Marriott Has a New Head of Loyalty, and He’s Dishing on What to Expect From the Program — and When

Marriott announced David Flueck today as Senior Vice President, Loyalty. I spoke with David this afternoon about what comes next as they work towards a single loyalty program across Marriott, Starwood, and Ritz-Carlton.

David shared that it’s a “tremendously exciting time for all travelers, [simultaneously with] consolidation and more choice and opportunity, and an exciting time at Marriott” as they work to bring together Starwood and Marriott.

    Marriott Headquarters, Bethesda

Flueck joined the Westin brand 13 years ago, and moved to Starwood Preferred Guest in 2006. He was Vice President of SPG during the time that the program introduced new elite benefits like Your24 check-in, the Ambassador program, and Suite Night Awards. Then he spent 3 years as Starwood’s Vice President of Revenue.

With the Marriott merger close, and departure of Chris Holdren as Senior Vice President of SPG and Digital, Flueck was put in charge of the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

Now he’s being placed in charge of loyalty across the Starwood, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton programs. Thom Kozick, who has been in charge at Marriott Rewards for a couple of years, will report up to Flueck and according to the press release “will take on added responsibilities for cutting-edge strategic initiatives” which I’ll leave to the reader to interpret.

It’s always a little bit difficult to read the tea leaves on these sorts of leadership changes. Members who want to read in a greater prominence in loyalty for the Starwood lineage can certainly do so. Starwood has been much stronger in guest recognition, while Marriott has historically provided greater rebate value for spending at its properties. Flueck says “what’s coming next, our focus now, is continuing to take the best of SPG and bring it across to Marriott Rewards and vice versa.”

St. Regis Bangkok

There’s little question that since the deal for Marriott to acquire Starwood was made official, Marriott has been working hard to add benefits similar to what Starwood has offered – 4 p.m. Gold and Platinum checkout, experiential rewards similar to SPG Moments, and testing of an Ambassador program for instance. Marriott even renamed their experiential program ‘Moments’ and had over 3000 redemptions enjoyed by members last year.

Thom Kozik and indeed Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson have talked about the importance of suite upgrades, which Marriott historically hasn’t promised to top tier elites.

Marriott generated much praise offering status matches between programs, and points transfers at a realistic rate, on day one of the merger. He says their “goal is to help our members experience the world, and we do that through redemptions, moments, and the rest of redemption opportunities on both sides of the loyalty programs.”

Having the act together technologically, and both helping members make effective use of their points while introducing them to the other brand and reassuring their points would indeed retain value, went a long way towards generating goodwill from customers.

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

The timing of program integration is of utmost interest, and Marriott has said they weren’t going to integrate programs before the start of 2018 but they never explicitly said they’d do it at the start of 2018. The technology here is hard, as Flueck points out their “global scale, breadth of brands, benefits, integration into property management systems” are all complex and they need to not only design what the program looks like but build the technology to deliver it consistently at the property level.

So they’re “not ready to pick firm dates” yet but they’ll give members “clear perspective on where we are in that process later this year,” although “early in 2018 is probably not going to be realistic target for us.” Don’t expect a new program January 1.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile, Alabama

There’s a long way to go – in particular finding a way for Marriott to offer real (suite) upgrades to elites, as well as breakfast at resorts (when you may care about it most) and at Courtyard properties (where a single bottle of water was the sum total of my elite recognition in the hotel during a stay earlier this month).

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 hope that we’ll hear about Lifetime Plat status soon. I’m most worried about losing that, along with SNAs when Marriott takes over.

  2. I’ve been pleased overall with my move to Marriott/SPG from Hyatt. I don’t really care about suite upgrades. If I get one, I get one.

    I do love the fact that I get the option to have breakfast at the restaurant or club lounge. That was something Hyatt didn’t offer, unless the lounge was closed.

    As far as only having one bottle of water in the room. Just go up to the lounge and get another bottle.

  3. It’s encouraging to hear the continued focus on the importance of recognizing Elites and maintaining the value of the program. That said, I’m still waiting to hear what will/will not be done with regards to Lifetime Status as I’m on the verge of hitting it for Gold with Starwood.

    Tony, Courtyards don’t have Club Lounges? Which I think was the point. No lounge, no breakfast (if I remember correctly regarding Courtyards), no benefits other than a single bottle of water. Pretty sad “reward” for someone who spent 75 nights getting to Platinum Status at Marriott.

  4. @Tony: There are no lounges in Courtyard Marriott properties, so you wouldn’t be able to go get another bottle of water. I get it — Courtyard Marriotts are not where Marriott is directing its loyalty improvement efforts, but that’s where my work puts me most of the time. A bit frustrating to be a Platinum and the extent of my welcome amenity is a small bottle of water and a fun size bag of Doritos (that was my last welcome “bag”).

  5. “…the importance of suite upgrades, which Marriott historically hasn’t promised to top tier elites.

    LOL. That canard was already shot dead! Repeating the claim won’t resurrect it. The promise of suite upgrades for top MR elites, as spelled out in the programs’ T&C, has always been exactly the same as the promise of suite upgrades for top SPG elites — that is for anyone who did not flunk a really simple English comprehension test… 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing. Any mention of when stay credit will be offered/honored across programs? I hate the fact that my SPG and Marriott stays can’t be pooled together to work towards elite status.

  7. @Jeff The Courtyards outside of the United States of club lounges. Two in particular, Courtyard Sha Tin and Courtyard HK have club lounges, on the 30th and 6th floor respectively.

    When I think of it, the Courtyard in Sha Tin is nicer than some Marriotts in the US.

  8. “The technology is hard”….undoubtedly true, but how hard can it be to tell members that stays at both Marriott and Starwood during 2017 can be combined to count for status in whatever new program emerges in 2018?
    I would have thought such a commitment is key and core….but has not been forthcoming.

  9. DCS continues to lie about suite upgrade T&Cs between Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton. Fact. They are different.

    In fact, go to the Hilton Diamond tab on the Hilton site and you won’t see the word “suite” listed anywhere. Another fact.

    Hey at least you will find the word “suite” on the Marriott Plat tab. Not as aggressively promised as SPG but it’s there.


  10. Marriott can’t even implement a 4:00 pm checkout for its hapless members; can’t wait to see the damage that they inflict on SPG members.

  11. @Gary — Why not just delete the unhinged post since it is meaningless anyway…

    This is the same unhinged troll you just posted under the same moniker over at OMAAT. I’d like to blame the clearly elevated insanity level in travl blogosphere on Turmp’s America, but that would be too easy and convenient. The deeply psychopathological behavior goes beyond…

  12. You guy’s need to hire better Area General Manager and not the lying stealing twitch. General Manager a boss bully

  13. Re-posting, as it has been shown many times just how different the suite language is across programs:
    – Starwood – “•An upgrade to best available room at check-in — including a Standard Suite” (3rd bullet on the SPG Plat landing page, bold and declarative)
    – Marriott – “Based on room availability at check-in, we’ll do our best to upgrade your room. Upgrades are subject to availability identified by each hotel and limited to your personal guestroom. See terms and conditions for details” (14th bullet point down, links to another T&C page, has suites buried in the T&Cs)

    So, it’s quite clear that there’s juuuuuust a bit of difference between the two programs w.r.t. the language. Encouraging that they seem to “get it” when it comes to how strong the promise of suite upgrades (including the successful SNA program) has been to SPG. While I’m sure the combined program won’t be as generous as SPG, hopefully it’s stronger than MR has been.

    And just for comparison…

    – Hilton “Space-available upgrade to a preferred room” (ruh roh, that doesn’t seem too conducive to getting an upgrade. T&Cs similarly bury any suite language)

    Clearly not rational to call posts “unhinged” when they are factual.

  14. As an SPG Lifetime Platinum member who was/is concerned about elite status with the new combined program…it gives me some relief to see that someone from SPG will be heading the new combined program(s). Keeping fingers crossed.

    One other comment – wondering if they will keep Ritz Carleton Rewards as a separate entity? If so…then what about St. Regis/Luxury Collection ?

  15. “Re-posting, as it has been shown many times just how different the suite language is across programs”

    If there is anyone in travel blogosphere — beside the clueless poster who,predictably, wrote the comment above — still believes that canard, then they must have missed it when that thing was shot dead and, thus, are strongly urged to read the post at the following link. Go one, get yourself some dead ducky…

  16. “consolidation and more choice”

    Someone said something about basic English comprehension…

  17. @UA-NYC — You have hounded me from firum to forum like a junkyard dog for days now. The manifestations of your psychopathology are just too strong to tolerate, so it is time to give you the treatment that I know drives you even higher up the wall. You are, once again, getting the “silent treatment”, under whatever moniker you will decide to post to get my attention. I can smell you under any disguise because no one is as unhinged…

    Unlike you, I can ignore you, which your psychopathology won’t allow you to do about me. So, the only place I am going to see you from now on is up the wall.


  18. So DCS posts a link to his own external post, which doesn’t have a single comment. And has no actual zero evidence. And no actual links. I’ll stop the “hounding” when you start posting actual facts, vs. lies and opinions masquerading as facts.

    You have a weirdly perverse hate towards Starwood/SPG for some reason (even though you have zero experience as an elite guest), probably because it’s been (rightly) lauded for years now and conversely, bloggers don’t ever really talk about Hilton (for the obvious reasons…poor loyalty program, tiny luxury/unique property base, just a rebate program, etc.)

  19. Re: “only one bottle of water”

    I assume that all these rooms have glasses and faucets? Why waste the plastic to drink even one bottle of water, much less “more than one.” If this is something of concern in elite benefits, than y’all lead pretty charmed lives 🙂


  20. The notion of a SPG person running MR causes me worry. Even more expensive rewards (not that MR rewards are cheap). Poor earn on spend at hotels relative to MR currently. Worthless middle tier (SPG gold is a joke.). Maybe in the end we’ll have a MR credit card that is worth taking out of the sock drawer. OF course it’ll end up being the worst of both programs as every travel merger has been in the last dozen or so years.

  21. SPG Gold can be earned in 10 stays, free with certain credit cards, or free with certain United status levels. It’s more of an entry-level status than a true mid-tier one…which actually gives solid benefits (50% point bonus, *guaranteed* 4pm check-out, welcome gift, etc.)

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