Starwood’s Big Announcement (New Benefits?) Coming Tuesday Morning

There are some changes coming to Starwood Preferred Guest, and instead of burying the news in a Friday afternoon press release and blaming high fuel costs (ha! they’re a hotel…) they’re actually touting the news. Starwood Lurker says it really is good, not the way loyalty programs usually use the word ‘enhancement’ to me ‘gutting the program’.

In fact, it’s been my understanding that Starwood has been working on some new benefits, in particular focused on their elite members, for quite awhile. But the driver of the project was lured away to market and brand the lauch of Starwood’s new aLoft hotel brand, and things stalled. Presumably this is the announcement we’ve been waiting for.

No, I don’t know for certain what the details which were finally decided upon actually are. So I’ll be tuning it. Starwood is inviting everyone to participate in the news.

Details on the conference call/webcast are here, and there will be two opportunities — 8 a.m. Eastern and noon Eastern on Tuesday. Bummer is we’ll have to wait and see…

Personally I’m hoping for one or two confirmed upgrades a year for Platinum members. That is, it’s currently possible to spend extra points on an award stay to secure a suite (generally double). It would be nice if Platinums got such a confirmed upgrade as one of their benefits, which would come out of the very same inventory. (If the relevant category ‘Suite Upgrade’ ie SPG[category #]SU inventory is available, it would be given to the member, and should cost Starwood roughly the same as what they spend when a member redeems those extra points. The infrastructure is roughly speaking already there.) I’ve written about this and suggested it several times over the years, and Starwood has supplied this benefit inthe past as a promo reward. So it would certainly be doable…

But perhaps there will be additional points-earning for in-hotel spend, since Starwood was never particularly competitive in this regard to begin with and as a result of redemption category increases the past few years it’s become increasinly hard to earn award nights based on hotel spending. (The Starwood American Express sure comes in handy, though.)

Starwood knows it has to do something, since what once set them apart totally from the pack — award redemption without capacity controls — is now no longer unique, since Hilton has introduced it as well. Starwood’s elite benefits are still superior to Hilton’s, but they offer real redemption opportunities now and at a generally lower cost (adjusting for differences in currency) in spite of a series of award chart increases the past few years.

Here’s hoping Starwood really hits back!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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