Quickly Marriott improved benefits introducing 4 p.m. Gold and Platinum elite check-out and trialing an Ambassador service. They also built out experiential rewards. And with the close of the merger they allowed members to elite status match and transfer points at will. Those were all impressive gestures but there’s been little public action over the last year.
Today Marriott still doesn’t have an equivalent suite upgrade benefit or offer breakfast at resorts, Courtyard properties, or on weekends. Those have to be solved. But they won’t be solved right away.
They were never going to be fully integrated in 2018. The most optimistic assessments suggested a minimum of 18 months’ work. And there are two major constraints:
- IT work. I’ve never seen an IT project finish early or under budget. They need to get hotels on the same platform, and they need a single platform that they’re going to merge data for members onto. Even smaller acquisitions have taken longer to handle the IT.
- Credit card contract. Right now Starwood and Marriott have two different co-brand card issuers, American Express and Chase respectively, and their pace and ultimately even program structure may be driven by maxizing revenue across the two banks.
W Union Square
So it should surprise absolutely no one that Marriott announced today that Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are not being integrated for 2018. And 2018 program changes are minimal.
- Hertz partnership. Starwood members earn points with Hertz rentals, and both Marriott and Starwood Platinums get Hertz Five Star status (if they don’t have it via United or Delta already, indeed nearly anyone who stumbles onto a Hertz lot and trips is given Five Star). Starwood Ambassador (100 night) members and Marriott Platinum Premiers get Hertz
President’s Circle. Trading Starwood-Uber for Hertz feels like going back in time (where the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland).
- Points won’t expire for Starwood lifetime elites matching Marriott.
- Marriott rollover nights and status buy back will end after this year. So only 2017 nights in excess of status requirements roll over to 2018, 2018 nights will no longer roll over.
Al Maha Desert Resort
Here’s the thing. They’re clearly continuing to align the programs. And in announcing the end of rollover they’re preparing for a combined and aligned offering.
However by not announcing what the 2019 program looks like – status benefits that members will be staying for all throughout 2018 — they’re either going to need to wait to combine until 2020 or make elites materially better off across the board in 2019. Otherwise they’re inducing members to stay with promises that would go unfulfilled. And hotels aren’t immunized from member complaints by Northwest v. Ginsberg the way that airlines are.