Loyalty Traveler posted some news today that I found interesting. To be clear, this isn’t confirmed, but I think it’s worth noting for the sake of discussion. As Ric notes, a thread on Marriott Rewards Insiders contains some interesting info. The highlights of these rumored changes include:

  • The points required for award stays will be increased by at least 5,000 points per night across all levels and the 5th night free will disappear.  Category 10 will be added and require 60,000 points per night (read mass devaluation),
  • A new level will be announced above Platinum and the requirements will be formally revealed. (i.e. everyone will know how to achieve PP, if that is what it is called)
  • New benefits for Gold, Plat, and the new PP will be announced.  These will include things like confirmed suite upgrades (for the new PP), instant upgrades using online check-in, free breakfast (including resorts for the new PP ), free parking, and free “lifestyle events,” at the hotels during your stay,
  • The offerings in the concierge lounges in NA will be enhanced and will include free beer, wine and spirits where local laws permit.
  • However, Concierge lounge access will be eliminated for Golds and Plats unless upgraded to the concierge level rooms.  (Gold and Plats will continue to receive free continental breakfast in the restaurant or points.)
  • MR is looking at different models for awarding elite status including annual hotel spend, instead of nights stayed (similar to Delta’s and United FF requirements for elite status).  Spend in bars and restaurants will be included.  Deeply discounted rates, such as Government Rates, group and convention rates,  and special promotion rates will not count towards the spend requirement.

Well….. OK, I said it already, but just to make sure….this isn’t something official from Marriott. However, any one of these is pretty major stuff. To be clear, I like Marriott. Marriott Rewards, along with Starwood Preferred Guest were my first two hotel loyalty programs all the way back when I was working for a big airline and traveling a lot. They were also the first two programs where I held elite status. I was Gold with SPG when that was the only elite level there was. Marriott happens to have a lot of properties near a few of my most important project sites nowadays. Frankly, it’s easy for me to stay with Marriott. Just so happens that one of my favorite hotels anywhere, the Mayflower in DC is part of the Marriott family.

I’ve always viewed hotel programs and hotel elite status differently than my airline programs and status. It’s not that I don’t appreciate hotel points or elite programs, believe me, I do. It’s just that a hotel has a purpose unlike any other in my book – sleeping. As a Marriott Gold member, I would be annoyed at losing concierge lounge access. That said, in the last 20 stays at one of my favorite Marriott family hotels, I’ve set foot in the concierge lounge exactly 3 times. Lounge access is one of those things I like to have when I really need it. In the end, it’s hard to say how I feel about any of these changes, well…other than bar charges counting towards “spend.” I’d be top tier in no time. 😉 Kidding.

In conclusion, I’m not terribly concerned about this. Rumors abound, especially in light of Delta’s recent changes. In the end, the hotel programs have been revenue based from the get-go. Hotels are a place to sleep for me, though I know others feel differently. I will say that these changes would make it far more likely for me to “break up” with the big chain programs and forget about the random benefits I sometimes use in favor of staying in hotels I really, really enjoy. I’m thinking just about any hotel associated with Kimpton. So there. What are your feelings on this Marriott rumor?

-MJ, March 13, 2014