A reader writes in that he’s staying “at a no-name, forgettable Sheraton in a medium-sized city” where there are “3 full-service Marriott properties nearby.” A housekeeper “left her manifest.. out on her cart” and there are “3 ambassador elites on a single floor.” He thinks that says there’s something wrong.
Aside from Marriott’s secret Cobalt status Ambassador is the highest elite tier. It requires 100 nights and $20,000 spend to reach. And in addition to standard suite upgrades and breakfast benefits (and even watered-down 24 hour check-in privileges) members receive a dedicated Ambassador to take care of all of their needs with Marriott.
However there are rumors that some Ambassadors working for Marriott may be assigned as many as 300 top tier elite members, and there are reports of some Ambassador elites not hearing anything at all from their personal agent for months at a time.
That leads my correspondent to wonder if the qualification threshold, rather than being too tough to meet, is actually too low? However there are four reasons I do not think that the qualification threshold is too low.
- $20,000 spend requirement on top of 100 nights is insanely tough. Program members outside of the US have a very hard time meeting it. Some of the chain’s greatest growth is in Asia, and China in particular, where it could take 300 nights to meet this level of spend (and Marriott no longer credits multiple rooms on a single stay towards status). At these limited-service hotels there really aren’t even opportunities to spend more.
- $20,000 spend and 100 night customers are really valuable. If Marriott isn’t servicing them well enough the problem isn’t too many good customers, the problem is on the service side. Don’t raise the qualification threshold, raise the bar on delivering service to great customers.
- The $20,000 spend requirement really hasn’t hit yet, there will be fewer top elites next year. The spending requirement kicks in for qualifying in 2019 for status in 2020. Right now you have customers with 100 or more nights who qualified without minimum spend. What’s more you have customers who combined their Marriott and Starwood nights who may have had double qualifying nights promotions and earned qualifying nights from credit cards on both sides of the house and under more generous credit card elite night accrual rules.
- The chain is goosing its elite numbers there have been targeted double qualifying night promotions this year, they’re saying they don’t have enough elites not that they have too many.
St. Regis Abu Dhabi
The Ambassador program was a mixed bag even under Starwood. Some members had excellent experiences with their Ambassadors (I certainly did when I stayed with Starwood enough to have one) and others found the program lackluster.
Marriott seems to have scaled the Ambassador program to a level closer to the number of ambassador members they expect going forward with new stricter criteria for earning status (minimum spend, fewer credit card nights) not for how many Ambassador members they have today.
I no longer have an Ambassador. I’m a Marriott Platinum these days, which is mid-tier, but I do have a Hyatt Concierge which is provided to Globalist members achieving status and I’ve been fortunate with the service there.