Marriott is buying Starwood. The deal is expected to close in June. It has now cleared anti-trust hurdles in both the US and Canada.
SkyCity Marriott, Hong Kong Airport
Two narratives coming from folks at Starwood may give positive indications of things to come in both the short and the long term.
Starwood’s Internal Messaging: Program Safe Through at Least 2017
Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood still won’t close for a few months, and if they’re going to fold Starwood into Marriott and fold Starwood Preferred Guest into Marriott Rewards that’s a minimum 18 month IT project. So I’ve been saying that Starwood Preferred Guest lasts at least through 2017. (That isn’t to say there couldn’t be some changes to the SPG program made along the way of course.)
Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members who stay at least 100 nights with the program each year receive a designated “Ambassador” — an individual designated to handle all Starwood issues, “gets to know you over time” and “provide the personal touches that make each trip special.”
In practice, the quality of each Ambassador varies and many likely have too many guests to really work hard for each member assigned to them. But having an Ambassador is better than not having an Ambassador.
Ambassadors are apparently being told they’re safe until at least the end of 2017. In other words, like my assumption about Starwood Preferred Guest remaining largely intact not just this year but also at least next, Ambassadors are being told that program (and thus their jobs) are also intact at least that long as well.
Marriott Considering Adopting an Ambassador Program
Starwood has been much stronger on elite benefits than Marriott, and that’s the crux of member concern about the merger. Marriott members get access to nicer hotels with their points, and Marriott Rewards offers a stronger rebate for in-hotel spend. It’s Starwood’s treatment of elites that has far outpaced Marriott. Marriott doesn’t offer guaranteed late checkout, a commitment of suite upgrades outside Asia Pacific, or breakfast at resorts or Courtyard or Ritz-Carlton properties. (Marriott also doesn’t have the strong points to miles transfers of Starwood either.)
W Seoul Walkerhill
So word that Marriott has in mind some of the high end services that Starwood offers to elites is heartening. And indeed word is that Marriott had been working on an Ambassador program similar to Starwood’s in the months prior to the merger.
What’s more, that program may have been on hold given that the merger was pending and Starwood already has such a program. That would suggest Marriott keeping the benefit and perhaps even expanding it.
These narratives come from the Starwood side, rather than Marriott (unlike when I leaked new benefits coming for Marriott Rewards), and though they’re being talked about by multiple people I can’t verify that they’re coming from different places so I leave this in the category of rumor though it seems credible.