How Marriott And Starwood Feel About Suite Upgrades For Elite Members

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.

A couple of weeks later, Marriott and SPG were back with news about using their co-branded credit cards to earn bonus points at each other’s hotels.

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.

Suite Upgrades

Junior Suite At St. Regis Rome

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.

Suite Upgrades

Our Suite at Arion Resort in Vouliagmeni, South of Athens

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

24 Comments

  1. Sorry but I just don’t get it. What’s with the manic desire to stay in a suite? Okay, I can understand if you’re on a vacation with your partner and wish to enjoy a little luxury and ego gratification (or travelling with family), but does anyone really need a suite on a one or two night stay on a business trip or short visit somewhere? I’m a SPG Platinum and from time to time get upgraded to a suite. It’s fun, but rather wasteful. Unless I’m entertaining and bringing people back to the room, what’s the point? Just give me a decent sized room with the standard range of amenities, a bowl of fruit or bottle of wine, and all’s plenty fine. (And of more importance as an elite tier benefit, access to the club lounge.) I’d rather have a couple of suite upgrade vouchers to use when I really do need a suite, than expect one on every stay.

    1. My take on this is that you only reach Elite status by staying/spending quite a lot of money. This perk is earned and should be expanded to motivate and reward Platinum members as well. I appreciate a little luxury myself. Its hard earned.

    2. DavidB, each has their own personal goals when they travel. For me, my family of 4 doesn’t sleep in one room and share one bathroom when we’re at home. We strongly prefer not to live that way when we’re on the road. Our “go-to” choice is to book connecting rooms, but that costs more money. If I can leverage a suite upgrade to get a suite that might have a living room with a pull-out sofa or the occasional truly elite 2-bedroom suite, that saves me money while my family still gets to enjoy travel comfortably. I really couldn’t care if I end up with a suite when I travel on my own. Most times I don’t even bother asking when I travel for work. I’m really just looking for a comfortable bed and a great fitness center for those trips.

  2. Sorry but I just don’t get it. What’s with the manic desire to stay in a suite? Okay, I can understand if you’re on a vacation with your partner and wish to enjoy a little luxury and ego gratification (or travelling with family), but does anyone really need a suite on a one or two night stay on a business trip or short visit somewhere? I’m a SPG Platinum and from time to time get upgraded to a suite. It’s fun, but rather wasteful. Unless I’m entertaining and bringing people back to the room, what’s the point? Just give me a decent sized room with the standard range of amenities, a bowl of fruit or bottle of wine, and all’s plenty fine. (And of more importance as an elite tier benefit, access to the club lounge.) I’d rather have a couple of suite upgrade vouchers to use when I really do need a suite, than expect one on every stay.

    1. My take on this is that you only reach Elite status by staying/spending quite a lot of money. This perk is earned and should be expanded to motivate and reward Platinum members as well. I appreciate a little luxury myself. Its hard earned.

    2. DavidB, each has their own personal goals when they travel. For me, my family of 4 doesn’t sleep in one room and share one bathroom when we’re at home. We strongly prefer not to live that way when we’re on the road. Our “go-to” choice is to book connecting rooms, but that costs more money. If I can leverage a suite upgrade to get a suite that might have a living room with a pull-out sofa or the occasional truly elite 2-bedroom suite, that saves me money while my family still gets to enjoy travel comfortably. I really couldn’t care if I end up with a suite when I travel on my own. Most times I don’t even bother asking when I travel for work. I’m really just looking for a comfortable bed and a great fitness center for those trips.

  3. @ DavidB: You miss the point of Suite Night Awards, which elites typically use NOT ON BUSINESS TRAVEL when we are alone but ON LEISURE TRAVEL when we are traveling with spouses or family/friends. If YOU don’t care about this benefit, then so be it, but you’ll discover that a lot of elites like me–who could otherwise spend to stay in junior suites or proper suites at luxury hotels like Four Seasons, Aman, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Rosewood, and similar boutique luxury properties–find the suite upgrade privilege with SPG to be an incredible value add that keeps us spending and staying with SPG. That’s a lot of revenue that we bring to SPG, and that’s why SPG has always had higher revenue and more affluent customers on average compared with all of the other major hotel chains. You obviously aren’t the target audience for such suite upgrades, and that’s fine…but just because YOU don’t take advantage of this benefit or wouldn’t spend to stay in luxury competition that creates the value-add doesn’t mean it isn’t of incredible value for way too many OTHER elite customers. You don’t ave any idea of what your speaking, nor why SPG was the king of luxury affluent travelers among the major hotel chains. People like me are the reason SPG had so much high value affluent customer loyalty, and we are a big part of the reason why Marriott was so interested in acquiring SPG in the first place.

    I am encouraged that Marriott wants to implement suite upgrades for its new elites in a future merged program. That is one of the biggest value adds for me with SPG. I was just in Venice with my husband, and we chose the Gritti Palace entry level room over the Aman Grand Canal entry room…and got upgraded to a one bedroom suite at the Gritti because of my SNAs. That upgrade was worth $4000-5000 alone in saved spending. I was just in Milan with my mother and chose the Excelsior Gallia entry level room over the Park Hyatt or Four Seasons…and I got upgraded to a one bedroom suite without SNAs while my mother got upgraded to a much nicer Excelsior room because of my elite status. Those upgrades were worth $1500-2000 in saved spending. I was in Bora Bora in April with my husband and we chose the St Regis over the Four Seasons…and we were upgraded to the Royal Overwater Villa simply because of my elite status. That upgrade was worth $15,000 or so in saved spending…and certainly made it obviously smart to stay at the StR over the FS.

    IN OTHER WORDS, YOU DONT HAVE ANY IDEA ABOUT WHAT YOURE TALKING.

      1. Yes, I am so pompous….as I used an Andrew Harper auction win for the St Regis Bora Bora for $6000 for 6 nights stay in April, about a 50% savings…and as I used SPG points for our stays at the Gritti Venice, Excelsior Gallia Milan, and Park Tower Knightsbridge London. Saving money and being value conscious like that clearly is pompous as I illustrate the value of SNAs to those who don’t get it or don’t like learning about how to get more value from them. Very pompous, indeed.

        I’d say your envy and bitterness are getting the best of you. Too bad for you.

      1. Yes, because my spelling and grammar are so horrific that it might not apparent that typing on an iPad might cause a few errors. Bitter, table for one, anyone? Either speak t the topic at hand or reveal that you’re a douche. You’re a douche.

  4. @ DavidB: You miss the point of Suite Night Awards, which elites typically use NOT ON BUSINESS TRAVEL when we are alone but ON LEISURE TRAVEL when we are traveling with spouses or family/friends. If YOU don’t care about this benefit, then so be it, but you’ll discover that a lot of elites like me–who could otherwise spend to stay in junior suites or proper suites at luxury hotels like Four Seasons, Aman, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Rosewood, and similar boutique luxury properties–find the suite upgrade privilege with SPG to be an incredible value add that keeps us spending and staying with SPG. That’s a lot of revenue that we bring to SPG, and that’s why SPG has always had higher revenue and more affluent customers on average compared with all of the other major hotel chains. You obviously aren’t the target audience for such suite upgrades, and that’s fine…but just because YOU don’t take advantage of this benefit or wouldn’t spend to stay in luxury competition that creates the value-add doesn’t mean it isn’t of incredible value for way too many OTHER elite customers. You don’t ave any idea of what your speaking, nor why SPG was the king of luxury affluent travelers among the major hotel chains. People like me are the reason SPG had so much high value affluent customer loyalty, and we are a big part of the reason why Marriott was so interested in acquiring SPG in the first place.

    I am encouraged that Marriott wants to implement suite upgrades for its new elites in a future merged program. That is one of the biggest value adds for me with SPG. I was just in Venice with my husband, and we chose the Gritti Palace entry level room over the Aman Grand Canal entry room…and got upgraded to a one bedroom suite at the Gritti because of my SNAs. That upgrade was worth $4000-5000 alone in saved spending. I was just in Milan with my mother and chose the Excelsior Gallia entry level room over the Park Hyatt or Four Seasons…and I got upgraded to a one bedroom suite without SNAs while my mother got upgraded to a much nicer Excelsior room because of my elite status. Those upgrades were worth $1500-2000 in saved spending. I was in Bora Bora in April with my husband and we chose the St Regis over the Four Seasons…and we were upgraded to the Royal Overwater Villa simply because of my elite status. That upgrade was worth $15,000 or so in saved spending…and certainly made it obviously smart to stay at the StR over the FS.

    IN OTHER WORDS, YOU DONT HAVE ANY IDEA ABOUT WHAT YOURE TALKING.

      1. Yes, I am so pompous….as I used an Andrew Harper auction win for the St Regis Bora Bora for $6000 for 6 nights stay in April, about a 50% savings…and as I used SPG points for our stays at the Gritti Venice, Excelsior Gallia Milan, and Park Tower Knightsbridge London. Saving money and being value conscious like that clearly is pompous as I illustrate the value of SNAs to those who don’t get it or don’t like learning about how to get more value from them. Very pompous, indeed.

        I’d say your envy and bitterness are getting the best of you. Too bad for you.

      1. Yes, because my spelling and grammar are so horrific that it might not apparent that typing on an iPad might cause a few errors. Bitter, table for one, anyone? Either speak t the topic at hand or reveal that you’re a douche. You’re a douche.

  5. Marriott Platinum elites are entitled to a complimentary suite upgrades (subject to availability) when staying at Marriott hotel in APAC. Participating hotel brands in Asia Pacific include: JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott Hotels. Hotel locations in Asia Pacific include: Australia, China (including Hong Kong S.A.R.), Guam, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. In Japan and South Korea, suite upgrades may be limited and may be offered at the hotel’s discretion. Generally, based on availability at check-in; in some cases, availability is determined later in the day. Limited to a Member’s personal guestroom. Upgrades include most available suite types, except Presidential Suites, Chairman Suites and other signature suites. For stays greater than 3 nights, suite upgrades are subject to the hotel’s discretion.

    https://www.marriott.com/hotel-promotions/rewards-suite-upgrade.mi

      1. My experience has been awesome – 100% batting average in upgrades on all our stays APAC Marriott properties including 7, 9, 13 and 17 night stays. We have had the 2-bedroom suites and the 3-bedroom apartments.

  6. Marriott Platinum elites are entitled to a complimentary suite upgrades (subject to availability) when staying at Marriott hotel in APAC. Participating hotel brands in Asia Pacific include: JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott Hotels. Hotel locations in Asia Pacific include: Australia, China (including Hong Kong S.A.R.), Guam, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. In Japan and South Korea, suite upgrades may be limited and may be offered at the hotel’s discretion. Generally, based on availability at check-in; in some cases, availability is determined later in the day. Limited to a Member’s personal guestroom. Upgrades include most available suite types, except Presidential Suites, Chairman Suites and other signature suites. For stays greater than 3 nights, suite upgrades are subject to the hotel’s discretion.

    https://www.marriott.com/hotel-promotions/rewards-suite-upgrade.mi

      1. My experience has been awesome – 100% batting average in upgrades on all our stays APAC Marriott properties including 7, 9, 13 and 17 night stays. We have had the 2-bedroom suites and the 3-bedroom apartments.

  7. Marriott Platinum and Gold usually receive free upgrades to Suites at check in anyway, because they’re top tier. I’m missing what the point of these Suite Night Awards are when that’s the case.

    1. TECHNO, I have no idea where you’re getting information, but Marriott Platinum and Gold members definitely aren’t telling me they’re getting free upgrades to suites on anything close to a regular basis.

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