What Marriott’s CEO Thinks of the Bonvoy Name and the New Rewards Program

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson famously dismissed customer frustrations with his chain’s IT failures and problems delivering promised benefits as ‘noise around the edges.’

During Marriott’s earnings call the CEO addressed the new name for the loyalty program, how he sees it as part of the chain’s strategy, and whether hotels are frustrated.

There are now 125 million members of the program, and half of all Marriott nights are consumed by members of the program. The number of room nights spent by program members were up 6% in 2018, while redemptions were up 8%.

According to Sorenson the response to the new Bonvoy name has been positive. I guess people who think it’s silly represent just noise around the edges.

While there will always be some folks who say, ‘Why did you pick that name?,’ I think generally, the response so far has been quite positive, albeit I think a big part of that is just we’re glad we’re finally at one program and we’re really looking forward to using them.

JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort

He says the chain will spend “a significant amount of money promoting the program, getting it out there, making sure people know what it is called and know the value that’s associated with it.” They’ll be spending that money while they cut back on how much they’re investing in program members.

Sorenson also thinks owners are happy with the program because it reduces costs compared to the old programs.

“I think generally, our community would say that we have steadily been delivering cost synergies to them” especially as it relates to costs related to the new loyalty program.

If you wonder why people are frustrated with Marriott, it at least correlates with lower costs.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. And they will continue to spend millions promoting a name that has no meaning or a correlation to a rewards program
    Millions spent to unravel the confusion of a worthless name
    Poor Arne totally out of touch and a lost opportunity
    To big to fail?

  2. @ Gary — We will continue to generally not stay at SPG/Marriott properties, just like we always have. Who cares if they suck? There are plenty of other excellent options, like IC, Hyatt and Hilton. I don’t really have much against Marriott, but even extreme travelers like us can’t realistically attain and maintain top status at every hotel company.. And without top status, we have little interest in a hotel company.

  3. Originally Optimistic now frustrated, I have begun to divide my loyalty. The up 8% was due to an optimistic plan. I moved Hilton nights to Marriott. Now I have begun to move away from Marriott, if they count just me, I will be down by at least 30 to 40% from last year because of how this has been handled. The name, I can make fun of it just like everyone else. The problem is they have failed to deliver so “BonVOy-age” I hope you are paying attention.

  4. I wonder…has anyone ever seen Arne Sorenson in the same room as Doug Parker? Perhaps they’re one and the same….

  5. So, for the first time since August, my recent experience with the program was actually positive. The biggest problem I was having is that points were no longer automatically crediting to my account. I would have to send in my receipts and wait up to 90 days. In my most recent trip, everything posted within a week AND I even received upgrades in 2 of 3 properties (including a St.Regis resort). So maybe things are back on track? But the name…it’s still tragic.

  6. @Jason – In the cruelest of personal ironies, I am an unfortunate Plat Pro at AA and Plat at Marriott!

  7. Haven’t actually paid for a night at SPG/Marriott since the merger was announced (former SPG Plat 75). Marriott hotels just aren’t aspirational for redemption, and after a very brief advantageous period for redemptions (a time I’d note many aspirational hotels are playing obvious shell games with room availability), I’ll have burned all my points and be done with Marriott entirely.

    Being brand agnostic and mostly booking some smaller chain (Rosewood, LHW, etc) and [mainly] non-chain luxury boutique hotels has been eye opening. Not only am I proactively offered benefits I previously had to grovel for, but the hotels themselves are just so much easier to deal with. I think the constant struggle of how to manage points maximizers has created a lot of jaded hotel managers that just no longer want to offer value to any customers.

  8. I wish everyone here realized how small a segment of their (or really anyone’s) rewards program we represent. We’re savvy point-earners and -redeemers that are focused on maximizing earning potential and redemption value; and we’re not influencers, except among ourselves. Tens (hundreds?) of thousands of others spend as much or more, and they’re not costing him as much as us in redemptions because they aren’t in the “points game.” And if it costs him less to add 10 Gold Elites than to lose one Titanium Elite, and a single move will do both, he will make that move. I’m sure he’s aware of our frustration, and I’m sure he has considered it when playing his own numbers game. We’re manageable collateral damage. In the end, gilded edges are still edges.

  9. @MFB. Tell me what you are doing, lol. I ask this as I have 10 stays in the past month and EVERY SINGLE ONE has required my calling to have them dig in to getting them credited. This after waiting for a no response from the Missing Stay request for the first two.

    The agent’s response: “I am spending my entire day getting stays posted for people. It’s a mess. IT is aware but it’s low on their priority it seems.”

  10. Making up names and excuses rather than making the program work. I’ll stay at Marriott but only when there are no other options that work. At some point, the numbers may convince them that not all of us are true believers or kool-aid drinkers.

  11. I guess they took Rewards out of the name because we’ll…not about rewards.

    I guess SPG wasn’t literal but at least it offered some value.

    Will say stayed at a Marriott with a ground level lounge and they’ve nailed evolving that concept. People actually using it to work, socialize and larger % of women (under 35 generation) visible. Something about having to go past peoples rooms in a dark upper level corner is prob off putting to many.

  12. Bonvoy name is dumb, upcoming points devaluations are bad but all programs do it. I was previously loyal to Marriott so now I have more legacy SPG properties to try. I am also now lifetime Titanium so no longer need annual nights for status. Now staying at whatever hotel is more suitable for each situation rather than going out of my way to stay at a possibly lesser property.

  13. Arne, please add my vote to your metrics. IT IS A DUMB NAME. And, no one cares. All the program name does for users is to identify how we file the info in our contact manager with all the other programs we use on a regular basis.

  14. On the first day of Bonvoy, (February 13), I checked into a Fairfield where I had been upgraded 3 previous times. Not this time. Then no night or points credit. Not yet. Tried to book another night in Dover, DE on Feb. 26. Three tries on the internet. “Computers busy.” Called customer service. SHE couldn’t book a room due to computer problems. Called direct and got the room. No points, or stay – but I sure got my bill. WTF? The minute Bonvoy starts, my problems start. Not impressed with Arnie or his rollout. Plus – the name does nothing for me. No connection to hotels or travel.

  15. Over 4,500 nights combined with Marriott and Starwood. Platinum for life in both programs. It has been a nightmare with the combined program since August. I’m headed for Nashville for a conference at the Gaylord, a Marriott property. However I plan to stay at a Hyatt property downtown where I’m now a Globalist. Considering IHG and Hilton for my back up hotel program. Marriott ruined SPG program. BTW I have three Marriott Vacation Club timeshares. I’m taking my business anywhere but Bonvoy but I’m only one in 125 million!

  16. I, like many other long time Marriott/Starwood customers (LT Titanium) are starting to move to other chains. BonVoy has come to mean Bon Voyage and adios.

  17. Been wondering where Marriott got the name. It is stupid and actually embarrassing if they put it on the Marriott credit card.

  18. I have been with SPG since 1993 and this merger was horrible news to my ears,I waited a while to give it a chance and took a few trips and stayed in Phoenix and Tennessee at nice properties. Because I was so loyal to SPG and literally spoiled by the program and CUSTOMER SERVICE it was hard for me to even want to continue. I recently waited on person for a long time hoping all the kinks with rewards and points would be ironed out with the transfer and all but lord and behold that’s not the case! Why are the most loyal customers still having to deal with these sorts of issues,let alone poor customer service representatives that I have encountered that don’t seem thrilled, nor compassionate about your loyalty from SPG which effected so many of us? Mr. CEO I have tried my best to get the smallest of issues worked out and was told it has to take 7 days or more when I’m trying to book a trip the same day. There should be better tools in place to help the customer rather than make them suffer because of the issues that haven’t been resolved in over 2 years of a transition. I spoke with a supervisor and she was very robotic in her answers and I still got no help for problems that I didn’t create. My loyalty status was wrong as well as my points and even information to as the exact length that I’ve been with the program. It’s been enough time to tranfer information and get things right, I can get use to the new name once they start getting things right and appreciateing customers. Please help,I’m still waiting! (znei160@gmail.com)

  19. I am a Titanium for Life and presently part of the Ambassador program. However, Marriott has lost my loyalty. During the long months with IT issues, did senior management ever emailed us with apologies? When it took eight weeks to transfer points to miles, did Marriott reach out to me after countless calls to apologize? The standard answer was the huge amount of loyalty members which created the IT chaos. That is not an excuse to me in today’s world. I view management as unconnected, even arrogant.

  20. Arne is putting up a good face, not only to protect the brand, but also to save his job. He is at the top of the Marriott pyramid, and as such, will be required to fall on his sword if they don’t recover from this debacle. Remember, you can’t put lipstick on a pig, but you can send that pig to market and re-think whether or not you want to be in the pig business.

  21. I am very frustrated with the enormous annual maintenance fees for the points we have purchased.
    These destination points are so confusing since we have had them that it makes vacation planning a frustrating nightmare.

  22. Can’t get over how dumb their new name is. Never been a big fan of Marriott b/c all the rooms are just “beige” to me – but hard to ignore them now that they are the colossus they are with 30 odd hotel brands. Was a big fan of SPG because hotels were solid and less cookie-cutter and loyalty program felt like it encouraged loyalty. This program (and name) just encourages me to book elsewhere… Fewer options with Hyatt’s horrible transition to World of Hotels a few years ago and Kimpton’s absorption into IHG – but I’d rather stay in those hotels because of friendly service and somewhat unique properties than some horribly generic Marriott and be greeted to their millennial-worshiping Bonvoy name and imagery… Arne’s just putting the PR line out there – don’t blame him, but don’t want to stay at his hotels, either.

  23. I am Titanium for life, based primarily on SPG loyalty. As with most of you, my Bonvoy experience has been filled with IT issues whether chasing credit for stays or getting appropriate perks. The best was checking into the Richmond, Virginia Delta and being thanked for my “Platinum status.” When I corrected the desk clerk, he insisted that “the system” says that I’m platinum. I walked out and stayed elsewhere. Arne Sorenson’s attitude has permeated his workforce. It will be a good year for Hyatt and Hilton.

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