How is the Marriott / Starwood merger for you? News from Loyalty 2017

As I mentioned yesterday, I am at the Loyalty 2017 conference for three days this week.  The most interesting session from Day 2 was a presentation by the head of Marriott Rewards on the integration between that scheme and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Here is a fairly stunning number – the crossover of active Starwood Preferred Guest members with active Marriott Rewards members is just 11%.

This is, apparently, well beyond the wildest dreams of Marriott when they bought the company.  What it means is that the size of the combined Marriott Rewards / Starwood Preferred Guest entity will be far bigger than the 85 million members estimated at the time of the deal.

Marriott is proud of the work they have done so far, especially their attempts to win over loyal Starwood guests.  The fact that you could immediate status match between the two schemes and transfer points between them – literally within 5 minutes of the deal being legally completed – helped to ease the concerns of members.

marriott starwood merger

No information was shared on how the two programmes will be integrated.   Some of the key points to emerge were:

Starwood elites were over-rewarded, because it was necessary.  With a small footprint, Starwood needed regular guests to make an effort to choose its properties.  Whilst it wasn’t said, this is simply not necessary under the new structure where guests have over 6,000 hotels globally.

Marriott is learning a lot from Starwood – it needs to learn how to serve the ‘elite luxury travellers’ who frequented the top SPG properties and it needs to learn more about how to reward members via experiences instead of more free stays

There is, apparently, a definite trend of members hitting Gold (mid tier) status and then moving their business elsewhere, presumably to secure status with a secondary chain as a back-up

Starwood’s ‘Suite Night Awards’ are something that impresses Marriott – allowing an elite member to lock down a guaranteed upgrade on stays which are important to them.  A suite upgrade on an overnight business trip is often not appreciated and the failure to get an upgrade on a ‘special occasion’ stay creates annoyance.

Let me be honest.

I have, so far, been proved wrong about the integration of Marriott and Starwood.

I saved a fortune on an upcoming trip to Kyoto by being able to use Starwood points to book The Ritz-Carlton, at a time when it was selling for £1,000 per night (peak cherry blossom season).  I was also able to book the new The Ritz-Carlton desert resort in Ras Al-Khaimah for a few nights during October half term for just 40,000 points per night (= 13,333 Starwood points) despite the £600 per night price tag.

Long term, of course, I may be proved right.  The simple laws of economics mean that reduced competition is likely to lead to reduced need to reward via a generous loyalty scheme.  To date, though, none of us could have asked for anything more from Marriott.

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  1. Hopefully this means that we will see Hilton Honors continue their aggressive growth strategy for some time to come and this will keep the breaks on any major devaluation.

  2. What’s even more “stunning”, yet eye opening at the same time, is that they did such a major acquisition without the basic due diligence on the overlap in the two businesses’ customer bases!

  3. Amazed that Hilton doesn’t appreciate the value to travellers of rolling over nights. Once I hit my diamond renewal I stop and move my travel to Marriott who do allow me to roll over and count towards next year’s status.

    How many other regular travellers stop at renewal and don’t stay again? Don’t they do any analysis on this?

    Ask them, Rob!

    • I have the same issue with the Lloyd’s avios card. I spend £7k get the voucher and stop spending. They could have another £7k if they would give me another voucher

      • Agreed – if there was a higher tier benefit for more spend I’d use it more. The timing of voucher issuance also affects my card usage – because I know it is triggered straight away I tend to spend £6k+ then sit on it and hardly use the card for most of the year before triggering it near the end. By comparison with the IHG card I’ll keep spending on it as I know the voucher won’t arrive until the anniversary date anyway. I can see how this would of course be annoying for those wanting it ASAP, but on cards I’m not going to churn (like IHG and Lloyds) I actually prefer knowing it won’t be issued for a while.

      • Von Schmallhausen says:

        Totally agree! I’ve hit all my spend bonuses on my cards and now no incentive to keep using them. Time to churn!!!

      • I thought the point of the Lloyds Amex, apart from the voucher which I never use, was for the fee free currency!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It’s the same with only allowing nights/stays for 1 room And two rooms (with a load of chasing) all my multiple room stays go to SPG or Marriot if no SPG exists

  4. i have been very impressed with Marriott so far. When the staff find out I have come from SPG (having linked accounts – gold) they seem to go out of their way to be extra helpful etc. I appreciate that the honeymoon period won’t last.

  5. Wally1976 says:

    I’m very happy I have to say with the Marriott redemptions I’ve been able to make using transferred SPG points (from Amex SPG card and Amex MR) and Marriott Gold status through status matching from Amex Plat. And I didn’t even need the points in there to make the booking. Long may it continue!

  6. I too am very happy with SPG/Marriott having only recently discovered them. Particularly useful is the facility to move points between accounts as well as booking without the points already earned although this probably reduces availability.
    An anomaly is that Marriott gives breakfast and lounge access to Gold members but SPG does not.
    What we need now is a Marriott credit card with big initial bonus.

    • There was a card – I still have it – but they had to withdraw it because they had failed to get a licence to sell credit cards!

      • RussellH says:

        And the Marriott Card is a much better deal than the free IHG card – both being issued by Creation. 4 points per GBP sent at Marriott outwith the UK starts to look reasonable. And I am looking forward to my 2 000 annual bonus in a couple of weeks time. Not huge, but the card was free, and gave me the best deal on paying HMRC of any of my cards.

        Not sure why the IHG card is more expensive than the Marriott card, given that it is only the eighth didit that is different.

        • I’m guessing as it’s a newer card they’re more aware of dwindling interchange rates, plus IHG may have set them different rules than Marriott.

        • RussellH says:

          My comment may not have been clear – I was wondering why the IHG card was more expensive to use on the HMRC website, given that they are both from Creation, both branded MasterCard World and so both start 5299 322x – usually it is only the first 6 numbers that define the card scheme, though HMRC do ask for the first 8.

        • Ahh OK got you now!

        • Just type in the Marriott number then …..

        • Aside from 4 points per £ at Marriott hotels the rate of 1 per £ on general spend is very poor imho.

      • Jordan D says:

        Is no one at Marriott attempting to get their license back? 42 almost consecutive weeks of Marriott stay and it is gutting not to have had their Credit Card for the journey …

  7. Currently typing this from my first paid Marriott stay since matching my SPG gold.

    Feels no different than any other hotel loyalty scheme – no upgrade on check in and when queried lied to about availability of suites despite them being sold online.

    Still it’s NYC (first morning jet lag at 4.40 am here!) and I’m not here to be in the room, but it hardly endears me to pay to use Marriott

  8. OT but Marriott. Does anyone have any experience of Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa?

    • Have been to the area some years ago. Seems like an amazing redemption for 30,000 points (10,000 SPG).

    • Seems like an interesting location if you’ve already done the typical centre of Tuscany further south/east. I really like Lucca and the coast all the way from Cinque Terre to Genoa (inclusive!).

  9. Since status matching with SPG gold in December I have had 5 paid stays with Marriott (4 at Marriott branded properties and one at a JW). I’ve only been given an upgrade once. Is one out of five typical?
    I have very much enjoyed the lounge access though!

    • No, as Marriott Premier we are upgraded 98% of the time. We have learned tricks like calling the property directly for the upgrade and/ or checking in online.

      • Interesting, when you say you check in online, do you use the app?

        I was quite disappointed on my last Marriott stay as not only did I not get an upgrade, but I looked online and saw that better rooms were still available AND the rate for the weekend I had booked had fallen by about 35%!

  10. Traveling to St. Maarten, there are no Marriott properties, so I transferred points to SPG. Very easy and pleasant, however I am curious as to why the exchange is so uneven. Marriott/Ritz-Carlton has high end properties too.

  11. is there anything i can do with 500 marriot points? can’t transfer them out and they expire in a month.

  12. startupflyer says:

    I have been pleasantly surprised, joined the accounts and transferred Marriott points to SPG for a redemption yesterday, all transferred and booked in under 10 minutes. Gold in both programs so I won’t see any difference upgrade wise.

  13. Yes, very happy with the merger. Have booked a week at Domes Elounda in the summer as part of a flight+hotel package and hopefully 162k avios will be hitting my BA avios account very soon.

  14. Reader here whose main scheme was Marriott, and since the merger, have checked out a number of Starwood hotels, and benefited from some great suite upgrades!

    I don’t think Starwood lets you see lifetime points, so really curious to see if they will handle this in the merger.

    I was pushing for lifetime gold in Marriott before the merger, and hopeful that post-merger it will take me over the edge.

    Another few months to wait..