Marriott Eliminates Discount For Federal Government Employees

Sometime in the past couple of months Marriott changed the rules for stays on government rates. It used to be that most Marriott properties merely required a guest to be a federal employee to take advantage of a federal government rate. Now, it seems, they uniformly require the guest to be on official business when staying at this (frequently deeply discounted) rate. This matches Hilton’s approach.

This is bad news for a lot of federal government employees, who not only got great rates when traveling for work (saving the taxpayer money, the U.S. federal government is in many cases the single largest buyer of travel) but also as a perk for their time off too.

From a business perspective a ‘federal leisure rate’ can make a lot of sense.

  • Federal employees have discretionary income (so a good market to target) but generally aren’t wealthy (so discounts matter).

  • A hotel can generate incremental business with a discount for federal employees without undercutting the prices they charge to other customers.

However hotels are filling up in the U.S. You might look at comparable occupancy statistics and say that the hotel business still hasn’t fully recovered to 2019 levels, and that’s true. But weekend business generally has. In other words, in leisure markets, leisure stays are back – and beyond 2019 levels. However mid-week business stays are suffering – and averaging the two together the hotel business isn’t yet back to where it was pre-pandemic.

In any case, there’s no reason to offer deep discount inventory to stimulate extra room sales to government workers taking a weekend getaway, since hotels are in many cases filling these rooms at much higher prices. There’s no longer a need for a policy of ‘looking the other way.’

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. Unrelated, but important for lots of Iceland-bound travellers: “From July 27, GMT 00:00, travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test result when boarding a flight to Iceland, not older than 72 hours.” PCR or antigen test are both accepted.

  2. In my experience, hotels that require you to be on official business to get the government rate rarely verify it.

  3. How are they going to determine who is on official business? One could easily just write up a letter on letterhead.

  4. @ Gary — A certain IC has this assinine policy. So, I got a job with a company that has their best corporate rate. 😉

  5. Used to stay at SPG all the time as a State Govt employee. Marriott removed that perk. Hyatt still maintains good availability for Federal and State employees. IHG is state specific in that you must be a state employee from the state in which the IHG is located to receive the discount.

  6. Another reason to ditch Marriott. I was able to book a State govt rate at a Sheraton in San Diego
    last week for $125 a night regular $259. Property was not great so maybe that has some bearing.

    I prefer Hilton for good Gov rates

  7. @ Franz Christian Gone are the days of putting official travel on personal cards to get the points. Federal travel must be on an official travel card.

  8. Marriott may not know it, but gone are the days that federal agencies “cut” travel “orders”. Of course federal workers who have even minimal travel are typically issued a federal travel card. Despite the employee’s personal liabiliity for charges made on the card, using it for non-official purposes is not taken lightly.

    We’ll see how Marriott implements enforcement – if they make enforcement so onerous that federal employees spend hours proving they are legit, they can forget that part of the market.

  9. I hate humans, the gvt rate is NOT a perk but a discounted rate for current employees working. Mostly aimed at those who travel on reimbursement terms. Meaning they they pay upfront cost on travel expenses and have to be reimbursed. It saves them money, but some people take advantage of this, check in to hotels, expect $300 service for 80 or 90 bucks and then act an ass when they do not get their ay. I feel they should be held accountable for their idiotic behavior. And there are multiple ways to verify of someone is on official work or not. Also they can be reported to their agency for misbehavior or unruly conduct.

  10. I book government rates all the time. (And I am a state government employee). I’ve never had a hotel in 20+ years verify that I was traveling on “official business” (or even verify that I was indeed a government employee for that matter).

  11. Full agreement!
    As a private sector employee I’ve always resented that gov’t employees get discounted rates while traveling for leisure…. military, yes!
    . I work hard for my money too and they don’t cut me a break!

  12. @Jeannie

    Why not military too? Soldiers get paid handsomely with signing bonuses, college tuition with stipend, and pensions if they make a career out of it. Soldiers/sailors/marines blindly follow orders and don’t deserve any special benefit or recognition. It’s not like they fight for freedom at home and defend actual borders at home. They get paid with tax dollars to do what is often unhelpful to the public. The military is a form of welfare.

  13. Curious about the source for this news, Gary. I checked locations into FY 22 and rate rules on the Marriott website have not changed, They do state a traveler must be able to show either orders, federal travel card, standard government employee ID (with photo), or a CACI card with photo. Every federal employee has the proper ID or CACI card. Some locations don’t show rates into October (loaded only through 9/30), but that’s also not unusual for areas that are going to show a change (FY 22 rates have been set, but not announced yet.).

  14. RIP to another great SPG benefit that Marriott has killed. My guess is that too many people who weren’t entitled to this benefit used it in the past, and that hotels want to make more money.

    For those wondering what will be required, it looks like an ID will no longer suffice. You will have to show an GSA credit card and/or your actual authorized travel from E2/Concur. In the past I wasn’t asked for proof very often, but it appears from the linked thread that hotels will be enforcing this.

  15. @Krystyna and everyone – that is not what the Marriott site states. Nor is that what I’m seeing when I check various hotels with dates through the end of the year. There have always been hotels that didn’t participate, but all 15 I checked stated “federal employee ID” as a requirement, but none said you need an OFFICIAL ID (or, as stated above, CACI card) AND orders AND a travel card. It was ID OR orders.

  16. Really sad to see the rules posted that it is for “official” travel only. I travel approximately 80% for work. The other 20% or less is for leisure travel… often I have chosen Marriott in the past rather than other brands…. Rates were often close to the other options, so Marriott got my business. This combined with changing the points needed/reclassification of hotels… my 25k certificate barely covers the lowest class hotel… I may rethink this.

  17. The killer to this is that Government State rates listing the same price as Govt/military rates for the same stay do not include requirement of being on official business. For proof, search Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel with gov rate and look at the rate requirements. I don’t know of any other hotel chain that does not provide a generic military discounted rate. I hope Marriott is ready to take a loss on active duty leave travel.

  18. Marriott isn’t even an option for federal employees anymore for official business. All hotel reservations have to be made through Concur reservation system and Marriott is not an option. You aren’t allowed to call and make your own reservation.

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