The world’s largest hotel company last week also started selling in-destination activities through its Moments program. Previously, those activities had been restricted to loyalty members, who could purchase them only with accumulated points.
Marriott, which last week produced a star-studded event at Spring Studios in New York to reveal the new points system to its rewards members, will allow members of its Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG programs to combine their points in a single account.
Marriott is also reducing thresholds required for its 110 million loyalty members to earn perks. On average, every lodging dollar that loyalty members spend will garner 20% more points than they did previously. Marriott will also reduce the number of nights required to reach Gold Elite status to 25 nights from 50 nights, and it will cut the nights required for Platinum Elite to 50 from 75. The 100-night tier will include the Ambassador personal concierge program.
Andavo Travel CEO Mike Cameron called Marriott’s adoption of a single points system “a good thing,” while Brian King, Marriott’s global officer for digital, distribution, revenue management and global sales, said loyalty members will benefit from “the best of both of these [Marriott and Starwood] programs” because of Marriott’s breadth and SPG’s elite-level perks.
At last week’s event, Marriott senior vice president of loyalty David Flueck said, “We know you want simplicity. You want one account, one set of points, seamless booking, earnings across 6,500 hotels.”
Flueck played up Marriott’s sheer size, including its 29 participating brands (Bulgari Hotels is exempt). “Amazingly,” he said, “nearly one in four hotels being built anywhere in the world is one of these Marriott brands. So for those of you who love to stay in a new hotel, that’s a new hotel every 14 hours.”
Marriott last week also targeted non-members by adding about 100,000 activities and travel services in more than 1,000 destinations around the globe to its Moments in-destination program and making them available for sale to non-members.
For example, Marriott offers more than 900 activities in the Los Angeles area, including “skip the line” Universal Studios tickets for $179 each or a private sightseeing tour in a luxury SUV for $399. Marriott offers more than 3,000 Moments in the New York area and about 1,000 each in Beijing and Paris.
Loyalty members who buy Moments with their credit cards can earn loyalty points. Visitors to Marriott’s Moments website can book car rentals through a section of the site that’s run by Hertz.
Marriott, which runs Marriott Moments, Marriott Rewards Moments and SPG Moments, will continue to offer about 8,000 members-only, VIP-type activities that can be purchased with loyalty points. Activities include such opportunities as a question-and-answer session and backstage tour with country music star Keith Urban or taking a “progressive” dinner tour around New York with celebrity chef Eric Ripert.
Marriott, which acquired Starwood in 2016, is looking to curry favor with SPG loyalists while wading into an in-destination market where companies such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor have made recent inroads.
For example, Marriott integrated most of Starwood’s SPG elite-level perks, including the ability to transfer loyalty points to airline miles, according to Julian Kheel, senior editor at loyalty-travel specialist The Points Guy.
“What was most unexpected was how much Marriott was able to retain from the three existing programs,” Kheel said.
As for Moments, Marriott appears to be following what peer-to-peer lodging leader Airbnb did when it debuted its Experiences initiative in 2016, with activities such as cooking classes, walking tours, dance lessons, private dinners, etc. Earlier that year, TripAdvisor also added bookable tours to its inventory of services.
The lingering question is how Marriott will tier its 29 participating hotel brands among its eight points-redemption categories once the loyalty programs are combined into a single program next year.
“If a hotel is a Category 2 versus a Category 5, that’s the difference of thousands of points and could mean the difference between a great value and a terrible value,” Kheel said. Still, he said, Marriott was smart to give both travelers and professionals a few months of lead time to digest the program tweaks, and Marriott appears to have geared the benefits gains toward the biggest spenders.
“Some of the lower-tier elites might not be thrilled, but the upper-tier elites like Platinum and Platinum Premier should be pleased with extra benefits they didn’t get in the past,” Kheel said.
Rebecca Tobin contributed to this report.