Over the last year The Points Guy has been bringing on some great talent, people whom I much respect. I was impressed to see Nancy Trejos, formerly of USA Today, pop up with a piece yesterday on the Marriott Bonvoy program. However the content seemed to miss the mark.
What seemed most off base to me (especially for a consumer-focused site) was passing along Marriott’s narrative that the program’s massive devaluation is somehow good for members. Not only did hotel reward prices increase 9-to-1 relative to decreases, but the most expensive 60,000 point hotels in the Marriott program will be going up to as much as 100,000 points during the year, a two-thirds increase.
Marriott says – and The Points Guy site passes along uncritically – that this is great because it means fewer members will be able to afford such rooms.
Moving hotels to Category 8, the company argues, gives members more of an opportunity to redeem room nights. In essence what it is saying is when the top-tiered hotels were available for Category 7 prices, standard rooms would quickly sell out. Now, the highest-status members with more points to use won’t have to compete for rooms as much, the company says.
“Many of these properties under SPG were not included in the awards chart and offered only upgraded rooms at a high premium,” the company says. “As we introduce enhancements, such as off-peak/standard/peak pricing, it will open up more availability to our most sought-after properties to our most loyal members.”
Even if you buy that higher prices benefit members (!) it’s still not a fair comparison because when Starwood charged more points for their best properties that came along with nearly unlimited availability. Under Marriott Bonvoy properties that are all suite, all villa, or all club are permitted to create a highly restricted category of rooms for redemption (no minimum percentage of rooms available on rewards required).
What’s more Trejos cites as examples “such specialty properties such as Al Maha Resort and the St. Regis properties in Bora Bora and the Maldives” which are precisely hotels that are tough to get on points even after the introduction of category 8 pricing. Remember that the number of points Marriott charges you has no bearing on the compensation a hotel receives for an award room. Increasing points prices from 60,000 to 80,000 and ultimately to as high as 100,000 just means Marriott Bonvoy charges you more, not that the hotel gets more.
Al Maha Desert Resort
But charging members more for reward nights doesn’t improve the program. Claiming that makes rooms easier to get posits a false choice. Marriott could make more rooms available at their most restrictive properties by compensating hotels more. Indeed, they could even pass along the price increase to hotels to help with availability. But they’re just taking more from members, and that shouldn’t be sugar coated.
I won’t begin to speculate on what motivates such a claim, instead I’d love to see The Points Guy offer a more detailed argument laying out why Marriott devaluations are good.