How to use SPG and Marriott points for a cheap African holiday

If you are a Starwood Preferred Guest member who now finds that they can convert their points into Marriott Rewards, you might not be aware of the great value deals that Marriott has in Africa.  Even some Marriott Rewards members may not know about the excellent value redemptions you can get.

Whilst I admit that Avios redemption flights to South Africa are very hard to get, especially to Cape Town, you will be able to travel around very cheaply if you have a stack of Marriot or Starwood points.

Back in January 2014, Marriott announced that it was acquiring Protea Hotels.  The name might not ring a bell, but Protea is the largest hotel group in Africa.

Founded in 1984, at the time of the deal it operated 116 hotels throughout South Africa and six other African countries.  These include Zambia, Nigeria, Namibia, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania.  The group comprises of two brands, the mid-up market Protea Hotels (including the lifestyle brand Protea Hotel Fire & Ice!) and the deluxe African Pride Hotels, Lodges and Country Houses brand.

Marriott Protea

The integration process took some time, but late last year all of the Protea properties were integrated into Marriott Rewards.

A huge range of options in Cape Town

For anyone planning a holiday in South Africa, the great news is that TWELVE Cape Town hotels are available for redemption.  You can see the full list here.

The even better news is that none of the Cape Town hotels have been placed any higher than Category 5 in the Marriott Rewards system, which now runs up to Category 9 (45,000 points).  You will not pay more than 25,000 points per night for any of these hotels.  Given that Cape Town hotel rates can get pretty steep at peak periods, there are likely to be some good value redemptions here.

And some very cheap deals elsewhere

This page of the Marriott website shows the 97 Protea hotels in Africa.

If you scroll to the bottom of the right-hand sidebar you will see an option called ‘Hotel Category’.  You will note that:

58 hotels are in Category 1, so just 7500 Marriott Rewards points per night

24 hotels are in Category 2, so just 10000 Marriott Rewards points per night

Remember that the conversion rate from Starwood points is 1:3 so these hotels need just 2500 or 3333 SPG points respectively.

The more luxurious African Pride hotels are in Category 3 and Category 4.  Even then, you are only looking at 15000 or 20000 Marriott Rewards points per night.

If you have been considering a trip to Africa but have been looking for a good excuse, these Marriott Rewards bargains could be just what you need.  I can’t help you with Avios flight availability though …..

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  1. This has been a ‘hidden’ gem for years for me when travelling to the Middle East (although I did mention it last year in one thread). Even with the recent devaluation of GBP you can generally still even buy Marriott Reward points and get a 25-30% better deal than the cash rate at many of the top quality Marriott group hotels (eg. JW Marriott) in that area. There were some category changes last year, but still a great way to save!

  2. Avios availability to South Africa may be tight, but it’s wide open to Nairobi. Currently planning a 241 redemption to NBO, with a week safariing around Tanzania followed by a week on Zanzibar, (and will be using Marriott points for a hotel on Zanzibar!)

    • I did a similar trip years ago, you’ll have a great time. If given the chance try to get to Nungwi to the north of Zanzibar. It’s beautiful.

    • Yup, NBO is always a good routing from LHR to get to Tanzania for Avios seat availability & upgrades after BA stopped the direct LHR-DAR service. If you’re using Kenya Airways at all in your itinerary see if you can get a status match to Gold with Alitalia for the SkyTeam Alliance. That would give you lounge access in NBO. I don’t think they are offering it currently (?) but worth keeping an eye out for it later.

    • Colin mackinnon says:

      Stay a couple of nights in Stonetown, the evening open food stalls in Fordhani Gardens are a hub of life, and the rooftop bars in a couple of nearby hotels are fab for sunset

  3. Tony Manzi says:

    Do you know if any Marriott Gold benefits are given at Protea brand hotels? They are not mentioned in Marriotts lists of benefits. People are often suprised by the lack of acknowledgement of status at some Marriott brand hotels – the AC chain in Europe for example consistently says “No” to upgrades, free breakfast, club access or any other perks.

    • I asked a similar question on FlyerTalk. As Marriott gold, I was thinking about complimentary breakfast in particular.

      The answer seems to be no, at least so far as breakfast is concerned. The one I just booked in Stellenbosch charges ZAR 1 750 for breakfast buffet, Given the rand is suffering almost as much as the GBP, that’s not too bad. I’ll still probably check out the Wimpy cooked breakfast, assuming there’s a nearby Wimpy.

  4. Furthermore, does anybody know if any of the Protea hotel have an Executive lounge. The Marriott site never lists this ( as a search option) so very difficult to determine.

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