If you've been paying attention to your travel loyalty statements lately, changes are afoot.
To varying degrees, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood have revamped their loyalty programs so booking a free award night is likely to require more cash — and additional earned miles, USAToday reports. Mileage programs traditionally have been tied to hard-won accumulated miles or points in exchange for free travel perks.
But appearing on CNBC Tuesday, Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen said, "I believe people vote with their feet and with their decisions."
"What we're seeing each year is an increase in our loyalty program penetration," van Paasschen said. Roughly half the beds filled on any given night at a Starwood property is through a loyalty program, he said.
Starwood's strategy includes free stays, and offering top service for their best customers. "The top two percent of our guests generate about 30 percent of the profitability of our system," he said. "Taking care of them is good business for us."
Starwood, meanwhile, is continuing its growth push by expanding in Africa, the Middle East and Dubai, where the company recently relocated its global headquarters for a month-long immersion in the local markets.
(Read more: Expect Rapid Growth in Luxury Hotels: Starwood CEO)