Marriott CEO: People Prefer Bonvoy Over Starwood 8-to-1

We’re all familiar with lies, damn lies, and statistics. Well Pizza in Motion highlights this whopper from Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson during the chain’s earnings call:

In a recent survey of Bonvoy members by an eight to one margin. Respondent said, they preferred the new Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program over either Marriott Rewards or SPG.

No one I know was surveyed. No one I know prefers the current loyalty program over the old one by such a large margin. The best I can come up with is that the sample for this survey consisted of:

  • ex-Marriott Rewards Platinums
  • Who now have an Ambassador
  • And rated their Ambassador highly on a separate survey

The new program has higher redemption prices than Marriott Rewards. It has weaker elite recognition than Starwood Preferred Guest. There is virtually no enforcement of elite benefits at the property level, at best paying our rewards to hotels for elite satisfaction scores. The great SPG benefits of 24 hour check-in (that used to come at 75 nights) and a dedicated Ambassador (that used to come at 100 nights) both require $20,000 annual spend.

To be fair, the old Marriott Rewards had little in the way of elite benefits to speak of – guaranteed late check-out didn’t come until after Marriott acquired Starwood. And Starwood’s rebate for in-hotel spending was weaker than what Marriott offers today. But there used to be a credit card worth spending money on over on the Starwood side.

In the past Arne Sorenson has claimed that massive IT problems with the program integration were just ‘noise around the edges’. They weren’t, and seeing what program lead David Flueck looked like before the integration and after you can tell the toll that it took.

Sorenson also says resort fees are good for you and represent great value – which, if true, would mean they didn’t need to be mandatory.

Bill Marriott said the purpose of the merger was to give Marriott scale and leverage and I noted at the time this included leverage over customers. I told Arne Sorenson I didn’t believe him when he said they were going to create a more valuable program that would be the only one you’d ever need. Indeed the truth is that the new program is designed to cost Marriott less than before.

Do you like Marriott Bonvoy more than both Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest? I’d love to see if we’ve got an 8-to-1 margin here… or if this is just Sorenson being Sorenson.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I miss the Starwood program. The new Bonvoy website is not user friendly and just try booking air! It’s outsourced and costlier. Used to be so easy to book air. And yes, I’m a 4 star elite member but with Bonvoy this doesn’t seem to carry much weight. I’d love to know who those 8 to one are.

  2. I loved SPG and I have spent over 2,000 night with Sheraton and Marriott Rewards over the latest program that know one understands and makes it hard to get any benefits. I was not surveyed and if thing do not change I will have to move all business to Hampton and Hilton. Get real Marriott when was the last time any of them spent time in a Fairfield Inn or Springhill Suites they are going down hill fast!!!

  3. This man must be living in an imaginary world inside his head. I worked very hard this year, and at some extra expense, to achieve my first Platinum Elite status. I feel so let down. I have enough Bonvoy for a winter holiday, but the 200,000+ Amex Membership Rewards I collect each year will no longer be going to Marriott. How does a CEO oversee such a disaster and manage to keep his job?

  4. Lifetime Platinum with over 120 nights this year and should get the spend this month for Ambassador. All of that will be for nothing as I will be switching to Hilton (already booked 20 nights this year). All has been said above: no upgrades, minimal recognition of status, Suite night awards are a joke and trying to use points anywhere but some place no one goes costs 3x what it should!
    Bon Voyage Bonvoy!

  5. As a person that was a member of SPG for many years, I miss the program. Bonvoy does not measure up for me. I do not travel for work, but have spent many vacations at SPG properties both paid and on points. I now pay for many more nights since the devaluation of the points and the increase in points needed to redeem an award. After the end of this year, I plan to do an analysis to determine if it is worth keeping my Bonvoy AMEX or just using my Chase Sappphire Reserve for all hotel stays.

  6. I’m shocked that a high integrity guy like Arne Sorenson, in an organization that allegedly lives by Mormon values, would have anything to do with circulating these lies and fabricated data. In fact, based on these antics, my regard for Marriott has plummeted. These people are clearly out of their mind. The Ring Leader in all of this is David Flueck, who came to Marriott from Starwood, having been the architect of the once stellar Starwood Preferred Guest Program; Flueck apparently followed the money, and was willing to sell his soul, by designing an anti-consumer, brand loyalty program – – one that benefits no one other than Marriott International and Marriott hotel owners (by reducing their costs and liabilities) – – and then thinking that we (the public, and Marriott and Starwood’s once loyal guests) are so stupid, that we will accept his rhetoric for face value. The bottom line Mr. Sorenson, and Mr. Flueck is that Marriott Bonvoy sucks, and I am beyond offended by what you have done to destroy the Starwood Preferred Guest Program, and the lesser-valued, Marriott Rewards Program. Really, do you think we are so stupid to believe your rhetoric? I get it, Flueck is willing to sell his soul for a paycheck, but, come on. Please don’t continue to insult me with your rhetoric.

  7. Do not like the new Bonvoy program, Hyatt is much better just not as many hotels, as a lifetime Titanium perks just not there no one seems to know anything in detail about the perks and they are all different at every hotel. Nothing is consistent with this program.

  8. Lifetime Titanium (under the 1000 night system)

    From what I can tell,
    The overall value has gone WAY down. Marriott keeps increasing the property award levels, increasing the points for a stay. Off peak doesn’t exist.

    The excellent lounges are being forced to dumb down their offerings so other properties don’t look so bad.

    Upgrades and recognition seem to be dwindling.

    So I guess overall value reduction appears to me at a 30-50% loss. And neither the JFK courtyard or Fairfield Inn rates above a 3.

  9. There is NO WAY that Bonvoy is better than SPG. I feel raped by Marriott. My points are now worth far less than with SPG. I am a Lifetime Titanium member and have lost all loyalty to marriott (they don’t deserve to be capitalized). As an example, my welcome gift would be 500 points. It would take 20 stays (before marriott felt the need to raise the value of their properties) to earn a night at the Swan or Dolphin at DisneyWorld. It will now take 120. How is that better? I used to get resort fees and parking waved. Not any more. How is that better? marriott’s acquisition of SPG was the worst thing to happen to SPG. I would love to be divorced from marriott! I don’t know what Mr. Sorenson is thinking or where he pulls his numbers from, but it certainly isn’t reality!

    The bonvoy website is a joke. They should take a look at what SPG had, where you could see up to 4 rates at once. Being limited to only one at is time is very poor.

  10. I think the 8-1 response makes total sense, and it completely accurate. I am not the least bit surprised by it.

    BTW, Arne only asked 9 people and they are all on his executive staff, but it was still 8-1. 🙂

  11. I think that is is so interesting that I can now drop ‘borked’ from my vocabulary and start using ‘bonvoyed’ (so true). Out with the old! In with the new!

  12. For me, the Starwood program was much better than Bonvoy. I was hopeful that it would be at least as good, but that has not been my experience. Nevertheless, I have accepted that those of us who came over from Starwood now have to deal with a diminished program. I do find the addition of the Marriot hotels convenient – the additional locations make it easier for me to both earn points and redeem points. Just sorry that the Bonvoy program is not nearly as good as the old Starwood program.

  13. Marriott vs Starwood, Starwood is the best. Have a time share with Starwood it was great . Marriott took over all went down hill. Why were we not offered to sell back. Lots of money gone to waste. SPG the best.

  14. Actually, as a former Starwood Platinum, I do prefer Bonvoy. Here’s why:

    1) A gazillion more properties are available to redeem or earn points. Marriott properties are everywhere.
    2) At the 3:1 conversion rate, combined with the redemption levels (even after the revision of all the award levels by Marriott) the value of Starpoints-converted-to-Bonvoy-points actually increased.
    3) Marriott Platinum customer service on the phone is excellent. Easy to reach, knowledgeable.

  15. Mr. Sorenson is clearly a troubled man who can’t see or is afraid of the truth. You’d wonder if such bizarre statements as the 8-to-1 preference are misleading enough to be flagged with the SEC?

  16. Absurd. After over two decades of SPG loyalty, platinum for life status and 18 months of frustrated efforts securing value and comparable excellence from Marriott and Bonvoy, I have begun building loyalty with Hyatt and Hilton. Marriott destroyed the best program in the market. And add me to the list of those not asked. Horrific decline, and thoroughly unbelievable statement.

  17. I echo others comments. The Bonvoy program is absolutely horrible and Mr. Sorensen is either being misled by his underlings, or he’s deaf to what his customers are saying.

    I’m a Marriott lifetime titanium Elite. The Bonvoy program is a huge step down from all three of the previous programs that were combined. The Ritz-Carlton program, the Starwood program, and the Marriott rewards program. Redemption values are practically nonexistent. They have so upped the requirement and made it so difficult cash in points, it’s hardly even useful to try.

    I now only stay at Marriott properties when I’m required to buy specific contracts that I work on. This is down from approximately 100 to 300 nights a year that I used to spend at Marriott properties.

    Because of the change in Marriott, I now much prefer Hyatt Hotels. I’m attempting to get Hyatt lifetime status, and have achieved their premium status called globalist the past three years because of Marriott’s shenanigans.

    It would be interesting to see what Mr. Sorensen’s comments are if he viewed the comments on this blog. I’m a lifetime titanium Elite and I’m never upgraded at Marriott properties, I’m never welcomed as a quote-unquote special guest, and I’m seldom offered the points or some item from the “market” or, or a food credit. If I remind the front desk about these benefits, they react with shock and surprise and then deny same in most cases.

    I think Marriott just became too big too soon and is having a hard time handling it all. They have not adequately educated their front desk staff, nor seemingly their management staff and they’ve over-promised and under-delivered to their loyal customers.

  18. I can only imagine that he asked himself 8 times, and a customer once to get that ratio. I am lifetime titanium and am now spending most of my time at Hilton properties. Points don’t go as far as they used to with Bonvoy, if you can get some of the benefits at all. And I agree that the individual properties do whatever they want. There is no Bonvoy program, just a bunch of individual hotels with the same name. It has become a farce.

  19. Dear Arne: you’re full of it. Bonvoy, as well as the Marriott management team led by you, are huge downgrades from SPG and SPG management:
    1. suite upgrades are the exception, rather than the rule. More than once I’ve been “upgraded” to the same room on a higher floor, which means I have a longer elevator ride, and nothing more.
    2. SNA are damn near useless, and usually expire unused due to “unavailability”.
    3. Your IT sucks — far more than your “noise around the edges” comment.
    4. While I was not happy to hear of the SPG data breach, I was even more unhappy to hear that Marriott failed to detect it prior to the merger. This further demonstrates the incompetence of your management team.
    5. You allow properties to game the upgrade system by arbitrarily removing rooms from upgrade inventory.

    In short, you seem to feel that the properties are you customers, and not the folks that pay money to stay in them. That’s your choice, of course, but don’t be surprised by folks defecting to other hotel chains.

    a very pissed-off Bonvoy “elite” who misses SPG

  20. As an SPG member I do not care for Bonvoy at all. Don’t know anyone who does. They must not have asked anyone who came from SPG.

  21. I’m Bonvoy Platinum and I miss SPG. That was a great program. Room upgrades happened frequently, they had no trouble accurately tracking rewards earned, and customer service was very good-excellent.

    Bonvoy has devalued rewards. I always check to see if my room nights have been counted because they are not far too often. I have never been able to redeem a Sweet Night Award.

    It is laughable to think Bonvoy is a better program than SPG.

  22. After the merges, Marriott came out the new program called Marriott Bonvoy Royal Program, but the program is getting much worth than forever. I am a lifetime Titanium Elite member, and I feel that every time when I called to the Titanium Elite Dedicated line, I either got hung up the phone with some bad staff who were lacking the training and no any customer services experience to deal with the elite members, or they try to kick out you off the line. I loved SPG that I remembered every time when I called to Elite call line, the associates I spoke to either to work closed with you to assist you to solve the issues or concerns not like Marriott Bonvoy Elite line are completed opposite and no satisfaction would be placed at all. I do believe very strongly, the CEO of Marriott Corporation International, who is lying to the people especially to the members like me that I had with Starwood Preferred Guest program for more than 18 years as Lifetime Platinum Elite member, and I never had bad time with their Elite line customer services associates but I have very difficulty time with Marriott Bonvoy Elite line customer services associates. I recently had encounter to speak one associate that she told me that she is higher individual in the escalation department when I asked for the manager to speak to , and finally she hung me up the phone call. Do you believe that facts presented and I experienced are not applied to CEO Arne Sorenson what he said statement with conference. Please face to reality and make real survey to real people with all kind of travel experience

  23. Not happy with Bonvoy. Definitely don’t know where the 8 to 1 statistics came from. Then again, I have heard that 79% of all statistics are made us.

  24. No, I was not contacted about my experiences, and I will reach my Bonvoy Lifetime status this year. This gives me better Internet and late check-out for those events I attend using a Marriott property. Then I will put my Lifetime Bonvoy card in my back pocket and move on over to Hilton to climb their ladder. I dislike things about both programs, but at least HIlton’s properties are more consistent and staff are friendly. Have you stayed at a Renaissance lately (PHL airport the worst!). The one thing that PMO the most is cutbacks on lounge quality and inconsistent breakfast benefits. They are degrading (and devaluing) the good properties so the bad ones don’t look so bad!

  25. I’ve all but abandoned Marriott. The most horrible hotel company I’ve ever dealt with. SPG had problems, but now looks heavenly compared to this outfit. Benefits not recognized at many properties, upgrades rare (for Lifetime Platinum) anyway. There isn’t an idea in their mission statement that they even begin to live up to. Don’t get me started on what a waste of breath Flueck is. I’m just grateful that I qualified for Lifetime status under SPG I; hopes this company breaks up and I can carry that status into an improved smaller outfit at some point. As for this 8 to 1 statement……I don’t know ANYONE who likes Marriott over old SPG.

  26. I can’t really comment on the old Marriott Rewards program; I was a long-time Starwood person who avoided Marriott before the merger. But Bonvoy is definitely inferior to SPG. My million points have been devalued, benefits reduced, and the recent change to the suite awards is just one more little cut. I’m sort of locked into Marriott for reasons I won’t go into, so I’m not likely to switch away, but I would if I could.

  27. with over 240 nights this year so far & probably another 20 more before years end
    i can only say that Starwood put customer service first, they did anything & everything in their power to make the customer happy specially as the status got higher
    in todays market the customer has lots of choices and if Marriott wanted to really be the biggest & best in the market then they better listen to the customer
    there’s over 90 comments and I think maybe 4 were positive to Marriott,
    I honestly doubt that 8 to 1 prefer Marriott over Starwood, not even close

  28. I’ve heard from a number of SPG customers how they were treated a lot better before the merger. I was a happy SPG customer going back 20 years ago. My company preferred Marriott. So I switched to Marriott 7 years ago and was treated as well if not better (I average 240 nights a year; did 320 nights one year).

    After the merger, I HATE the Bonvoy program. It seems Marriott has decided to treat everyone badly.

    My company PREFERS Marriott but I’m free to book other options and probably will.

  29. A lifelong Marriott member who is now switching loyalties to Hilton.

    Bonvoy has destroyed any sense of loyalty and have shown they could care less about their members.

  30. Have felt the same as apparently everyone else this year.
    Have been elite at both Starwood and Marriott several years—-and was hoping the SPG quality might rub off on Marriott.
    As that looks to NOT be happening, I though I would let all know that I was recently informed (off the cuff, perhaps, at my last timeshare visit) that the next/imminent rollout would include Hyatt and I believe perhaps it was Hilton.
    So….plan accordingly.
    (Apparently the only winnings now are management bonuses!)

  31. I definitely miss the old Starwood program. From much lower and easier points redemption to earning elite night stay credits for up to 3 rooms. That was slightly replaced with the elite stay credit for every 3K spend on the Bonvoy Visa. But also the 20K spend for Ambassador is a pain.
    My Brother was Ambassador level the past 2 years – it had some advantages but not that many.

    We still try to book mostly Bonvoy properties for Business to keep up the status (I believe I just hit my 10 year milestone for Titanium for life status? We will see how that goes.

  32. That’s pardon my French complete BS on steroids.. !
    SPG site was easy to navigate it didn’t crash or freeze like Bonvoy site, it also gave loyal members more benefits and I was 50 nights away from Lifetome Platinum now it’s taking 150 after so many years of being a loyal SPG Member. Merging with Marriott is like being a Delta or AA Platinum Member, everyone is one..! I use to fly Virgin America all the time 9/10 in First Class and when not available I was always regonised as a VA Gold FF, with Bonvoy it’s avrage to be a Platinum Member ow there is another two levels above Platinum with SPG it was “a thing” and getting upgrades now is so so to day the least.
    The CEO of Marriott cannot be serious in his statement what so ever, typical American Corporate BS…!

  33. There is absolutely no way Bonvoy was liked 8:1 over SPG!! 100% impossible. I was SPG Platinum w/ambassador. Started with SPG in 2006.

    Until August of 2018 I concentrated as much as humanly possible to SPG stays domestically & globally. After the shoe dropped in August of 2018 I started looking around and quickly realized that Hyatt had a way better offering for their elites. In no time, I was a Hyatt Globalist and have not looked back.

    Even though I still have around 500,000 Bonvoyage points which are worth way less than they used to be, I will probably transfer them to American Airlines for travel as needed.

    Hyatt Globalists receive much higher recognition and benefits than Bonvoy Titanium Elites do (free breakfast at all properties – free parking – no resort fees – ability to grant someone my Globalist benefits on another reservation so that they receive the same benefits as I do – each suite award good for stays up to 7 nights (not 1 night per award like Bonvoy) – suite upgrade confirmed at booking vs waiting until 5 days out. These are SIGNIFICANTLY better perks than Bonvoy.

    So as I’ve said before, BONVOYAGE!!!

  34. I agreed 100% that Hyatt is doing much much better than BONVOY. If all members with Elite status with BONVOY, please join with the World of Hyatt that you will be better received much much benefits. No other program can beat with Hyatt. Go for the World of Hyatt.

  35. I will be the oddball and vote Bonvoy about equal, in some ways better, than SPG. Part of this is personal circumstances and I completely understand other points of view. Two reasons:

    First, I traveled a lot but couldn’t be brand loyal, occasionally made gold or platinum in one program or another, but never close to lifetime. That is, until SPG and Marriott we’re combined and with the combined total I was suddenly close to lifetime Platinum. That has a lot of value to me, I do a lot of international travel and really make use of the lounges and late checkout.

    Second, a lot more properties. SPG was great but often didn’t have a property where I needed it. That is much better.

    Devaluation? No question and that’s a negative. But overall I am not unhappy.

  36. WIth fewer competitors in the airline, hotel and rental car segments, why do they actually need to improve the program. Name any company in any of these segments who has NOT decreased their benefits to frequent users. Blame the various politicians who have allowed large consolidations in each of these segments as opposed to enforcing the antitrust laws.

    Personally, I do NOT make much effort to collect the points anymore. And since all of my travel is on my dime as opposed to “other people’s money”, I am looking for the best deals that I can find.

  37. I have been Lifetime Titanium since the program started, and was Lifetime Platinum (plus Platinum Premier) before that. Been with Marriott for over 22 years. I am seriously considering switching my allegiance to either Hyatt or Hilton due to the devaluation of the points (or rather the ongoing inflation of the rewards costs).

  38. I agree with the vast majority. I have been a SPG member for 35 years, from way back when it was Sheraton Club. After the merger with Marriott, the points cost to book nights at all properties went way way up, while earning those points did not become any easier. I wish we had the SPG benefits as they were before.

  39. As an Ambassador member for the last 3 years, I too am offended by Mr. Sorenson’s claim that bonvoy members prefer the new system over Starwood….since it is absolute BS. I currently have 115 nights and will not reach the Ambassador level this year because I did not spend $20K!!!!! Before the end of the year I will have almost 140 nights….and that means nothing to Marriott.
    I an definitely considering moving my “Loyalty” to Hilton or Hyatt. Loyal Starwood members got screwed!!!!!!

  40. I was lifetime platinum on both. I have repeatedly asked what they were going to do and the answer was “titanium” which is not even as good as platinum used to be. Far as I can tell my loyalty got me nothing – well actually less than nothing. Oh Well there is always hilton, Hyatt and accor. Bon-voyage Marriott.

  41. Too bad we can’t say bon voyage to Marriott. They’ve got us hooked. We’re in their system now and have to play by their ever changing rules. One good thing still is that when I’m at my Vistana and Westin properties my 4 star elite status is recognized

  42. Bonvoy is not worth a penny.
    Marriott reduced very discretly Gold benefits, increased points needed for free nights. In addition it remived email addresses from all hotel websites making communications very difficult or .. expensive (international call).

    I miss SPG!!

    Will probably switch to an other group after I have used my points

  43. I prefer the Starwood rewards system. It was by far easier to navigate and rewards were higher!

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