On Thursday night I was invited to the O2 Arena in Greenwich as the guest of Starwood Preferred Guest. Starwood Preferred Guest is the loyalty programme for Sheraton, Westin, W, St Regis, Le Meridien, Element, The Luxury Collection and Aloft.
They wanted to show off their new hospitality suite which is now available as an SPG redemption via SPG Moments. Apart from myself the guests included two bloggers (hello Kelly, hello Sven!), one SPG member, a couple of trade contacts and a number of Starwood staff.
I wrote about this new SPG redemption option in this article. For 20,000 SPG points you will receive two tickets to the suite for an event, including food and drink.
Starwood has a three year contract on the suite so this will not be a flash in the pan. Tickets should be available for pretty much every event at the O2 Arena during that time. You can currently redeem for a wide range of concerts including Take That, Olly Murs, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney and Mark Knopfler (plus some younger people I’ve never heard of ….!).
Here is the suite:
And here is the view, taken an hour before the show started:
The good news is that you are DIRECTLY facing the stage. The bad news is that you are quite a way back, although there are plenty of seats which are higher and further away than this as you can see from the picture.
What you can’t see from these pictures is how the seating works. There are tables in the suite where you can sit and eat, perching on stools. You can see the concert from these stools. However, there are also ‘proper’ seats in front of the suite which is where I was standing when I took the second picture.
The food and drink on offer was excellent:
There were three different hot dishes (salmon, chicken and a 3rd I didn’t try) plus a variety of snacks. A staffed bar was serving wine, beer and soft drinks. Drinks are served in glasses but if you want to sit in the three rows of seats in front of the suite you need to switch to a plastic cup. The seats are comfortable with generous armrests and cupholders.
The toilets are very close, literally 20 seconds walk, so you won’t miss much of the show! This was very handy with Paul Simon and Sting, where the 3 hour 20 minute show had no interval!
SPG has hired a team of six hosts and one will be on duty every night, greeting guests and ensuring their glasses are always topped up! It is possible that, on many nights, all of the guests will be SPG Moments redeemers so don’t necessarily expect to meet any SPG employees. SPG has very few staff in the UK – they employ 500 people in Cork instead – so this is genuinely something they have done for the benefit of members rather than for in-house entertaining.
This is how it looked with Paul Simon and Sting on the stage. The camera makes it look SUBSTANTIALLY further away than it actually is! The two video screens are actually pretty large in your field of vision.
If you are the worlds biggest fan of Take That / Paul McCartney / Bette Midler / Olly Murs etc then you wouldn’t want to be in the suite. You would want to be in the front block down on the floor! What you get with the SPG Suite is a very relaxed evening where you can eat and drink throughout the show and get up and walk around the suite whenever you want.
It is important to note that the O2 Arena has outstanding acoustics. The sound quality is fantastic, even at the back. You don’t need to be concerned about not hearing the show.
There were rarely more than five people sat in the seats at any point as most people preferred to stand in the suite. However, it may work differently on an SPG Moments redemption evening because all of us were effectively ‘together’ in a group.
At present, Starwood is not using any sort of dynamic pricing for the tickets. Everything is 20,000 SPG points for two tickets, whether it be Paul McCartney or a darts tournament. It remains to be seen if this will change over time.
This is a genuine ‘money can’t buy’ experience and is, I think, an excellent use of Starwood points. Putting my points where my mouth is, I already have tickets for another concert – bought using my own SPG points – lined up for June. If you look at the alternatives, 20,000 SPG points would get you around £300 of free hotel rooms or 25,000 airline miles.
Remember that Starwood Preferred Guest is an Amex Membership Rewards partner (at 2:1) and you can also get 10,000 Starwood points by signing up for the SPG American Express credit card. Starwood would also be very happy, of course, if you moved some of your upcoming hotel stays to their properties in order to earn some points!
(Want to earn more hotel points? To see our complete list of promotions from the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)