Marriott Rewards announced three new features yesterday which do, genuinely, represent improvements to the programme.
They are, clearly, cloning some of the most attractive parts of Starwood Preferred Guest. It is not clear if these ideas were in motion before the Marriott / Starwood merger was confirmed or if Marriott had already realised that its programme was not up to scratch. I guess the latter, given that these changes must already have been pre-agreed with literally thousands of hotel owners.
Whatever the reason, it gives Starwood Preferred Guest members some hope that they won’t lose all the perks they currently expect.
These are the three new feature to be rolled out over the next few weeks:
The Experiences Marketplace
“With the experiences marketplace, all Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Members can pursue their passions by choosing from a wide array of curated special events and opportunities for discovery. Whether it’s tickets to one of the hottest shows on Broadway; a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hang out with your favorite sports team; or a private cooking lesson or wine tasting with a world-famous chef or sommelier, members can redeem Marriott Rewards or The Ritz-Carlton Rewards points to access a marketplace of unique experiences that allow them to explore their personal interests in the most meaningful and memorable ways. The experiences marketplace will be available globally to all members in late May.”
This is, obviously, a copy of SPG Moments and, to a lesser extent, Hilton @Play. It remains to be seen if Marriott is genuinely willing to invest in this (ie lose money on the events in order to please members) or if, Hilton-style, they will generally be priced so high you would be better off using cash.
My gut feeling is that we will be underwhelmed until Marriott gets hold of the Starwood contracts and can start rolling in their events.
Guaranteed Late Check-Out
“The guaranteed late checkout benefit will be available to Gold and Platinum Elite members of both Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards who will enjoy a more seamless travel experience when planning their trip. These members will receive a guaranteed late checkout, which could be as late as 4pm. Members can request the late checkout when making a reservation by phone, when checking in using the Marriott Mobile app, or upon arrival at the hotel. This benefit is available at all fully participating Marriott Rewards hotels with the exclusion of resorts, convention hotels and Marriott Vacation Club. Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards will continue to offer Silver Elite members the benefit of requesting late checkout on their day of departure. Guaranteed late checkout launches globally on May 16.”
It is about time Marriott offered this, and brings them closer to the current Starwood offering. However, note the wording: “which could be as late as 4pm”. A hotel could offer you 12pm instead of the stated 11am and be within its rights, and that doesn’t help you plan your day.
(EDIT: 3 days after I wrote this article, Marriott backtracked and announced that late check-out would be guaranteed at 4pm except for resort and convention hotels.)
Elite Concierge Service
“An initial group of Elite members of Marriott Rewards will be invited to participate in a new Elite concierge service. By developing a relationship with the member, the concierge will be able to anticipate their unique needs, ensuring the member’s preferences are recognized and their desires are met before, during, and even after their stay. The concierge will be able to reserve on-property amenities like restaurants, spa treatments and golf, as well as make arrangements for special occasions. The service will launch in late May first for U.S. members of Marriott Rewards traveling worldwide and will continue to expand. Marriott Rewards will actively engage with this group of charter members and seek their feedback to refine the service.”
This is clearly based on the Starwood ‘Ambassador’ model. I have heard mixed reports about that – some, to be fair, hugely positive. It requires a genuine one-to-one relationship, not just a dedicated call centre where you never speak to the same person twice. The concierge staff also need to have the power to persuade the hotels to do their bidding.
Whilst we wait to see how these new benefits work out in practice, this is good news for Marriott Rewards elite members and for Starwood Preferred Guest elite members who may soon be transitioning over.
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