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.
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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