As things start to thaw slowly from the absolute freeze on travel during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, travel brands are trying to figure out what it will take to motivate us to spend our money on travel again. Hyatt was the first into the market with a triple points earning promotion across their entire portfolio of properties. They traditionally focus their summer promotion on rebating points to folks who hold their co-branded credit card. This summer, they’ve chosen so far to incentivize paid travel (though they did offer a one-time 2,500 point “welcome back” bonus for elite members after their first stay). IHG has a promotion that allows you to earn up to 4X points, though that’s only on your fourth stay and thereafter. So, where did Marriott go?
Marriott Offering Off-Peak Pricing at 5,500 Hotels
Note in the title that I said Marriott rolls out “a summer promo”. It’s certainly possible they roll out a promotion for folks to earn points as well. But, for now they’re focusing on discounts on redeeming points. This is essentially a systemwide promotion offering off-peak pricing at virtually all properties, including some really awesome luxury resorts in Category 7 and Category 8. The key details:
- Must book between now and June 30, 2020
- Must complete your stay by July 31, 2020
Marriott has 3 levels of pricing now, with “standard” as well as “peak” and “off-peak”. There’s no question this is a bonafide savings if you have trips planned between now and the end of July. You should also be able to rebook existing stays to lower award prices at this point, though tread carefully with Marriott customer service. They’ve been known to eat reservations when you least expect it.
Marriott Makes Status Easier To Achieve
Marriott is also planning to make it much easier for existing Marriott elite members to achieve a higher level of status. They already extended everyone’s elite status until 2022, so there’s not a whole lot of need to work on renewing status. But, if you’re looking for a bump, then this next part of the announcement will definitely help you out. Based on your existing status level, Marriott will deposit half of the number of elite nights needed to achieve that level into your account in July. For reference:
If you hold one (or more) of Marriott’s credit cards you can combine Marriott’s latest offer of elite nights with the nights you earn from holding their credit cards to really accelerate your path to higher status. As Gary notes in his story, a Marriott Platinum member who earns 30 elite nights from holding their credit cards could need to earn as little as 25 to 30 elite qualifying nights to bump up to Titanium status. I currently hold lifetime Titanium Elite status with Marriott and don’t plan on spending $20,000 in a year anytime soon, but there’s plenty of opportunity for Silver, Gold and Platinum members to bump up their status.
Speaking of credit cards, listen to points and miles guru Richard Kerr take apart my wallet as we go through over 20 credit cards I’m holding right now. I’m holding a few of those Marriott credit cards, though I’m trying to decide if I’m keeping them this year. What about you?
This move will likely bloat the upper tiers of the elite ranks. However, since Marriott doesn’t have the same sort of suite upgrade certificates as a chain like Hyatt, it’s unlikely to make it harder for you to earn a suite upgrade.
The Final Two Pennies
I’m hoping to spend some time later in the week reviewing the hotel promotions overall and what I think this means for the future. In the interim, let’s spend a moment thinking about the Marriott offering. I like it, but I can’t say I love it. This is a 20-25% discount off of standard pricing and a bigger discount from peak pricing. But, given that demand is a tiny fraction of what it normally would be this summer, this is exactly the time awards should be off-peak.
It took me longer than it probably should have to come to that conclusion. But, at a basic level, if this moment isn’t “off-peak”, what is? Will August all of a sudden see hotels busting at the seams? I doubt it.
Look, I’m not one to bash the airlines and hotels. They’re businesses, and they need to make money. I might not agree with all of their tactics, but I understand the long-term goal is to run a profitable enterprise. So, I don’t begrudge Marriott’s direction here, turning an obvious easy decision (offering off-peak pricing) into a feature for customers. There’s not a whole lot to drive customer excitement, so why not try to promote this, as well as an easier path to upgraded status?
It’s also entirely possible Marriott isn’t done, and plans to roll out some sort of promotion for paid stays.
But, I’m not ready to call this one a major win for frequent travelers.
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Featured image of Hotel Danieli, a Marriott Luxury Collection property