Yesterday I wrote about the first rumors of a new combined Marriott-Starwood loyalty program coming soon. There would be 5 elite tiers and finally free elite breakfast extended to resort properties and 25 of 30 hotel brands.
It seems like we’re going to know soon enough, in fact there appears to be an announcement coming on Monday. In the meantime we’re hearing plenty about what could be included in that announcement.
While not necessarily in the final version of the program some of the things reportedly discussed in building the program include,
- Minimum spend requirement for all elite levels above silver. That’s contra yesterday’s rumor about a spending requirement for 100 night Ambassador status only. My guess is that the spending requirement for Ambassador makes a certain kind of sense, but I’m not sure how much upside there is to requiring it at each level other than to copy the airlines.
- Suite upgrades for 75 night elites only. Marriott hasn’t been good at delivering suites the way Starwood has. And with many more elites in the combined pool, in order to deliver them effectively, they may need to limit demand.
- Guaranteed suites 4 times each year for 75 night elites. This would be copying Hyatt (which offers them for a smaller chain at fewer nights) and would be a true killer app if availability is uncapped.
- “Guaranteed lounge access only for levels platinum 75 and above” essentially another indication that 50 night elites just wouldn’t matter under the new program.
- Free breakfast at resorts for platinum 75 and above What’s so special about resort breakfast anyway? It’s the only time many people have time for breakfast, and many business travelers aren’t getting it reimbursed. Marriott has excluded breakfast where it actually most matters, if they’re going to deliver something the rumor is that they deliver it for customers they think matter.
- Guaranteed late checkout changes: 2pm at Gold, 3pm at 50 nights, 4pm for higher elites.
- Dynamic award pricing instead of categories. Can Marriott IT reaelly deliver this in time for a new program? This would eliminate the possibility of getting outsized value for your points.
Marriott Headquarters, Bethesda
I put less stock in these rumors than in the more modest claims that came out yesterday. However the one message that comes through here, regardless of the specifics that’s in the final program, is that 50 night elites don’t matter.
Remember that Bill Marriott said the reason they bought Starwood was for more clout over their counterparties. That includes more clout over customers.
I’ve long said that smaller chains had to be more generous in order to get customers to go out of their way to stay at less convenient hotels. Larger chains have had to do less, and historically Marriott has had to do less.
Two years ago when I sat down with Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson he asked me why I didn’t believe him that he wanted to offer a better loyalty program than either Marriott or Starwood had offered before. And it turns out his desire for a strong program is that the loyalty program ties together all of their 30 brands, too many brands for consumers to understand, but hoping they won’t care because it’s all part of where they earn their points and status.
However they’re also cutting loyalty program costs for hotels which doesn’t rebound to the benefit of consumers though no doubt is largely funded by the new credit card deal Marriott has with both Chase and American Express.
Battle House Renaissance Mobile, Alabama
Hyatt took tremendous heat for their ‘World of Hyatt’ program changes where they essentially fired customers staying fewer than 55 – 60 nights per year. With a larger footprint it’s easier to concentrate stays with the Marriott chain than the Hyatt chain, but the rumors here are that as Marriott has gained scale it takes 75 nights to matter to Marriott and otherwise members are essentially being fired in the same way.
We’ll learn more soon enough it seems.
(HT: Doctor of Credit)