Marriott members are going to make out like bandits in the acquisition of Starwood. And there are more Marriott customers than Starwood ones. Marriott members get a whole slate of high end properties at which to use their points that they didn’t have before. And their elite benefits may get better but certainly won’t get worse. Starwood customers on the whole have been less enthusiastic.
St. Regis Bali
Late last month Travel Skills attended an influencer forum put on by Marriott Rewards in Los Angeles. Chris reports that 15 “writers/bloggers/influencers” attended a meeting with Marriott’s Vice President of Loyalty and several other executives.
The meeting was held at the JW Marriott at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles. Upon arrival, the group attended a nice networking dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s glitzy WP24 restaurant on the top floor of the neighboring Ritz-Carlton. The following morning, the forum ran for about 3-4 hours and included lunch on the hotel’s pool deck, in unusual 85-degree winter heat.
I didn’t attend the event, but I did have a chance to sit down with Marriott folks at the beginning of the week. For avoidance of doubt I covered my own travel expenses though I did have a salad and free water in their company cafeteria.
I met with Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson and also with Marriott’s Vice President of Loyalty Thom Kozik in Marriott’s Bethesda, Maryland corporate offices. Mostly they had questions for me, there wasn’t a lot of information shared with me because
- The Starwood acquisition hasn’t closed yet. So it’s still early.
- They don’t yet have full access to the books and internal metrics of Starwood Preferred Guest.
- There are restrictions on what they can say and do in advance of the shareholder vote on the deal.
Marriott Seattle Airport Atrium
As a result I don’t have a lot to report on the future of the combined company. However I certainly shared with them the major anxiety issues from a Starwood customer standpoint.
- Elite benefits: Upgrades, Late Checkout; 24 hour checkin; how lifetime Gold and Platinum status will be honored; breakfast at resorts, courtyard, and Ritz-Carlton properties.
- Transition: the value of points Starwood points if converted to Marriott Rewards, advance notice of changes
- General members: the value of points transfers to airlines; the value proposition of the Starwood co-brand American Express product; the kind of customer service, problem resolution, and assistance via social that Starwood is generally better at.
That said, it was one thing for Kozik to make time, but to have over half an hour of Sorenson’s time suggests he has a real interest in engaging the question of loyalty. I’m not important enough of a skeptic for him to spend time meeting with me for my edification. That he could just leave to staff.
Sorenson thinks loyalty will be more important going forward, not less important. He insists Marriott explicitly considered the loyalty of Starwood’s customers in valuing the deal. I asked him about a quote from the Wall Street Journal where he said “Loyalty in business really comes down to two things: quality and value.”
I pointed that I read that as transactional, a reason to pick a product in a given instance, but that loyalty – recognizing and rewarding customers over time – gets customers to make decisions beyond the single instance, to choose your brand even when you aren’t the best package of quality and value on that purchase decision. Sorenson says this sort of loyalty is subsumed by the equation as he described it.
I’m not sure that’s right, and his argument didn’t make much sense to me that loyalty is more rather than less important for a large chain in our conversation. I’ve said for some time that you can pretty much walk out of an airport and stumble into a Marriott or an IHG property, but it took effort to be loyal to Starwood or to Hyatt. So they had to work harder at it and invest more.
However a fair counter to my narrative may come from an unlikely place. This week Doug Parker made an argument at JP Morgan’s aviation conference. He says consolidation means they have to invest more in a better product. Before consolidation there were gaps in each airline’s network. Now ‘there are three global hub and spoke carriers that can take you anywhere in the world’ so you don’t get business just because you have the route in large measure. So Parker says ‘we have to have a better product’. (I wish he said ‘we have to have a better loyalty program’.)
Marriott gets bigger, gains a more global presence. And they’re slugging it out with IHG, Hilton, and even increasingly Accor across the world since Starwood had more of a worldwide footprint than Marriott. So they have to be better, when they aren’t differentiated on footprint.
My sense is that Marriott was genuinely surprised by the reaction of Starwood members to the acquisition — that they didn’t realize how fiercely loyal so many of Starwood’s customers are. And they quickly saw value in that.
I hadn’t met Thom Khozik before. I certainly knew Ed French, who left Marriott Rewards for Ritz-Carlton. French was a past President of American AAdvantage. Kozik came from technology, outside of loyalty. His perspective doesn’t start as a hotelier, on hotel guests, but on every interaction they have with customers.
For instance, Marriott Rewards should be rewarding guests and valuing customers not just on their spend when checked into a hotel, but also when they dine on-site while they aren’t registered guests. Hyatt and Starwood both already do this of course, it isn’t revolutionary. He did share he didn’t think guests should have to rely on dealing with the front desk to ensure benefits like late checkout.
Starwood members have been concerned. Sorenson seemed genuinely curious when he asked me why I’m skeptical when he says that Marriott values the loyalty of Starwood members and wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.
I do remain skeptical that Marriott will transform itself in a way that will make Starwood elites happy to become Marriott elites, because the Marriott program comes out of the Marriott culture and that’s the corporation that will survive. I’m hopeful they get creative. They certainly say they want to. Whether or not they ultimately do, they come across as committed.
Perhaps they retain three programs at least for awhile — Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Or they could do as Randy Petersen suggested to me, combine all three programs into a brand new program the way that Starwood Preferred Guest itself was created with the combination of Westin Premier and Sheraton Club International.
Regardless it’s going to be an interesting next couple of years.
I have just one very very clear question for you:
Do you honestly believe availability several months out is the same as availability on day of arrival? You see no difference there?
@UA-NYC sez: “IIRC, if Hyatt has suites for sale, a Diamond can always use one of their certs to confirm the space, correct?”
Come here… yes, you… come with me and I will show you how you shoot down a canard [French for “duck”, literally].
That claim, which is as real as the one about DSUs being “confirmed” is a fabrication of travel bloggers, which is why it is so confusing.
This is important because it is how nebulous “rules” that travel bloggers turn into dogma are hatched.
There is ABSOLUTELY nothing in the HGP T&C that states that a DSU can always be used whenever there is a suite available for sale. All the T&C say is this:
“A complimentary suite upgrade is valid on paid nights when paying an Eligible Rate, for a maximum of 7 consecutive nights, at participating Hyatt hotels where suite accommodations are available. Suite upgrade awards must be redeemed at time of reservation.”
Did you see “available” in there? That is the key and it makes sense that there must be availability at check in for a suite to be booked in advance. Everything else is simply made up, which is why there is so much confusion. Are DSUs capacity controlled? Is this strictly true only for C+P stays?
The truth of the matter, which makes DSUs even more like DCSUs , is that “availability of accommodations” entirely depends on individual properties, which have the last word on what is a suite, whether or not it is available or is even allowed to be redeemed with a DSU. When confused members are denied a DSU request with suites available for sale, they are advised in travel blogs or forums to just HUCA. Just HUCA, baby, HUCA….
In the same vein, there is nowhere in the HH T&C where it says that Diamond Complimentary Suite Upgrades are capacity-controlled. Just like DSUs, they depend on availability as determined by each property. I do not have the option to just HUCA; I just need to be “creative” at check in, with the advantage that I am usually speaking with a real live, flesh and blood manager on duty when I make my pitch.
Please do not quote me what some official at HGP had said or “confirmed” on the phone. Just consider the reports of folks whose DSU requests have been denied, especially on C+P stays, with suites available for sale to understand that this is NOT a rule that HGP can enforce without a property agreeing. Importantly, you must point to a clause in the T&C that makes any promises.
That nowhere is the claimed stated is why its implementation is so confusing. It is at the sole discretion of individual properties, and that is exactly the same as for HH-type DCSUs. Everything else is just travel blogosphere fiction or creation.
@Ahmed — Although DSUs can be reserved at booking, there already must be availability at check in for them to clear… see my previous post for more.
@DCS – no, diamond suite upgrades do not need to ‘clear’ at check-in, the suite is your confirmed room type. yes, you can be downgraded in the same manner (and only in the same manner) as a paid suite reservation would be downgraded.
@Gary — Maybe we are understanding “clearing at check in” differently, so let me illustrate what I mean. You’d like a suite upgrade at Hyatt Regency McCormick place in Chicago for the week after Thanksgiving, during which some 60K delegates would descend upon “Windy City” to attend the annual conference of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), one of the largest medical conferences in the world,. at the McCormick Convention Center. The HR McCormick place at “ground zero” will deny your DSU request even if made a year in advance because there won’t be availability. It is an extreme example but it illustrates why availability at check in is a prerequisite that is even spelled out in the T&C: “…at participating Hyatt hotels where suite accommodations are available.”
That, which was not even the main point of my longer post, and everything else in it stand.
“There is ABSOLUTELY nothing in the HGP T&C that states that a DSU can always be used whenever there is a suite available for sale.”
“Did you see “available” in there? That is the key and it makes sense that there must be availability at check in for a suite to be booked in advance. Everything else is simply made up, which is why there is so much confusion. Are DSUs capacity controlled? Is this strictly true only for C+P stays?”
This is entirely and totally incorrect.
First I’d like to see where on OMAAT members are reporting failure to apply these? I googled “Hyatt DSU could not apply” “Hyatt DSU rejected” and “Hyatt DSU capacity controlled” and found 2 FT threads where both instances were resolved (one by HUCA, another by GP themselves in an hour).
Any property in any system of any chain can misbehave, but Hyatt and SPG with their confirmed benefits are better at either bringing them back in line, or compensating you for their failure. This is a strength of theirs, and a weakness for Hilton, not the other way around.
There was only ever confusion about P+C rates since in the Hyatt system it comes up as a sort of Award stay and while agents should apply DSU to those, the inexperienced ones did not know that was the case, escalating to a Supervisor always worked. I do not know of any reports where a DSU was rejected on standard cash rates and a resolution was not found. Key words: Resolution not found.
Infact Hyatt properties are generally so good with this that if the base suite isn’t available, I’ve never failed to call hotel and secure the next suite up. Since GP is the one that books your suite there is no chance for the hotel to be able to reject a DSU on a standard rate and ALSO get away with it.
I have never once heard of capacity controlled DSU on standard rates, and never seen an instance where the hotel got away with it without repercussions from Gold Passport. Feel free to link me to a thread that suggests otherwise. This is consistent with the program T&C which do state that a suite needs to be available but does not mention anything about limited availability specifically for DSUs. They do state that there are limited suites available at each property (these cannot be invoked as a Diamond Guarantee when suites are sold out) but nothing about the pool being different. Since their implementation follows this, we cannot invent and accuse them of capacity controlling.
“I do not have the option to just HUCA; I just need to be “creative” at check in, with the advantage that I am usually speaking with a real live, flesh and blood manager on duty when I make my pitch”
Yes and this is a weakness of Hilton, not a strength. You cannot HUCA not because you are there but because you are pushing AGAINST the program. With Hyatt you can HUCA because the program is pushing on your side. If you were in person with a standing DSU and were being denied a suite, you most certainly could real-life HUCA and escalate on property. Failure to resolve would get GP involved and compensation offered. Of course I do not know of a single case of a standing DSU not being honored (I googled).
I need you to show me threads of
1) DSU incorrectly rejected without resolution on standard paid stays
2) DSU incorrectly rejected without resolution on C+P stays
The former is set in stone and there can be no questioning of it. The latter causes some confusion till date but can be resolved via escalation or HUCA. Neither is “subject to whims of hotel” as you claim, and even if there is consternation regarding no.2, it does not explain how you expand that to the no.1 case.
“The HR McCormick place at “ground zero” will deny your DSU request even if made a year in advance because there won’t be availability. It is an extreme example but it illustrates why availability at check in is a prerequisite that is even spelled out in the T&C: “…at participating Hyatt hotels where suite accommodations are available.” ”
No they will deny your request because they are completely sold out NOW ALREADY. They cannot deny your request because they FORESEE that they will sell out. It isn’t allowed. Your subsequent claim is a complete non sequitur because you claim that availability at check-in is a prerequisite and is spelled out in T&C, then you post a statement which does not state that, it merely states that a suite needs to be available (period) not at check-in. When Hyatt GP wants to clarify check in, they will do so like they do for space available upgrades to best non-suite rooms. Here is the language of them clarifying at check in for space available upgrades:
Diamond members will receive the best available room (excluding suites), including Regency Club or Grand Club rooms, AT THE TIME OF CHECK-IN.
Those bolded words are conspicuously missing in your quote of the T&C because they were never meant to be there and aren’t there. You see them, we don’t. It is never interpreted that way by anyone.
You are going to have to show me threads of unresolved cases, I’m open to reading and changing my mind.
Great post – of course DCS will just continue to obfuscate and make up facts, it’s painfully obvious to all that’s his M.O. by now.
@Ahmed — A long post that completely failed to prove anything, much less disprove my basic premise.
You failed because you still pointed to no term or clause in the HGP T&C that says that DSUs are applicable if there is a suite available for sale. Even on this site, I believe there have been a couple of threads arguing that DSUs are not capacity-controlled. Why would such threads be necessary? Because of reports of DSU request denials, especially on C+P — supposedly a type of stay that is eligible.
The notion that properties are “misbehaving” when they refuse to honor a nonexistent rule is simply ridiculous and the type of self-delusion and sense of entitlement that characterize many hobbyists, which is that their need for perks must supersede a company’s bottom line. If a property can sell a suite or an airline a premium seat for a revenue why would it instead give it away as an upgrade? The loyalty model is clear on how that question should be and has been addressed. Hyatt is not likely to deviate from the norm on this, despite claims to the contrary on travel blogs that seem to completely lack perspective. .
I will stand by everything in my post until you show me where in the HGP T&C it states that DSUs are applicable whenever a suite is available for sale. If denials have been resolved after HUCAs, it may simply mean that the decision is to accommodate top customers. It does not prove that there is or has ever been such a rule. It is like to have a desk agent deny a complimentary upgrade and to turn to a manager who reverses the decision…
With HGP continuing to gut this perk, I am beginning to suspect that the next downgrade, considering the sense of entitlement over this fabricated rule or benefit, will be to do away with DSUs altogether and adopt the DCSU model 😉
SPG has Suite Night Awards (SNAs), which I guess would be the next best thing to HGP’s “confirmed” upgrades, and yet it seems that SNAs are not very popular. Top SPG elites have had more luck with complimentary upgrades than with SNAs, which have been downgraded to an optional elite perk. What happened? That is just a rhetorical question because I know I will get a lot of spin…but it is quite telling in this “debate” 😉
Please no more huffing and puffing ad nauseam. Just provide that T&C clause.
BTW, if HGP “downgraded” DSUs in favor of a DCSU-type model, that would constitute an upgrade in my view and I may even consider doing a status match to HGP Diamond because it may finally be worth it…really 😉
I actually quoted T&C directly and gave you evidence. At this point, it is clear you have an agenda, you have flat out lied and invented T&C claims that are not present in the Hyatt T&C (Specifically the bit about availability at check-in)
The burden of proof is on you because you claim Santa Claus exists, not on us. If you are claiming they’re capacity controlled, then show the evidence and prove them guilty. The burden of proof isn’t on them to prove themselves innocent (Which they do anyway).
But you’re not claiming they’re capacity controlled either are you, you are claiming that even if they aren’t capacity controlled, they’re still not available. Any number of clauses or conditions entirely imagined so long as you get your way and HH reins over SPG/Hyatt.
I have already pointed to the exact terms and clauses, if you’re claiming I haven’t, it lays bare your delusion.
“The notion that properties are “misbehaving” when they refuse to honor a nonexistent rule is simply ridiculous and the type of self-delusion and sense of entitlement that characterize many hobbyists, which is that their need for perks must supersede a company’s bottom line”
No, there is no sense of “entitlement” in asking a company to honor its written contract, which they do btw. This bottom line focus is a Hilton thing, I would know, I’m a cross program elite. You are clearly not.
“Please no more huffing and puffing ad nauseam. Just provide that T&C clause.”
*A complimentary suite upgrade is valid on paid nights when paying an Eligible Rate, for a maximum of 7 consecutive nights, at participating Hyatt hotels where suite accommodations are available*
There. Nothing about capacity controls. You can compare that to their language used on space available updates where they clarify it is based on availability upon check-in. You have invented not one, but two things here. A capacity control and a requirement for it to be available at check in. The latter is even more ridiculous than the former.
That’s enough proof from this side.
Where is your proof? I asked you three times to show me an example of an unresolved case and you haven’t delivered. Where are all these dissatisfied hordes? Again, the burden of proof is on you and you’re drawing blanks
Also I have you’ve tacitly conceded the late check out point or just forgotten about it?
Here I’ll repost as a reminder: Hyatt and SPG have the STRONGEST/BEST/CONFIRMED in advance policy of late checkouts that aren’t resorts or conference hotels. Specifically better than Hiltons
Infact Hyatt’s late check out policy is even better than SPG, because it allows for late checkout even at sold out convention center hotels. Hyatt excludes only resorts and hotels with a casino. The definition of resort isn’t for you to decide. The hotel must be listed on hyattresorts.com for them to deny 4 PM checkout. I’m failing to see a single property on that list which cannot reasonably be called a resort
Now I will call TOTAL BS on DCS on his claim that “top SPG elites have had more luck with complimentary upgrades than with SNAs”. While I still get plenty of complimentary upgrades (after all, it is a WRITTEN benefit of SPG), SNA’s still put you a level above anything complimentary, as they clear in ADVANCE (and not at check-in). They are also an objective process, done by algorithm, whereas UGs at check-in are done by an agent.
He is getting beyond ludicrous now Ahmed..at a certain point it becomes not worth your time. .There’s some borderline psychopathic behavior at work.
@Ahmed sez: “I actually quoted T&C directly and gave you evidence.’
LOL. You “quoted” your flawed interpretation of the T&C, which are really quite straightforward and not at all hard to understand:
“A complimentary suite upgrade is valid on paid nights when paying an Eligible Rate, for a maximum of 7 consecutive nights, at participating Hyatt hotels where suite accommodations are available. Suite upgrade awards must be redeemed at time of reservation.”
What about that don’t you get? Where does it say that a DSU is applicable whenever a suite is available for sale? It is a creation or piece of fiction of the travel blogosphere. But, borrowing again from George Will, it is axiomatic that one cannot reason a person out of a position that the person has not been reasoned into. The adhesive that binds VFTW readers to their messiah can be dissolved by neither facts nor eloquence.
So, I am done here. I have a deadline to finish writing a $5M/5-year NIH research grant proposal to study psychopathology by brain imaging. If you do not get out into the real world, I am afraid you might be candidates for my study should it get approved for funding. Your tax $$ at work 😉
See you around campus!
@dcs, Ahmed does not need to provide the T & C’s because you have already generously provided his proof. They stated that DSU”s can be used to upgrade when making a reservation where suites are available. They did not include any limiting qualifiers. Available period, never qualified anywhere in the Hyatt T & C’s. All airline and hotel programs, except Hyatt, qualify in their T & C’s when upgrades can be used. Hyatt does not leave themselves any outs, available PERIOD. That is also how their program is administered. I understand that you are used to Hilton where every other word is may or except or but or some other qualifier, You assume that Hyatt just forgot to put those qualifying words into the T & C’s, but we all know what happens when you assume. Hyatt makes flat out promises, which they honor. Hilton only promises that the possibility exists. Well it’s also possible that some day cows will fly or maybe even that DCS will take a reading comprehension course.
There aren’t as many suites as there are elites. Hyatt’s Diamond Suite Upgrades and Starwood’s Suite Night Awards allow members to express priority for when they want the upgrade most. Hilton – at best – does not prevent hotels from assigning leftover suites to Diamonds at check-in, especially Diamonds who push and are forceful like DCS has described being. That’s a huge difference, and a monster one for everyone but DCS.
That’s great for DCS as far as it goes but recognize it’s a pretty unique situation, and shouldn’t obfuscate or try to confuse members over it.
@Ken — Please stop bringing me back when I am trying to escape!
LOL. Your view that because there are no qualifiers, you are free to interpret the T&C as favorably as you wish is not much of a proof or argument. Individual properties, and not HGP program managers, have the last word in determining availability . Therefore, the properties must play ball, which they have not always, especially on C+P stays. They’ve been “misbehavin'” 😉
@Gary — We are way past that point. The purported “guarantee” that when a suite is available for sale it is available for a DSU request is at issue. Once this is settled in your mind, since I have little doubt that it is fiction, your favorite escape of advanced booking will be shown to be lacking. Think of airline seat upgrades!
Gary – at what point does repeated dissenting opinion turn into a troll denigrating the experience on your site? Do us all a favor and block this psychopath.
@US-NY, I have to respectfully disagree that DCS should be blocked. DCS provides a valuable service by playing the devil’s advocate with an endless stream of misinformation and rubbish. DCS adds humor to this and other blogs by providing someone to laugh at due to the absurdity of his posts. It takes a special talent to continue to maintain a position in defiance of the facts. I salute you DCS.
@Ken — I appreciate your oblique “support.” You seem to have better instincts in not condoning censorship of dissenting voices in a public forum than the Court Jester who calls itself UA-NYC, an intellectual lightweight who is too stupid to know not to pick fights he is not equipped “upstairs” for. @Gary has folks who disagree with him all the time and he has never tried to muzzle dissenting voices. He is infinitely better than that and I do mean it.
However, to characterize arguments that you have demonstrably failed to debunk as misinformation and rubbish is what losers do. So, you lost.
Your soapbox. Knock yourselves out.
DCS so much for your NIH work. LOL. Keep defending your lack of any connection to the real world.
You DO realize the joke is on you, right? We’re not laughing with you – we’re laughing AT you. Funny how you yet to have any fellow blog readers show up to defend your Flat Earth Society views. Enjoy your time on the lonely island.
You guys just doesn’t get it. It is sad that none of you will never be invited into the Hilton unpublished levels. Achieving such level allows you confirmed access to suites even when completely sold out in addition to all meals covered and checkout the week after the departure date. They hold the room in the memory of its last occupant indefinitely subject to a maximum of one week. I am batting 10/12 for unicorn soft toys delivered this year, something Gary or Ben cannot say and are forced to steal Lufthansa rubber duckies to make themselves feel better. Every post of mine sends Gary crying to Park Hyatt Maldives where he is denied upgrade to the overwater sunset villa. He claims he gets upgraded but I can demonstrably prove this wrong, the villa he gets upgraded to is by his own admission the same as the villa on land, just overwater, that sounds a lot like a club floor room to me. Exact same room on a different “floor”. Meanwhile at the Conrad Rangali, last year I was worshipped as a god. They were so impressed with my abilities and “superpowers” that the staff of the hotel actually felt that I did not need the full Oxygen capacity during my Scuba dive and only filled half the tank. That is how good Hilton is, they picked up on the fact that I like suites because it gives me room to breathe and they gave me more room in my tank too to the extent that I was literally breathing the extra room!
If that isn’t service, I do not know what is.
What a minute I thought you loved Hilton?