Marriott Bonvoy Status Downgrade & Soft Landing Blunder

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Marriott Bonvoy finally downgraded member statuses based on the 2019 activity week ago (read more here), although the status officially run out by the end of January.

Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador

The timing was extremely unfortunate as the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was rapidly expanding and had resulted in hundreds of hotels closed, millions of members in lockdown, and employees furloughed.

You can access Marriott’s page for status levels here.

READ MORE: Marriott Bonvoy Rate & Bonus Points And Miles Promotions

Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest had very different qualification and soft landing policies.

Marriott Rewards only downgraded members by one level, and you could always buy back Gold or Platinum using points. Members could rack up 10 nights for each “meeting” (1-hour meeting room rental adequate).

Marriott also had some sort of rolling qualification in place and didn’t often downgrade members even when they didn’t meet the official number of nights requirement for status (I benefited from this several times).

SPG didn’t do soft landings or offer elite qualifying nights as quickly as Marriott did. You could, however, qualify based on stays (25) or nights (and the nights’ requirement under SPG was 50 versus 75 with Marriott).

Here’s Marriott Bonvoy current soft landing policy (internal guide February 2020):

If an Elite member does not meet their existing tier’s annual requirements in a calendar year, they will downgrade one or two Elite tiers below their existing Elite level for the following year. The member will continue to move down (downgrade) tiers each year if he or she does not meet the tier’s annual requirements. For example, a Platinum Elite member with 40 qualifying nights in 2020 will move to the Gold Elite tier in 2021. If the member does not meet the Gold Elite requirements in 2021, they will then downgrade to the Silver Elite tier in 2022.

Their internal policy is to downgrade members by one or two tiers yearly. An Ambassador member who don’t consume even 50 nights, should not go lower than Platinum.

What Hilton did?

Hilton Honors Waldorf

Hilton Honors 2019 & 2020 Status Extensions Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Hilton Honors extended everyone’s status by a year, including those that were about to be downgraded tomorrow.

Marriott also sacked Ambassador agents:

Marriott Bonvoy Suspends Personalized Ambassador Service

Conclusion

You sometimes wonder, is there anyone left at Marriott and its loyalty department capable of strategic thinking? Has everyone with any marketing and loyalty experience already left?

While Marriott’s CEO, Arne Sorenson, talks about how important the loyalty program members are for the hotel company, he refers to them as “rabid” and “noise around the edges.” The company considers loyalty program members as a “low-cost distribution channel,” and it shows.

Perhaps Marriott’s leadership doesn’t get that loyalty is a two-way street, and there is not that much, at the end, different between various programs and members do switch. They are not as sticky as Marriott appears to believe.

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