Report: Don’t Expect Much Elite Recognition From Marriott in the Mideast

Local reader Vineet Shrivastava confirmed his earlier reports on the state of elite benefits at Marriott hotels in the Mideast by calling every Marriott property in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – over 50 hotels – to ask how they’re handling these benefits, speaking with each hotel’s front office manager or higher.

Here are his findings, confirming past reports about what the new Marriott program means for members.

Upgrades Stay the Same — for Legacy Starwood and Marriott Hotels

SPG hotels aren’t downgrading their upgrade benefit, business as usual for them. Best available rooms including suites. Alofts and Elements are now stricter about no upgrades (previously they tried best available too).

..[N]ot a single Marriott hotel promised to consistently deliver suites, only if pushed, some said they’re willing but not as a matter of policy. The policy they said was not changed from next category upgrade, specifically asked all of them if they have received notification of new benefits and they all said yes they have. (So they’re not awaiting new rules while implementing old ones).

…[T]he internal hotels sheet for benefits … does NOT have the strong best room language. It says suites are included for platinums and not for Golds and says upgrades may be to view rooms, higher floors etc etc. (old Marriott lingo). This is internal documentation and I have seen it myself and can verify it is true. They have known this for months.

Nothing in their T&C indicates there will be such a dissonance between legacy SPG brands and Marriott ones but it is the ground reality and this has nothing to do with post-merger confusion since we are not 3 weeks on from notification of new benefits but months on (the prep obviously started way before August).

St. Regis Abu Dhabi


No change at Marriotts. Big devaluation in effect at SPG hotels. SPG hotels here almost always allowed you to take the breakfast in the restaurant [instead of in the lounge]… Well, now almost none allow this anymore.

…The best part? Ready? Courtyards

…Courtyard Abu Dhabi has a very nice 5 star level breakfast at a very reasonable rate of 95 AED. you got 50% off as a Platinum member and it was 55 AED (taxes meant its not exactly half). Now you get 10 USD per guest BUT you can only use that towards the 95 rate and NOT the 55 platinum promotional rate. You can still avail the 55 rate if you select points as amenity instead of breakfast.

Courtyard gives you 36 AED towards breakfast, and you pay 60 on top of that.
OR just pay 55 and collect F&B amenity or points.

Ingenious way to do absolutely nothing towards breakfast with the 10 USD. Its really only useful for random F&B spend at inflated prices around the hotel. A coffee was 26 AED for instance and ate up almost the entire allowance.

A breakfast benefit, this most certainly is not.

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

Lounge Access

[L]ots of SPG non-Westin/Sheraton/LM brands (primarily LC) hotels ditching lounge access or making you select it in place of points. This was easily forseeable, even though not much change to the written benefit has been made. Earlier those 3 brands accounted for 99% of SPG lounges, so it was near impossible to diverge from their regulations in practise as a different brand (LC, 4P etc) whereas now the majority of Marriott brands and hotels do NOT have a lounge, so no lounge access is the expected norm except in brands specifically listed.

As of now, Grosvenor house isn’t changing anything (they continue to offer lounge access) but they’re generally above and beyond in everything.

Rest everyone is devaluing it. W had plans to get rid of happy hour prior to changing flags. 4P SZR is discontinuing it as of Jan 1, 2019 and in wider region. Basically, no more lounges at SPG brands outside of those 3 except in very remote circumstances (from near assured access to all random 4P, LC and W/St Regis lounges).

Vineet concludes, “AUH/DXB/Asia regionally had some of the best compliance with T&C, if this is the condition here…”

Marriott is compensating hotels on elite satisfaction, but legacy Marriott members are overall going to see incremental elite benefits from the merger and legacy Starwood members are going to see better earn from ongoing spend. Existing Marriott points balances, though, become worth less.

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’m a fan of Marriott, and loyal, but as a 13 year member and PE for the last 10, I can tell you I NEVER get upgraded to a suite except for maybe twice in that time, and no, I don’t usually ask..I should not have to ask but when I have, it’s usually been a minor upgrade (corner room, concierge floor) so really all of this is much ado about nothing

  2. Absolute stupidity. I never get upgrades at SPG as a Platinum. Also, what are you talking about, Breakfast in the restaurant. Thats a NEVER unless the lounge is closed. At the Westin Pasadena , they don’t have a lounge and I was offered a Continental breakfast credit that did NOT EVEN COVER the continental breakfast. The next week I was at the Renaissance in Reno and was offered a FULL breakfast each morning. BITCH, WHINE, COMPLAIN but everything is as it comes. Its random. Im not happy about the merger either as it reduces customer service and competition but SPG loyalists are morons at times who also cant compute earn and burn. Also all you arrogant SPGers, NOW you will be able to find a hotel anywhere you go!

  3. Ryan: SPG loyalty was never about “earn and burn”. If I would be interested in “earn and burn” and “finding a hotel everywhere I go” (primarily in US) I would stay with Marriott and/or Hilton but not with SPG. One thing I agree with you that “It is random” but it does not have to be.

  4. Everybody needs to dump Marriott. They truly think that they are too big to fail and are doing everything to devalue the customer experience they can. The DOJ needs to break up Marriott, the fact that they’re able to get so big is a disgrace.

  5. Sad. I had nice stays in Amman and Beirut and Izmir last year. Ok, Izmir is the European side of Turkey. Oh well, time to switch to Hilton.

  6. Well we are now finding out first hand all the gory details of what they really meant about lower costs for MR for the various properties.
    Right now suite upgrades feel like the least of our worries given the general disarray sounding MR.

  7. As Gary has said a dozen times: We are not the customer of Marriott, we are the product they sell to hotels. Hotels are their customers. Their goal s to seek to please the hotel, and therefore generate fees, before they seek to please the MR members.

    It would be different if Marriott owned the hotels but they don’t…they are simply a marketing arm for their hotel owners.

  8. Ryan – the whole article was about hotels in the MIDEAST. While hotels in the US have never been particularly bountiful hotels is SE Asia (and apparently the mideast) have been generous as a rule. While I am no fan of the merger you are comparing apples to oranges!

  9. Ryan – I think we have established you are an outlier, apparently the only SPG to not get upgrades with any semi-regularity. You are just a recent SPG Plat match via Marriott, right? That would somewhat explain it. Only staying at limited service ones or Sheratons would be another.

  10. Also Ryan – again, any SPG loyal could have been a Marriott loyal at any point if we wanted to – we chose not too. I didn’t need to go to a CY or RI or SHS or TPS or any of those other limited service, mediocre options in small town USA.

  11. I first switched from SPG to Marriott in 2011 after 3 years as a Platinum , then earned lifetime Platinum Premiere with Marriott over the course of 2011-2017. Marriott is not perfect, not at all. But I’m saying all the SPG folks think they were sitting on some amazing loyalty program and everything I ever experienced with SPG was lower service levels , no upgrades and “beg for breakfast” philosophy. I can’t believe I had to trade points for breakfast (and now Marriott adopted that). I don’t ever remember seeing more than 1-2 suite upgrades per year at SPG and have had zero in the US during the transition. I agree Marriott has now improved some policies thanks to the merger but I never use 4pm check out. Never , not ever. I travel for work. We are always out in the early morning, but it’s nice to have it the 2-3 times per year I’m on vacation. Even so , I don’t think I’ve used it.

  12. The Indian SPG affiliates always had excellent compliance with suite upgrades for SPG Plats. When I was working with ITC hotels in India we would upgrade all Plats. If low end suites were not available we would upgrade them to ITC one rooms, which at our hotel were 700 sq ft with walk in closets.
    And no, expecting Marriott to ensure upgrades are given is wrong. They are now a monopoly of sorts. They don’t are anymore

  13. @Ryan – you left right before SPG kicked it up a notch in March 2012 with the 50/75/100 night benefits. So not surprising you have negative associations if it was all pre-2011. It was a fantastic six year run right until this bloodbath of a takeover.

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