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
[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.