The Value Of Hotel Loyalty Programs

Over the years I’ve refereed/participated in a number of debates about which hotel loyalty program is the best.  Reasonable minds can disagree (except for those people who think Marriott is the best out there) about the best program, and different types of travelers will find bigger benefits from some programs for their specific travel patterns.

It’s not often I see an argument about whether or not to patronize a hotel chain at all from a loyalty perspective.  Wandering Aramean has always been one of those guys to argue that the loyalty programs don’t provide him appropriate benefits for the extra spend, as he again illustrates in this recent post.  I respect his opinion, but I have a couple of problems with his post.

First, the survey indicates that one of the biggest complaints registered by survey respondents was, ““Rewards that lacked real value” – 37%”

Now, I haven’t reviewed the whole survey, but I find it hard to believe that if you interviewed members of the Hyatt, Starwood (and probably even Priority Club, Hilton and Marriott) you’d be hard pressed to find 37% of the members thought that rewards lacked real value.

A second top complaint from the survey, “Too many conditions and restrictions” – 38%.  I’m really not seeing this, either, assuming a proper distribution amongst the major programs I mentioned above.  Starwood was the pioneer of essentially no restrictions on award rooms, and chains like Hyatt have followed along nicely.  I’ve also never heard someone complain about award availability with Hilton, though most of the people I know don’t count them as their favorite loyalty program.

The blog post that Wandering Aramean references also indicates that the top 5 loyalty programs of survey participants were, “1: American Express, 2: American Airlines, 3: Marriott , 4: CVS  and 5: Boots.”

Now, when they reference Boots I assume they mean the European pharmacy company.  And, while they’re a dominant player in Europe, I really can’t imagine that a survey conducted of people that are more than occasional travelers would pick 2 pharmacies amongst the top 5.

I guess it’s fair to say that most of my concerns are not with Wandering Aramean’s position, but the survey information provided in Chris Reed’s blog post.  My travel patterns are different enough from Wandering Aramean’s, and I find significant value from my two primary hotel loyalty programs (Hyatt and Starwood).

Without thinking that hard, two benefits come to mind from recent trips.  I saved roughly $100 on breakfast during a recent stay at the Westin Nova Scotian.  I also enjoyed a 30-foot panoramic view of Niagara Falls from my corner suite as a free upgrade due to my SPG Platinum status.  More on that later, but a quick picture from that trip.

 Hotel Loyalty

Both of these benefits were at Starwood Preferred Guest properties.  I retained that status this year largely on award stays with points earned from the SPG American Express card, but I’ve earned Platinum the old fashioned way in the past as well.

So, I’ll continue to enjoy the benefits of hotel loyalty programs and at the same time respect why others don’t see the same value.  But I won’t be ranking any pharmacy ahead of Hyatt and Starwood anytime soon.



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