Marriott International has unveiled plans for the merging of its three loyalty programmes over the next six to 12 months, with members able to combine their accounts under one platform starting August.
Members have been able to link their accounts, transfer points and status match since 2016, but this goes one stage further, combining accounts under one as-yet-unnamed platform.
The Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and SPG brands will continue to exist until early 2019, when a new single name will be announced for the unified scheme.
Asked why Marriott had decided to take this two-step approach, rather than launch the new name and combined accounts together, David Flueck, Senior Vice President, Global Loyalty at Marriott International said that “we knew our members wouldn’t want to wait”.
“For us to develop a new name and roll it out globally is a very long and complex process,” said Flueck. “We have thousands of websites as a lot of our hotels have independent property sites, and we have collateral on all the hotels and all of our digital assets.”
Members of all of the programmes – a total of 110 million across the three schemes – will be emailed over the course of the next few months, explaining how they can combine their accounts in August.
At this point all members will be able to book reward stays across Marriott’s entire portfolio of 29 brands (there are in fact 30 brands, but Bulgari Hotels and Resorts do not participate in any of the schemes) at marriott.com, spg.com, the Marriott and SPG apps, or by contacting customer service centres.
One currency will be created, with SPG Starpoints multiplied by three during conversion. Going forward members will earn ten points for every US$1 spent at hotels (five points per US$1 spent at extended stay brands).
Also to follow in 2019 will be peak and off peak reward night pricing, with off peak rates to be set around 20 per cent lower.
There has been much discussion on travel forums over the last couple of years as to how the Marriott and Starwood programmes would be combined, and which members might lose out as a result, but Flueck attempted to assuage these concerns.
“There’s been a lot of anxiety from members, and a lot were concerned that when we combined the programmes that we would make it less rich,” said Flueck.
“In fact we’re making the programme more rich which is going to be incredibly exciting news for our members. On average our members are going to earn 20 per cent more points on their spend in our hotels, we’ve brought the very best of our lead benefits together, and made elite status easier to achieve. We continue to have no blackouts, and as we go to one awards chart we actually have more hotels that are going down in cost than up in cost.”
A new awards redemption chart was set to go live as we went to press on this article, although it will be a few months before all 6,500 properties are assigned to the chart.
“To give members the confidence that in fact hotels aren’t going up in price, we’re showing five key cities and the top redemption hotels in New York, Paris, Bali, Dubai and Caribbean and Mexican resorts,” said Flueck.
In terms of the number of nights needed to achieve tier status under the unified programme, Silver Elite status will be earned after ten nights, with Gold Elite after 25 nights, Platinum Elite after 50 nights, Platinum Premier Elite after 75 nights, and finally Ambassador for those surpassing 100 nights and US$20,000 of spend.
In August members will also see their amassed stays across the programmes combined into one total, with Flueck saying that “many of our members will find that they hit the next tier of elite status” as a result.
Note also that Marriott confirms that “members who have achieved lifetime status will continue to have their status recognized”, and the free breakfast for Platinum Elite tiers and above will be expanded to 23 brands.
It’s not clear what will happen to the co-branded Starwood SPG credit card in the UK once the merged loyalty programme name is unveiled (and the SPG name presumably disappears), but for now at least Flueck says that the Starwood Amex card will remain, with members earning a tripled rate of points to reflect the 1:3 conversion rate outlined above.
Finally Flueck said that the Marriott Moments experiential platform will continue to grow.
“We know that when our members travel they want to explore the area – they want to go zip lining in the Costa Rican rainforest, or explore Paris like a local, so we are expanding moments – we’re bringing in 110,000 experiences in 1,000 destinations – and then we have 8,000 Moments which are for members only to redeem their points, from attending world class sporting events, going to the F1, going to the World Series, to private concerts for our members, or attending shows – we have VIP seats at the O2 London as well as Madisson Square Gardens in New York.”