Ouch: Conrad Bali changed upgrade policy for Diamond members

I rank Hilton Honors among the top 2 best hotel loyalty programs in the world right now because of its Gold and Diamond member benefits.

Click here to read about my recent article comparing major hotel loyalty programs.


How I found out about the new upgrade policy

With Hilton’s ongoing sale, Conrad Bali’s nightly rate hit rock-bottom at just IDR 847k (S$79) nett per night. Nightly rate with points is also fantastic at 16k per night or just 12.8k (worth S$89.60) per night with Hilton’s fifth night free benefit.

Now, those are incredible rates that I don’t think we’ll ever see again!

So, I took the plunge and booked 24 paid nights and 20 award nights for the next couple of months. I had plans to book even more paid nights but thought that I should at least experience a couple of nights at the property before committing further.

Pre-arrival

The hotel sent a generic email with airport transfer information about a week before my stay. They had also pre-upgraded me to a lagoon access room 2 days prior to the stay.

Arrival

This was where I started to dislike the property.

At check-in, I was given a piece of paper showing my Diamond member benefits. It stated that Diamond members will only receive a “one up level” upgrade, excluding suites.

I have a couple of friends who received suite upgrades just 2 weeks prior and they were not informed about this upgrade policy. So, I thought that it was newly implemented by the hotel. However, the receptionist mentioned that this upgrade policy is not unique to the hotel but is newly implemented by Hilton Honors.

I was very surprised and knew that I would have blogged about it if Hilton Honors had removed suite upgrade benefit for Diamond members!

So, I went on hilton.com, found that space-available suite upgrade was still a Diamond member benefit and showed it to her. She then made a phone call before offering to upgrade me to the suite for 1 night to “experience it”. I declined and requested more information about the upgrade policy. She then made another call and offered a one-time upgrade for my 4-night stay. She also said that I will not receive the “special” suite upgrade for all my upcoming stays.

Hilton Honors Diamond member benefits

At this point, I don’t think she understood my concern. I had a problem with the false claim that Hilton Honors had a new upgrade policy, not that I wasn’t offered a suite upgrade as a Diamond member.

She said that they will need a couple of hours to prepare the suite and allowed me to wait in the lagoon-access room that I was originally assigned to. I agreed, and hoped that I could speak to the manager on duty at a later time to better understand the new upgrade policy.

Although, I was surprised that there wasn’t a suite ready. At the point of check-in, I could see the suite available for reservation on my Hilton app.

Shared the story on Suitesmile’s Instagram page that day.

The lagoon-access room

For a property of this age, the room looked great! I liked the outdoor area and how it led straight to the pool. I found the room very practical too as there was a proper work desk, dining table and even a tub in the bathroom. However, the television was small, old and had poor signal for the whole time that I was there.

For the record, I would have totally accepted this room for all 44 nights if the reason for not getting a suite upgrade was anything other than a false claim about Hilton’s upgrade policy. I would have probably even booked 30 more nights!

4 hours of wait

Instead of the promised 2 hours, I waited about 4 hours in the room. After making multiple phone calls to check if the suite was ready, I requested to speak to the manager on duty.

After a 30-minutes wait, the General Manager came. I wasn’t expecting to speak to the GM but I appreciated his presence to help me properly understand the hotel’s upgrade policy.

Vague explanation from the GM

I asked the GM if he knew the reason why I had requested to meet with him. He replied, “because you were not offered a suite upgrade?”. I then explained my actual concern.

Like the receptionist, the GM too, said the same thing: “Hilton Honors had recently made changes to the program that I’m sure you are aware of”. Again, I showed him the page on hilton.com. And his reply was “yeah, exactly, up to”.

I then said “yes, but at this hotel, suite upgrade isn’t even a possibility.” He disagreed and I had to show him the paper that I received from the receptionist. He then replied “ohh…yes…resort suites!”. Like as if there is a room called “resort suite” in the hotel and completely ignoring the words, “upgrade one up level”.

When asked “if Diamond members get 1-category upgrade, what do Gold members get?”, he replied “Gold members get Gold member benefits”. 🤦‍♂️

Throughout the conversation, he did not mention that it was a temporary upgrade policy.

Moving on

At this point, I knew that I was just wasting my time. It was already dark outside and I did not see myself bending over to this ridiculous claim that the loyalty program has changed.

I don’t think the hotel gets what it means to be a part of one of the best hotel loyalty programs in the world. For what it’s worth, I found out that the GM was newly-appointed less than a year ago. I don’t know for sure, but this may be the reason for the change in upgrade policy. I mean, he did not even know that suite upgrade is a Diamond member benefit!

I requested for a refund of all my paid nights, which had a non-refundable cancellation policy. After heading back to his office, he returned and was kind enough to agree to the request. He was very apologetic that there was no other way to resolve the issue.

It’s been 6 days since. The refund process has been completed and reflected in both of my credit cards that were used. I have also cancelled all 20 award nights at the hotel.

I am thankful for the GM’s quick resolution to this matter and for not making it any more frustrating for me.

HGI to the rescue

For that night, I booked a last minute stay at the hotel where Suitesmile was born, Hilton Garden Inn Bali, for 5,000 points (worth S$35)! I also took this opportunity to book a Day stay on the following day to receive 10,000 Hilton points with the current promotion!


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Common reasons to deny Suite Upgrades

Here are the common reasons that I’ve received over the years when hotels deny suite upgrade requests. While I sometimes find the reasons puzzling (because of low occupancy etc.), they were more or less acceptable to me.

  1. Full occupancy.

  2. Not many suites left.

  3. Base room is already a suite/villa.

  4. Suites not available as hotel is only partially open (due to the pandemic).

  5. Hotel has a local upgrade policy and does not recognise Hilton Honors’ upgrade policy.

Although point no. 5 is a huge turn-off, I would usually accept it, albeit disappointingly, but stop patronising the hotel in future. It is one thing to consistently deny suite upgrades but it’s another thing to mention explicitly that there is zero possibility for one. But hey, suite upgrades are “subject to the discretion of the hotel” anyway, as described in the official terms and conditions.

The Conrad Bali situation was something else and unacceptable to me. The hotel wrongfully claimed that Hilton Honors’ global upgrade policy has changed.


Why is a benefit like Suite Upgrade a big deal?

For customers to choose your program over the others, you have to give them reasons to.

For customers to stay loyal to your program, you have to give them reasons to.

That’s just how loyalty programs work.

Without these perks, customers will be better off booking their stays through Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) that offer the cheapest price. Through these OTAs, customers can even use promo codes or receive more discounts with a little hack.

Having the possibility of a suite upgrade on all your stays makes Hilton Honors among the best hotel loyalty programs out there.

Saying “if you want a better room, pay for one” is like saying “if you want breakfast, pay for it” or “if you want late checkout, pay for it”. These complimentary perks make a hotel loyalty program worthwhile.


Other Conrad hotels with their own upgrade policy

Conrad Bali is not the only one ignoring the global upgrade policy from Hilton Honors. It is a worrying trend among Hilton/Conrad hotels all over the world. There are similar reports about Conrad Seoul, Conrad Osaka and Conrad Dublin.

I can certainly understand why Conrad Koh Samui, Conrad Bora Bora and Conrad Maldives do not provide multi-level upgrades for Diamond members; these are all-villa properties.


Is there a better option in Bali?

If you are a Hilton Diamond member looking for a luxury holiday in Bali, you’re out of luck. Hilton Garden Inn offers fantastic value but without the luxury.

Hilton Bali Resort is an old, rebranded property. I’ll consider staying there in the coming months to write a review.


Does Conrad Bali still offer good value?

Of course. From my understanding, there are only a handful of chain hotels in Bali that provide complimentary lounge benefits for top-tier members. Hilton Bali, Grand Hyatt Bali, Hyatt Regency Bali and Sofitel Nusa Dua are some of them.

Marriott Bonvoy will soon have a whopping 30 properties in Bali but none of them is offering lounge benefits. The Ritz-Carlton does, but with a fee of course.


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How Conrad Bali could have handled it better

Make it clear on reservation page
The property could have been more transparent by sharing their refusal to recognise Hilton Honors’ global upgrade policy directly on the booking page.

Include Diamond member benefits in pre-arrival email
The generic pre-arrival email that I received a few days before my stay only included airport transfer details (US$ 28 each way).

Be better-informed
Staff could be better-informed about the loyalty program and member benefits. This is not much to ask from a luxury brand like Conrad.


Bottom line

I will be raising this issue to Hilton Honors Diamond desk to see if they have a better explanation for the upgrade policy at Conrad Bali. I’ll share any updates on this page.

While some members are going out of their way to stay loyal and maintain their status with Hilton Honors, properties like Conrad Bali are taking value out of the loyalty program.

I had to make a stand and vote with my wallet.

With Hyatt properties mostly old and/or grossly overpriced in Bali, I am grateful to be holding a Titanium status with Marriott Bonvoy.

13 thoughts on “Ouch: Conrad Bali changed upgrade policy for Diamond members”

  1. Hi there, I can confirm, that the policy of the local management has not changed as of now (July 2021). I was told at Check-in, that room upgrades are only granted to rooms below a Suite. The nice employee recommended booking a cheaper room next time so that an upgrade would be possible because I made the mistake of booking a King Suite and an upgrade to any better room like a Lagoon Access Suite is not possible because of the local management-rule, which – in my humble opinion – violates the HiltonHonors Terms of Service.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing! What I feel is, when a hotel loyalty program sucks in Asia, it’s gonna suck everywhere else in the world. 🙁

      Reply
  2. This is a really insightful review. Heading to the Conrad London St James for a few days soon, and have looked into their Diamond upgrade policy. From some other online streams, I understand they also only offer a one-step upgrade, i.e. only upgrade to the next room type if available. Suite upgrades are not offered – unless you have booked the room category below.

    Reply
  3. Hi suitesmile not sure if you read these FT comments about you and the Conrad Bali upgrade https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilton-hilton-honors/612422-conrad-bali-idn-54.html

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing! I’m not sure if some members in that thread read the whole article.

      To quickly address some of the comments:
      – I never "demanded" for a suite. As mentioned, would have gladly accepted that room if not for the lies.
      – Definitely did not "pull a DYKWIA tantrum".
      – Welcome letter was received on 21 March 2021.
      – Would like to thank the member who pointed out my mistake that 4pm check-out is not a Hilton Diamond guaranteed benefit. I’ve made the correction.

      I find it interesting that nobody in the thread mentioned anything about how the staff and GM lied to me about Hilton’s global policy because that was the main reason why I left the property.

      Also, fair play to the GM for changing the hotel’s upgrade policy again by removing the words "excluding resort suite". Does not mean that I’ll be visiting this hotel any time soon though.

      Reply
  4. Sorry to hear that you went through such an experience, I’m surprised they didn’t upgrade you to a suite as a diamond elite, given by the sheer amount of suites they have available at the property and they have a history of generously giving suite upgrades. Were any of the wings/buildings closed at the point during your stay? My guess might be they closed certain buildings that have all the suite inventory due to Covid, but that should be an easy explanation from the GM, no idea why he sounded confused when you pressed about the upgrade policy.

    We had the same terrible "upgrade" experience at the Hilton Bali Resort, we prepaid 5 nights. "Upgraded" to the cliff tower ocean view deluxe upon check in when they had executive suites availability wide open on their website for 5 nights. Front desk tried evading about their upgrade policy, claiming all their suites in the upgrade pool were sold out, so we requested to speak to a manager. Few minutes later, someone from the revenue department called and claimed they miraculously have one suite open, but wants to upcharge us fee for the upgrade.

    We decided to leave the next day when the front desk supervisor made a pitiful attempt to convince us that the room they gave us was a "junior suite" level room type. What’s even more absurd was how she explained that they never give comp suite upgrades to Diamond members, at least not at their property, she even boldly claims they don’t even give such upgrades to Lifetime Diamond. She then went to the back and made some phone call, and offered us 2 nights at an executive suite out of our remaining 4 nights, like she was doing us an extreme favor. Needless to say, we left, and they refunded our last 4 nights.

    For context, this was during the beginning of the pandemic last year during April. Rooms weren’t filling up, rates were still full price.
    The property plays around with room type and category naming after I did some digging.

    There are actually no premium rooms or mid level suites. It’s all the same standard room with the same layout and size, just different location and views. So the best room as a Diamond elite is a high floor standard room at the cliff tower. The next level room type is an executive suite, which incidentally is considered a premium level suite that is not part of the Hilton terms for a suite upgrade. Let’s not even talk about the Villas.

    Perhaps this was during a time when they had no GM in the property, so the staff are not properly trained about the Hilton program. Or perhaps all the Hilton properties in Bali just decides they can dictate whatever they want with their own elite suite upgrading policy.

    Like you said, we vote with our wallets. They basically just crucified themselves into our no-stay list. They are plenty of competition in Bali, especially in the touristy Nusa Dua area with competing chains like Marriott, Hyatt and Accor. We vouched to never return to properties like these that play games and evade against the spirit of their loyalty program.

    -exploreaswego

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your experience! Oh my, that’s not a great thing to hear, about the Hilton. HGI cannot be the only decent property in Bali!

      I’ve reluctantly booked a stay at the Hilton next month just for comparison’s sake. I’m now considering switching from 5 to 2 nights!

      Reply
      • I last heard they newly appointed a local gm, hope your experience turns out better.

        Incidentally, I’m looking at the points cost for the Conrad, and completely baffled with how they are gaming the system with the points cost.

        Search 1 Night – 18k/night
        Search 5 Nights on the same dates – prices inflated to 21k/night!

        Couldn’t find the rate of 16k/night that you are talking about..

        Reply
    • Wooow just read your story and I believe we met the same person, during my stay in May 2021, I was also upgraded to cliff tower ocean view, and when I asked why didn’t diamond member got suite upgrade, she told me that my room is a JUNIOR SUITE, and I was like hey im not dumb this is just a standard room with drink voucher, duh

      Reply
  5. Hi Suitesmile.com,

    I have an upcoming 4-night stay at Conrad Bali in the month of May. I’m wondering if you have heard more about this new policy from Hilton Honors?

    My upcoming stay would make me Platinum, but with this new policy, I think I won’t bother trying to stay Platinum in 2021 and would rather focus on other loyalty programs.

    Thank you for any update to this article !

    Reply
    • Hi Shin,

      Hilton Honors’ upgrade policy has not changed and the General Manager of this hotel was wrong. Conrad Bali is ignoring the global upgrade policy by having their own.

      I’ve had many great experiences in other Hilton properties worldwide and will treat this as an isolated case. Will not be visiting Conrad Bali for the lack of Elite member recognition.

      Fai

      Reply

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