Has Marriott’s Strategy To Be The Last To Extend & Giving Away Elite Nights Been Very Smart After All?

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Hotel chains have been in a bind since the Covid-19 hammered the hospitality industry since spring of this year and all chains have extended their members status and account credits with Marriott having gone a step further.

While we all gave Marriott a hard time for not coming out and getting it over with (they were the last major chain to extend for worldwide members) they have ended up being the most generous with even adding extra elite nights into members accounts.

It’s been a controversial move as some members now have in excess of 60 nights just by having 1-2 Bonvoy credit cards and benefiting from the extra elite nights based on their 2019 earned status (John already wrote about this here).

The problem with keeping and making additional top tier elite members is that on a property level it’ll be very hard to satisfy the expectations of said members when it comes to the benefits, especially upgrades.

It’s easy for Marriott on the corporate / marketing side to throw out elite nights like candy but another issue for the properties to actually provide the associated benefits once travel resumes. Now that might be a while but it’ll still be property specific as some hotels are very elite-heavy and therefore upgrades are almost impossible to come by.

What Marriott did here has merit though. First they waited to see what all the competitors had thrown out and then they presented their own version of the Covid extension policy.

Read here about the extensions of all Hotels Loyalty Programs:

Marriott’s decision to add additional elite nights to members accounts that also count towards lifetime status came later and is (in my opinion) a really smart move to provide an actual incentive for members to actually go back and stay at hotels in order to top off their nights towards the next elite level.

Here is an example of my personal situation with Marriott:

  • 15 Elite Nights via Credit Card (Amex)
  • 25 Elite Nights by Platinum 2019
  • 12 Elite Nights via stays in 2020
  • 5 Elite Nights via Elite Choice

Right now I have 57 Elite nights thanks to the additional 25 nights Marriott dumped into my account so I’m definitely staying the remaining 18 nights this year with Marriott in order to get my Titanium status locked in and also to get the free night associated with that.

The program has gotten a lot of flak but for my personal stay portfolio in Asia and Europe Marriott still remains a very solid choice, especially the legacy SPG brands. Even after the transition to Bonvoy I’ve pretty much always gotten all elite benefits promised under the program. Their IT issues were annoying though. Since I’m very close to Lifetime Platinum I’ll definitely continue to keep my Marriott stays up until that level is reached.

Hilton also brought out a good policy, allowing to roll over all elite nights of 2020 into 2021 which is also a brilliant move to keep guests loyal to the chain and actually continue their stays.

Hyatt has come out with nothing like this, only a regular promotion that rewards members with additional points. I guess they have to decide for themselves if that’s a successful strategy. From what I’ve seen so far the rates/sales Hyatt has put out are lackluster at best and while I’m a huge Hyatt fan I don’t plan on staying at any Hyatt this year unless it’s a convenience factor.

Conclusion

All these extra nights Marriott dumped into the account will allow me to go for Titanium this year which would otherwise not have been possible and due to the sheer mass of elites (especially Platinum) in the remainder of 2020 and 2021 I believe that it will make a difference to be Titanium.

This also provides an incentive for customers to continue staying at Marriott to reach a status level that would otherwise be out of reach, driving additional revenue. Especially since Marriott has really decent sales going on at the moment which makes it even more reasonable. It would probably make sense for competitors to have a look at a similar strategy.

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