Marriott Resort Says They Don’t Upgrade Elites “Due to Small Size of Hotel”

At the beginning of the year the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort announced at that they do not upgrade elites to suites, in bold contravention of program terms.

Marriott didn’t let them get away with that. It was just too blatant. Whether or not they’re actually going to deliver suites is another matter, but they cannot actually say they’re gong to ignore program terms.

Marriott’s terms say say the Platinum upgrade benefit is “to the best available room” and that “includes suites.” There are exclusions, but they do not include J.W. Marriott hotels generally or this resort specifically.

Platinum Elite Members receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in. Complimentary upgrade includes suites, rooms with desirable views, rooms on high floors, corner rooms, rooms with special amenities or rooms on Executive Floors. At The Ritz-Carlton, suites are only included for Platinum Premier Members and rooms with direct Club access are excluded. Enhanced Room Upgrades are subject to availability and are identified by each Participating Property. The Complimentary Enhanced Room Upgrade for Platinum Elite Members is available at all Participating Brands except at Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Grand Residence Club, Aloft, Element and participating Vistana properties.

Marriott’s Autograph Collection Waterline Marina Resort has followed the lead of the JW Marrriott Guanacaste and declared that they do not upgrade Platinums. And they’ve brashly done so at

@andrewfordjr flags this situation.

It turns out though that this hotel is allowed to deny upgrades to Marriott elites, just not for the reason they say they can.

Waterline Marina Resort appears to be an all suites property. As a result they aren’t required to further upgrade elites. Each hotel determines what suites are eligible for upgrade into and they aren’t required to include suites that are higher than their base suite type.

The hotel’s explanation for why they do not upgrade — that they are a small hotel — is not actually a permissible reason.

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. All of the hotel groups need to come up with a better system for elite upgrade promises and delivery. The current way of doing it just leads to over promising and under delivering. They should just run all upgrades with Suite Night Award type of system and instead of promising “space available upgrades, including suites” they should say at Platinum you get 20 suite nights a year, and like 20 “better room” upgrades but you gotta let us know you want it before hand so we can plan. Then they could still deny you if they don’t have space, but then keep track of how many times you’ve been denied and maybe give you priority over another elite on a future stay to manage it fairly.

  2. @Rob

    That’s exactly what World of Hyatt is doing and that’s the reason I’ve been royal to Hyatt for past 5 years and I go out of my ways to earn their top tier status every year.

    By default I get 4 suite certificates upon qualifying, with each cert good for up to 7 night stay and hotel description clearly states which suite is the standard suite and which are premium suite. Confirmed at booking or anytime after booking as long as a standard suite is available for the stay. No questions, no tricks, no games to play.

    On top of that, I get regularly upgraded to higher level suites upon arrival. On my most recent stay, at Grand Hyatt Doha, I booked a standard suite using the certificate but I was proactively upgraded to a lavishly appointed marble floor presidential suite upon arrival what’s double(!) the size of a standard suite.

    Since I often travel with my family with 2 girls, a suite is a must at most non US/Canada properties. With free breakfast for 2 adult and 2 children covered, which can’t be matched by any other hotel reward programs hands down, I am sticking to Hyatt all the way.

  3. You must remember that Marriott is the biggest hotel company in the word
    And they can do what ever they want to their elites even step on them
    like dead cockroaches if they choose.They yield the power now and the upper hand
    No matter what they do millions will flock to them as they offer enormous choices and some of the best-and most sought after hotel brands & properties in the world.
    There will be hotels who exceed expectations and many that will make up their own rules trying to cheat members out of a solid breakfast benefit by offering a 5 dollar coupon or denying upgrades to sell to their revenue advantage

    SPG is gone no matter how you slice or dice it
    Those 3000 point redemption’s are gone now for weekend nights
    and in place are 35000 point redemption’s per night for your loyalty devaluation pleasure
    Transferring 1 point to an account gone now too
    Charging on your BonOye American Express?
    less points per dollar for everyday spending
    Only $30,000 to 40,000 in spending on the former SPG card can now get you a free night now at a premium property

    Hilton anybody?Who would have thought just 2 years ago.Certainly Hyatt if it works for some
    For those that choose to remain loyal to Bonfire prepare to bow
    and accept what comes your way
    Its of my opinion the former SPG loyalists will find many ways to hate BonVoid and the previous Long time Marriott customers who got nothing anyway will likely feel the program and hotel benefits may be improving albeit at higher revenue costs and more expensive redemptions
    RIP SPG 🙁

  4. I have pretty much accepted that an upgrade to a suite is rarely going to happen with Marriott. Half the time it’s simply the check-in person making up their own rules or too lazy to actually look and change out the check-in. This because I always check ahead of time to see suite availability online. If they say “none are available” after clearly not even looking I show them. This usually results in “oh, that must have just become available” and I get it. That’s Hyatt though. At least they give it to me in the end. Marriott? I don’t even bother fighting it anymore and just go to Hyatt whenever possible.

    Big Three Airlines. Big Three Hotel Chains. We are pretty much screwed.

  5. This makes for good clickbait, but when a handful of hotels amidst the 7000 in the Marriott portfolio cause a fuss, I don’t think it’s much of a fuss. I applaud those trying to bring the culprits to heel, but I don’t applaud those trying to turn these mole hills into Mt. Everest.

    And too many people are trying to turn these mole hills into Mt. Everest.

  6. Titanium and LT Plt. Just got bonvoyed at a Courtyard in DE. Suites available for duration of 2 night stay online. Requested upgrade at check in. Told nothing available by check in person. Too tired to fuss at the time, so accepted it…

    Sent a twitter message to Marriott Bonvoy Assist. 24 hrs later, no acknowledgment or follow up.

    Yup. Anyone have ideas?

  7. I think you just need to make such a fuss and print out the terms that says “Best Available Room” – you’ll have it in writing if they try and fight you

  8. People whine so much about this and it makes me sick. Just how entitled do you think you are? I’m lifetime Titanium (about the Platinum you are whining about) and never “assume” I will get upgraded, even if the property has rooms available. They are in business and if they feel there is a reasonable chance they can sell a suite instead of giving it away they are crazy to do so. I’m often upgraded and grateful when I can and do ask if there are any available but to assume I am entitled to one is crazy. Gary – you keep quoting the Marriott upgrade policy but there are lots of ways any hotel can get around it and unless you know the available inventory by room type along with reservations booked over your stay (or historical projections of rooms that aren’t yet booked but likely will be) you can’t question anything about upgrades.

    I’m lifetime AA and DL plus Bonvoy Titanium plus currently Gold Hilton, Diamond Wyndham and Diamond Caesars (for when I like to gamble). I appreciate the perks I get but the whole issue of upgrades makes me sick (almost as much as the articles about breakfast – like most of you really need to consume more calories). JUST LET IT GO. Take what is offered, ask if you wish, but to make a scent and pout over something like this is pretty sad and juvenile. Grow up

  9. @Ari – look at the Tweets & Replies tab on Marriott Bonvoy Assist. You will see they reply to many of the Tweets a day or two after the original Tweet; much too late to be helpful. Long gone are the days of a response within minutes from @spgassist.

  10. @tjp74 There’s a big difference between using a confirmed upgrade certificate versus simply being upgraded at the time of check-in. Both Hyatt and Marriott offer the same benefit with respect to the latter scenario. Hyatt’s suite benefit is far from being flawless, however. It’s not uncommon for hotels use the designation “suite” for what is simply a larger room and not actually a suite at all. That’s playing “games” and not affording the guest what they deserve. Many hotels also don’t define “standard suite” or “premium suite” on their individual websites as you assert. Then there’s the fact that top tier in the program now only comes with two confirmed upgrades, not two; you can now get two at 50 nights which is the second top tier.
    @downdermeant Actually, Wyndham is the largest hotel chain in the world, not Marriott.
    @Alan C It’s wonderful you feel that way but it’s not at all about entitlement; it’s about holding a business to account for their marketing and demanding what the business itself says you are owed.

  11. I’m less concerned about suite upgrades than the way I was recently treated by Marriott. I cashed in a 7 night stay coupon and took time off work after being told the coupon covered the stay. Less than a week before the travel I was sent an email advising me I was short on points and would need to turn it into a $5000 paid stay (I couldn’t buy enough points in a year to make up the difference). I took it up 3 levels of management and was told that the Corporate GM decided that they would not honor the assurance that now 2 employees had given me on the phone because they had lost the recorded messages and my coupon was not enough for this recently upgraded property . I asked them to cancel the reservation and return my coupon as they offered to do. The day of the stay I received an email welcoming me to the property so I called and spent over an hour sorting out the mess so they would not charge the credit card on file for a late cancellation. Overall I spent 3 hours on hold to hear that the customer is always wrong. They had the gaul to act like they were doing me a favor by cancelling my reservation without charging me. I agree with others- as an 800 pound gorilla treating others as you would want to be treated doesn’t even seem to enter their consciousness. Profoundly disappointing experience. Corporate greed, championed at the highest levels of our government, is going to be the downfall of this country. What ever happened to civility and the common good?

  12. I stayed here last month for 35,000 points per night when the paid rate was over $900, and they did upgrade us for no charge as a Platinum. My family and I also really enjoyed our stay. I live in South Florida and Anna Maria Island has a wonderful “old Florida” vibe, and the Waterline was a great property. I did not ask for an upgrade because I had seen the message on the website when booking. We were upgraded from a standard view of the parking lot to a view of the marina/canal, which was cool because we were able to watch manatees off of our deck in the morning. When I thanked the front desk agent for the upgrade and mentioned what it said on the website, she said they always try to accommodate upgrades for a better view when they can for elite members, but it is usually difficult due to the small number of rooms. Our stay was quick and she said for stays of 5-7 days it is nearly impossible to upgrade, which is when guests get upset. If you stay here and hope for an upgrade, try a shorter stay. There’s no games being played here and every staff member and manager I interacted with was incredible friendly.

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