America for many many years this is what everyone that is laid off or fired likes to tell people. Since there is no more Hyatt loyalty program the role of Head of Loyalty is no longer necessary. He has destroyed the loyalty program and I am pretty sure it is coming back to bite him. I am nobody for Hyatt but I used to spend at least 20 paid nights a year on their hard to find properties. Since this “genius” decided to kill their loyalty program I spent ZERO nights and will keep that number until someone wakes up and bring back customer loyalty back to Hyatt.

  17. This is a material event for a publicly traded program. Won’t Hyatt have to put out a press release almost immediately?

  18. Sadly for all of us former Diamonds, WOH is an unmitigated disaster. I think nice guy Jeff messed up, and now his bad choices have come home to roost. Doubt there’s any way to put the Genie back in the bottle, but we can always hold out hope that there’s some way to resurrect at least a few components of HGP.

  19. Hyatt under Jeff Zidell’s leadership ruined Hyatt Gold Passport. He should go. Any hopeful successor needs to learn from the WOH mistake and make changes to bring back what loyal customers paid for.

  20. There are myriad former Diamond members that are now left out in the cold. I worked hard to keep my Diamond membership up for about a decade now. The new requirements are simply unattainable for me (and so many others). Jeff blew it. PERIOD. They are already regretting WOH and I’m sure they’re wondering how to win us (the myriad) back. Good luck, Hyatt. I spent hundreds and hundreds of nights at Hyatt over the years to keep my status. Now those nights? Hyatt won’t get 5% of those now.

  21. He may have been a nice guy and the changes may have been pushed from the top, but as the executive responsible, he’s the one to take the hit no matter what. I was a Diamond last year and my only stays have been award stays this year. I’m back in the SPG stable despite the Marriot uncertainty. Ironically, that was why I originally switched to Hyatt and had been happy until the changes.I can do 45+ for SPG every year and was able to stretch to 50 for Hyatt Diamond. But 60 nights with no exceptions is just too much. My $16,000 annual in revenue now goes to Starwood.

  22. I spoke to a former EVP of Hyatt a few weeks ago. He had dedicated over 30 years of his life to Hyatt. He said to me that he noticed a drastic change in the culture within the company when he decided to step out a few years back. Not sure if Jeff has shared similar experience but I sure hope Hyatt can keep the wonderful culture it’s had

  23. Earlier this year he led the effort of rebranding Hyatt Gold Passport as World of Hyatt, which was no doubt a huge project, and easily…
    …one of the biggest loyalty program transformations we’ve ever seen.
    …one of the most exciting aerial fireworks displays ever seen since the Hindenburg.
    …one of the most memorable corporate product roll outs since New Coke.

  24. Jeff Zidell destroyed Hyatt for me and lost both my and my companies business.His re branding of the Loyalty Program has been an absolute disaster and a dire reflection on the Hyatt brand .
    Recently I was in discussion with Mr Zidell over a number of inconsistencies with the WOH program he displayed a total lack of interest and simply avoided explanation for the degradation of service ,in fact it seemed he could not care less if my business went elsewhere ,now I understand why. It is disappointing that he flippantly disregarded the anomalies of the program and abandoned Hyatt by portraying such a disinterested attitude.
    My company , like him have also abandoned Hyatt and have never been happier . Hyatt in my opinion will never repair the damage he caused .

  25. So far this year we have had three month plus hotel stays internationally but only less than two weeks were spent at Hyatt. Their new program took my interests and incentives away. In the past I went out of my way to stay at Hyatt to get a diamond to balance out my Hilton diamond and Marriott and spg platinums. Now I don’t care anymore since Hyatt seems caring less and less about their customer loyalty.

  26. I guess the leadership is just now discovering that loyalty cuts both ways. To assume that the membership will continue with a program when it is striped down is, frankly, arrogance in the extreme. There will always be another competitor offering a better deal…. let’s hope the airlines take notice.

  27. Despite overwhelming evidence that the view is and was always pure fantasy, @Lucky continues to push it with starry eyes: “He built a program that was transparent, under promised and over delivered, and had some of the most innovative promotions we’ve ever seen. Remember the incredible Faster Free Nights promotion Hyatt used to run? That was all Jeff.”

    Whenever a ‘travel guru’ makes such a claim, a number of obvious questions usually come to mind, like, if HGP was all those great things, then why it is no more? Why was the program always in state of flux, introducing some great benefits that never lasted, or constantly trying different things, most of which were pulled just as members began enjoying them? I will tell you why and that’s the legacy of Jeff Zidell that culminated in the monstrosity known simply and appropriately as “WoH!”.

    While admittedly a likable guy, Jeff Zidell had no clue how to run a loyalty program, and WoH! is a reflection and culmination of that fact. Under Zidell, HGP was, at best, a work in program; at worst, at joke, despite its placement on a pedestal by self-anointed ‘travel gurus’. The program may have “had some of the most innovative promotions we’ve ever seen”, but most were utterly boneheaded and easily abused and,thus, ultimately unsustainable (viz. the Diamond challenges that gave the challengers all the benefits upfront!). I never took the “challenge” because I knew it was all fluff and no substance. Worse, many who took the “challenge” just enjoyed the Diamond benefits without ever intending to requalify and remain loyal to the program. In short, it was all very “innovative” or “lucrative”, which is blogger-speak for a benefit or a promotion that it is boneheaded and easily abused. The program would eventually catch on, which is why HGP’s benefits or promos were usually introduced and then pulled or scaled back, creating the impression of a program in a constant state of flux — a WIP. With the preceding in mind, it is easy to understand why some might have considered HGP “great program”: it constantly offered “lucrative” (as just defined), but ephemeral perks and promos! The end result was a program that never achieved the stability, maturity and consistency of programs like Hilton Honors or Marriott Rewards which, though much maligned by self-anointed ‘travel gurus’, are now the only programs standing!

    In a bizarre twist of fate and irony it can be said that Jeff Zidell is out because with WoH he effectively got Hyatt out of the hotel loyalty business, thereby making his own position within the company irrelevant.


  28. Trust me, this new WOH is going to be so awesome !!! As a matter of fact, if it isn’t, I’ll resign !

    Jeff Z.

  29. Next, they should fire the fools who chose the new program name as well as its designations…

  30. When I read something like this my first reaction is “gut the program and then haul it out of there” BUT I am sure there is more to the story! The more to the story MIGHT be that the new program was not his idea and that he now wants nothing to do with it and the fallout from the failed program. In the end we will never know unless he or someone at Hyatt talks after his departure. End result for us is we have a program that many are not happy with (I haven’t had a single stay with them since the program changes were announced!)! Let’s hope if this WOH pile was his idea that he doesn’t land somewhere else where he could mess up this program. If WOH wasn’t his idea…good luck to him wherever he lands.

  31. I just called the Globalist line and congratulated Hyatt on the good news lol. Let’s hope this is the first indication of much needed change coming to WOH.

  32. We are now all HILTON’s 😉
    Maybe I will rejoin HYATT in 2019 (if still standing) – by then the herd should be thinned out dramatically and a lot of suits will be waiting for me…

  33. Was diamond, have not stayed there since the change.

    Restore diamond exactly as it was before, restore diamond status to all who had it before, that is the solution.

    Now pay me half of zidells salary for this genius

  34. This is an interesting development.

    For those upset that Hyatt offered challenges, I was one of those people in 2015. IIRC, it was “sign up for the challenge, stay x nights (I believe it was 10) in x days, and you’ll get Diamond status through the end of 2016. Since I did this, and I was so pleased with the Diamond perks, I qualified for Diamond in 2016 for 2017 the hard way via nights. I’ve been delighted for the most part with all the Hyatt brands I stayed at last year (I want to say I stayed at around 7-8 total, from Hyatt Places to Regencies to Park Hyatts). I never had a bad stay.

    That said, I understand why those who achieved status based on stays are so peeved. It was a boneheaded decision and utterly un-competitive, and I have no idea why it was made. If it was to “differentiate the brand,” well, yeah, it did. And in the worst possible way for Hyatt.

    I do know Hyatt is very sensitive to feedback. I had a couple of phone calls with them in early March to apply a stay certificate, and get a couple of DSUs applied to upcoming stays. and all the agents were exceptionally helpful. To one of the agents, toward the end of the call, I basically said, flippantly “Hey, you’ve been really great, and I really like Hyatt, but that re-branding of Gold Passport to WoH and changing Diamond to Globalist is ridiculous.” Just an off-handed comment. Well, the agent escalated that up the flagpole, as I received an email referring to “recent feedback provided about the World of Hyatt loyalty program.” I honestly had no idea what he was talking about, since my comment was so forgettable/benign. I wrote back to ask him what comment he was referencing, and the response was a non-specific email about the feedback “provided during a phone conversation with one of our World of Hyatt specialists.” All I could conclude at the time was that the agents were hearing a lot of not-great comments on the program, and were passing on the feedback. I’ve not met with one Hyatt employee who likes the changes (including the names) either.

  35. This guy / their horrible support / their crappy IT and the changes they made killed Hyatt. They have lost a diamond and I will never give a dollars to those people anymore : they desserve the worst.
    Shame on them for having killed such and amazing brand.
    RIP Hyatt.

    So it’s good news for hospitality and Hyatt but it’s the whole marketing / IT / program teams they should fire for total amateurism.

  36. Ps : this incompetent has been fired for sure. He has killed the brand and created a monster. Crappy monster. Hyatt is out of the industry now because of such overpaid guys.

  37. I had 20+ nights at this time last year.
    2017 nights is 0.
    I’m taking Hilton over hyatt with. I plans to return.
    The lack of promos and current promo are pathetic.

    Good riddance

  38. I am leaving for 6 nights in a couple days. Every city I am staying has a Hyatt or three, and I am not staying in a single one. I too was a Diamond who has not even stayed a single night since the change. I will burn my few remaining Hyatt points later this year but I’m now Diamond at Hilton and Spire with IHG. That is good enough for me now and I will not worry myself about Hyatt at all.

  39. YES ! YES ! YES !
    This is great news ! No one can possibly ruin such a great program like Jeff did right?

    Remember the “secret sauce” fiasco? Let alone the destruction of the FFN, How about the old property specific promos? How about the old awards that included meals? Haha. No more 1k Diamond amenity. No more Diamond amenity at all….

    He decimated and destroyed the Hyatt GP program.

  40. Listen to all of you jabber on about taking your business elsewhere. You will all come running back at the first hint of a change that looks like a sweet deal that you can take advantage of. I despised Delta’s changes a year ago or so when they went to their revenue based loyalty model and everyone was up in arms about how bad it was and how they were screwing over loyal Delta fliers.

    Hyatt tried to implement the same thing and you all bolted because the gravy train of Diamond at 25 stays were over. You weren’t loyal, you could just use their program to get top tier benefits without having to really give a majority of your business to Hyatt.

    So if anything, Hyatt screwed up in their drastic changes by making them too extreme too quickly. They should have kept you hooked and slowly made it harder year after year for you to achieve Diamond. Make no mistake, you folks will all come back to Hyatt when they dangle some nearly free offer in front of you because you just can’t resist a sweet deal that seems too good to be true.

  41. A possible tragic punch line to all this is that ZIdell has been hired by Hilton/IHG/(or name your favorite program) at double his Hyatt salary to upgrade their “Loyalty” program.

  42. Gina:

    Recommended first actions:
    Bring back the 1,000 point Diamond/Globalist amenity.

    Bring back the best program in the history of hotel loyalty programs:
    Faster Free Nights

  43. Wow – what a thread… I too was a loyal Diamond member for years. Liked the program and amenities (especially breakfast and the room upgrades). Signed up for the Hyatt credit card and more. It was tough to qualify each year, in part due to Hyatt’s limited footprint, but I made the effort and felt that Hyatt valued my business…

    World of Hotels changed all that. From the branding to the much higher re-qualification level to the elimination of credit for using Hyatt credit card. The (poor) branding was icing on the cake. Like many of you, I have moved half of my hotel activity to Marriott (because I like SPG properties) and will likely move the rest to a combination of IHG/Hilton. I cancelled my Hyatt credit card yesterday. All we can do is vote with our feet (dollars).

    Personally, I thought Jeff was a great guy and very approachable. During the debacle of the World of Hotels roll-out, others, who know him better than I do have vouched that ‘he’s one of the few that actually cares’ about the customers. I’m going to defer to them and suggest that Jeff was implementing this program, which actually has the fingerprints of Maryam Banikarim, the Hyatt CMO, all over it. Most of us have moved on to other loyalty programs, but in their postmortem, Hyatt should put the CMO on the hot seat to explain why they wanted to encourage all of their best customers to move their business to Marriott/Hilton/IHG. Hyatt really does not seem to understand that in a competitive category like hotels, they have to be ‘easy to do business with.’ With Hyatt’s small footprint, World of Hotels made it much less attractive to do business with them.

    Best of luck, Jeff, in your future endeavors.

  44. It took a while until the (good) news reached me, since I’m no longer taking my business or immaterial interest to Hyatt. I used to stay 40-45 nights at Hyatt, 99% outside the US. Now in 2017 down to 2 and in 2018 likely no piad nights @Hyatt. Jeff gave me the boot, so I’m definitely pleased to see him depart.

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