As Marriott continues integrating Starwood as part of their merger, there are plenty of developments and plenty of questions.
It’s only been about a month since the merger was finally approved. Immediately thereafter, Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest had great news for us about using our points at both chains. They provided an immediate path to link your Marriott Rewards (or Ritz-Carlton Rewards) account with your Starwood Preferred Guest account.
In case you haven’t linked your accounts yet, follow these steps and do it now.
Still Plenty Of Questions
Marriott and SPG haven’t answered all of our questions. Well, it’s mostly Marriott that hasn’t filled in the blanks, since they’ll be the ones making those decisions. We still don’t know how they’ll arrive at benefits for the combined loyalty companies on items like breakfast for elites and lifetime status. And, we’re not sure what will happen with those Suite Night Awards SPG likes to brag about.
In case you’re not familiar, Suite Night Awards (SNAs) was a program SPG rolled out a few years ago to increase the chances that Platinum elite members received a suite upgrade when they wanted them. Platinum members who stayed at least 50 nights received 10 Suite Night Awards to use over the course of the year on stays they deemed most important. The process was akin to raising your hand and saying a specific stay was important. There was no guarantee and the process was opaque.
Suite Night Awards performed so poorly at first that SPG came out and extended the expiration dates of the initial SNAs. As a second attempt to improve the satisfaction with the benefit, SPG actually offered completely different benefits if you didn’t want SNAs. The first set of offerings were weaker, but now a Platinum 50-night member can get a free hotel night if they want to pass on Suite Night Awards.
Will Suite Upgrades Be Part of The Future At Marriott?
I’m at a conference this weekend where executives from both SPG and Marriott spoke yesterday. Thom Kozik (Vice President of Global Loyalty at Marriott) and David Flueck (Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest) answered questions and I took the time to ask, “How does SPG feel about the implementation of Suite Night Awards and how does Marriott feel about their future?”
I’m paraphrasing their answers, but this is the gist of what SPG’s David Flueck said. They feel like the implementation has gone well. The top properties are still the ones that most members want to target and that causes complications with Platinum members and their expectations. The bottom line is that they believe they’ve made progress but they still have work to do.
Thom Kozik relayed an interesting story from right after the merger was announced. Again, paraphrasing, he tells the story of Bill Marriott walking into a meeting and saying something along the lines of, “SPG offers these suite awards to all of their top-level elite members. Why don’t we?”
Thom says they want to offer this benefit. It’s been on their road map for a while and they have a strong desire for a better solution here. I asked a follow-up about whether Marriott franchise agreements might present an impediment in requiring individual properties to serve up suite inventory to elite members. Marriott doesn’t consistently offer a suite upgrade benefit to elite members now, so I thought this was a legitimate possibility. He doesn’t believe that’s their issue, rather saying that technology is the most immediate hurdle. He summed it up nicely, “Software doesn’t write itself.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
We wait. And, probably wait some more. There are lots of positives from a merger between two hotel chains the size of Marriott and Starwood. So many properties to redeem your award points at. However, assembling the technology for new initiatives will take time, especially given that Marriott has had a bit of a reputation of being behind the curve on tech. I was surprised that they were ready to link accounts and transfer points as soon as they were. That’s a positive sign for future development. But, since Marriott doesn’t offer a suite benefit today, I suspect it’s not at the top of the list.
By not offering a suite upgrade benefit to elite members, Marriott would find themselves sorely uncompetitive on both this and breakfast benefits to chains like Hyatt, even with all of the recent Hyatt changes.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 12 months.
The post How Marriott And Starwood Feel About Suite Upgrades For Elite Members was published first on Pizza in Motion