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In the spirit of Peter Griffin from Family Guy, I decided to start a series of posts around “what really grinds my gears” i.e. what I don’t like about various travel providers. The first in this series was United Airlines (check that out here). The second will focus on Marriott. There are over 8,000 properties globally across 139 countries and 30 brands. Marriott has a lot going for it in scale and the breadth of hotels under its umbrella, but there are some areas that need much improvement.
5. Lack of Differentiation Above Titanium
I was an Ambassador since the level started with Starwood Preferred Guest. This past year was the first I did not requalify (I’ll be Titanium starting next month). Ambassadors are supposed to get the highest level of service for staying over 100 nights and spending over $20,000 (over $23,000 for 2024 qualification). What does this get you? Supposedly, you’re at the top of the list for upgrades. There are also dedicated Ambassador agents coming back soon (they were around and then cut due to the pandemic). I never found much value in having a dedicated Ambassador and even less so when it was a random team. Some people reported amazing gifts and on-property treats, but I hardly ever saw anything. Your24™ is another benefit reserved for Ambassadors. It never works. With it, you’re supposed to be able to request a check-in and checkout time when you want. Most hotels deny the benefit. I never once had it work (even when I tried to get it locked in through my Ambassador). Other benefits including points earning, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, lounge access, etc. are pretty much the same as Platinum and Titanium.
4. Too Many Elites
Marriott now offers Platinum status as a benefit for holding a credit card. Further, it’s possible with the right combination of credit cards to get up to 55 nights towards status each year. These bonuses make it harder for hotels to honor benefits. There are more people in lounges, more people getting free breakfasts, and more competing for upgrades.
3. Breakfast Confusion
When I stay at a World of Hyatt property, I know that I’m getting a free breakfast. With Marriott, there are some brands that provide breakfast while others do not (i.e. Ritz Carlton and Element). If I choose breakfast as an amenity, I might get a continental or a full, amazing buffet. Geography and brand come into play. This should be more consistent and offer a full breakfast across all brands globally. If this needs to move up a level to Titanium as a benefit than it should to give higher spenders something extra.
2. Points Devaluation
Marriott got rid of fixed-price redemptions and now costs are all over the place. Where there were once charts and properties divided by categories, there are now many variables (demand, season, etc.) that go into the dynamic pricing of a room when redeeming Bonvoy points. I like that the 5th night is still free if you’re staying that long, but many hotels now cost way more than they used to and I don’t see this trend improving.
1. Suite Upgrades
Upgrades to the best available room (including standard suites) are available for Platinum, Titanium, and Ambassador members (suite upgrades at Ritz Carlton hotels are for Titanium and Ambassador only). Depending on the property this can mean an easy upgrade or one that you’ll have to argue your way into. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked for an upgrade and been told none were available. Only after showing the agent that there were suites for sale did I get one in multiple instances. Even showing this to some agents isn’t enough as they will say inventory is wrong. Five Suite Night Awards (which can be used to try to upgrade a reservation in advance) are an option as a Choice Benefit that is given for hitting Platinum and again for hitting Titanium. In theory these should grant access to suites ahead of others looking for a complimentary upgrade, but nothing is guaranteed. This is far off from what Hyatt offers. With Hyatt’s Suite Upgrade Awards, you can confirm an upgrade as early as when booking a reservation. The other difference is that Marriott awards are for one night and Hyatt’s cover up to seven nights each.
Anthony’s Take: 2023 will be the first year that I will not have Ambassador status. I’ll see if I notice any difference between holding Titanium and Ambassador. I doubt it. Marriott is no longer my first loyalty program of choice and I am spending more and more time in Hyatt as a Globalist.
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