I Said I Wouldn’t Be Heartbroken. I Was Wrong.

One of the side effects of writing a blog every day for ten years is that there are plenty of words to prove you wrong.  I’ve written something more times than I can count and regretted it later, or come to find out I was just plain wrong.  Once again, this happened to me when I was putting together my hotel elite status recap for 2018.  I was reading my recap from 2017, which featured the following gem:

SPG will serve as my secondary chain until some sort of clarity from Marriott on elite status and other benefits.  I’m happy enough with my Hyatt that I won’t be heartbroken if Marriott decided to wreck what SPG built.  I certainly won’t be surprised, either.  I’m hoping not much news is good news, and that the Marriott folks are taking a thoughtful path to merging the programs.

I won’t be heartbroken.  But, I kinda am.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Hyatt fan.  They take pretty darn good care of me.  Lifetime Globalist Diamond status with Hyatt has been very rewarding for me.

SPG Is Where It Began

I can remember when I started hopping on planes quite a bit.  It dates back 20 years now, not long after I met my wife.  I was a big fan of American Airlines because my father flew them for years.  I knew a lot about miles and points back then.  Or, at least I thought I did.  A friend of mine was trying to tell me that I could earn more AAdvantage miles with some other credit card than I was carrying.  This dates back to roughly 2001 or 2002, when an American Airlines credit card from Citibank was my go to for pretty much all my spending.  I had never heard of Starwood.  Why the heck would I want their credit card?

My friend Russell sent me a link to a thread on FlyerTalk.  In an instant, I realized how much I didn’t know.  Thus began my love affair with Starwood.  At first, I was thrilled to eke out Gold status.  Then, Platinum.  When the time came for a 100-night tier, I found a way to hit that, too. Along the way, I had irrational loyalty to Starwood Preferred Guest.

I’m a sucker for cool experiences you can use your miles and points for.  A number of years ago, I was able to redeem Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest program (may she rest in peace) so my wife could enjoy a tennis lesson with Andre Agassi.  It was the single best use of points I’ve ever had.

That Andre Agassi moment made me not want to look anywhere else.  I went out of my way to stay with Starwood everywhere I could.  Hyatt?  Hilton?  Marriott?  None of them mattered.  In return for my unerring loyalty, SPG showed me some unbelievable experiences.  The Hotel Danieli is still one of my all-time favorite hotels in the world.

You might say, “But, Ed.  You can still stay at the Danieli.  And, 5,000 other hotels with those Starpoints turned Marriott Rewards.”  You’re not wrong.  That’s the rational answer.  But, remember, I was irrationally loyal to Starwood Preferred Guest.

Fast forward to today, when I’m not supposed to be upset that SPG is gone.  Hyatt takes great care of me.  But, I’m still upset, even a bit heartbroken.  I’m not pining for the things that I used to receive.  I’m really just sad that this fabulous brand, SPG, that was built in my adult lifetime, is gone.

SPG set out to be different.  No blackout dates.  Ultra-chic W hotels.  They were the cool kid you saw in school, maybe around the back of the building with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth (back when smoking was cool).  SPG wasn’t the star quarterback of the football team.  They were the bad boy (or girl) with the leather jacket and the sports car.  It was fun to hitch a ride.

I won’t waste too many words on the pain we’ve all experienced with Marriott over the last 6 months.  I think this post sums up my thoughts best.  At some point, the problems with integration will fade.  What will be left will be Marriott Rewards, or Bonvoy, or whatever they’re going to name it next.  It’ll be big and have a lot of properties.  Many of them will cost more points to redeem for a free stay.  The Danieli will likely still be there, and that’s why I’ll keep a stash of Marriott Rewards points.

But, Marriott wasn’t that cool sports car.  They were more like a Toyota Highlander Hybrid.  Nothing to sniff at, it’s actually the car I drive.  It gets good gas mileage, pretty sensible.  But, you’ll never pull up to a red light and just wait to press down on the accelerator with the top down.

In some ways, the current thirst by hotel chains to focus on experiences is due to how well Starwood Preferred Guest wove that into the fabric of their being.

The Final Two Pennies

So, yeah.  I’m a bit heartbroken.  SPG made hotel loyalty fun.  They challenged their competitors to be better because, for many years, they were better.  They made the other hotel companies think about how they could lure customers away.  SPG was unapologetic, changing the rules that loyalty programs were governed by.  Marriott acquired Starwood, and many of the talented folks that made SPG great ended up moving on.  Some of them are now running my favorite loyalty program.

I’m sad because it seems like a bit of an inauspicious ending to a dynamic brand.  Marriott pledged to take the best of both when they merged.  But, that statement misses the point that some things can’t be transplanted.

As we say goodbye to 2018 and hope for better things in 2019, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks at SPG that filled me with surprise and delight all those years.

That’s really the headline, and the bottom line.

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18 Comments

    1. Kate, I’m biased but I love the Danieli. It’s smaller and really has a small hotel feel. The location is a bit quieter, being just past San Marco Square. And, breakfast on the roof can’t be beat.

      1. The Danieli is by no means smaller than the Gritti. You’ve got that backwards. My guess is that the Danieli is twice as large as the gritti perhaps three times.

        Agree with the rest of the post.

        1. Mdtravel, you’re absolutely right. I think I had the old Westin E&R in my head. Looks like 80 rooms for Gritti and 200 for Danieli. I’d still take Daniel. 😉
          Thanks for pointing out the error so I had the correct info!

          1. Love the, both actually. Fond memories of both of these when I first became spg plat 15 years ago or so. It was the reason I did so. I cringe to think of either of these props as a Marriott. It makes me sick actually. Starwood hotels in Italy especially are or were the embodiment of a hotel chain treating its most loyal customers as if they were in fact loyal customers. Both of these hotels have taken great care of my wife and I when slightly less old as well as my wife and I plus my then 4 and 5 year old daughter.

            FWIW. Over the weekend I applied for the Hyatt card. I’m feeling a little spg mojo nostalgia building over there at Hyatt.

          2. Mdtravel, I actually don’t think the service levels at these properties will change, but they’ll cost a lot more points in the future, I’m sure.
            I think the Hyatt CC is a good option. Hyatt built up great mojo when Jeff Zidell ran the program. They lost a lot of it when he left and are slowly gaining it back. If I was going to be loyal to a chain today that’s where I’d start.

    1. Hey, Dan. Good to see you around these parts. Arguably, your redemption for throwing out the first pitch at the WS is the only thing I’d be willing to admit might beat me surprising my wife with a tennis lesson from Andre Agassi. 😀

  1. Ed back to your last reply to my comments.

    I don’t expect a sudden change at these properties but it will change IMO and in a very short period of time. As soon as the Westin Rome or STR Rome learns about how the Marriott Rome treats elites and is allowed to get away with it they will all sink to the lowest common denominator. The Rome Marriott despises award stays so much of course that they don’t have to follow the rules for award availability. And when you check in you’re greeted first and foremost with a sign telling you how many plats are at the hotel that night. Kind of a premptive F off.

    1. Mdtravel, I fully expect properties to mess with availability. But, I have to say that my experience with the STR in Rome and Danieli in Venice have been spectacular in many areas that SPG didn’t mandate them to be. I still hold out hope that these properties treat all their guests the same once they’re checked in. Time will tell! Let’s just hope both of us get the chance to test this theory out soon. I’m ready for another trip to Italy!

      1. Amen to that Ed. I hope you’re right. I’ve had great experiences at the Westin and Eden (before they left SPG) in Rome, with the Gritti and Danieli in Venice, and the Westin and Grand (now STR) in Florence, as well as the Guilia in Naples. I’ve posted on FT that the treatment I receive in Europe is THE reason I pursued, obtained and maintained SPG elite status. Treatment in the U.S. is another story personally. But my US travels are for business mostly; the international stuff is where I want the bene’s and have my fam w/ me.

        I’d suggest the Gritti Ed. It’s smaller and more elegant than the Danieli if that is possible. And sitting right on the water having a cocktail or free breakfast is amazing…better than the veranda at the Danieli IMO. But the piano player at the Danieli is something special as well.

        #MissingSPGBadly

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