Marriott and Starwood (SPG) merged back on August 18. Marriott managed to put together a “functioning” website for the two programs with only 1 day of downtime, which was commendable. In reality, the only thing that merged was the loyalty programs while the back-end booking systems remained separate to the respective brands. Marriott has been steadily integrating SPG properties into the Marriott system. As of today, all legacy Starwood properties should now be integrated. The St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Aloft and Element brands were all apart of today’s integration.

Why Integration Matters

Marriott has been struggling with SPG owners about releasing rewards nights under the new program. Prior to the merger SPG hotels had capacity control over their free night product but with Marriott managing the website they don’t have as much control anymore.

SPG hotel owners don’t want to offer free nights because they feel like they got the short end of the stick when it comes to reimbursement of free nights. Normally hotels will earn a set rate per point redeemed for their property, unless the hotel is nearly sold out, at which point they got reimbursed at the average daily room rate for the hotel that night.

When Marriott announced that Category 8 wouldn’t kick in until early 2019 that meant that top-tier properties would temporarily earn up to 60,000 Marriott points per reservation night vs up to 140,000 SPG points (420,000 Marriott points)  that some top-tier hotels were earning. With such a drastic cut, it’s no wonder that properties are flocking away from the new Marriott brand.

So far properties that have left or are leaving include:

  • Hotel Des Indes, a Luxury Collection Hotel, The Hague – Leaving on December 11, 2018
  • St. Regis Dubai
  • St. Regis Dubai Polo Club
  • St. Regis Princeville
  • The Principal Madrid, a Member of Design Hotels
  • W Dubai Habtoor City
  • Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City
  • Westin Sydney – Leaving on October 19, 2019
  • Westin-Vendome – Leaving by 2022

SPG hotel owners have every right to be upset by these changes, especially because Marriott does allow some properties to not participate in the free night program at all such as the Mandapa by Ritz Carlton, and the entire Bvlgari brand.

The Principal Madrid

The full integration is also important for members holding coveted legacy Marriott Travel Packages and for those looking to make Points Advance reservations. All legacy Marriott Travel Packages can be redeemed at the properties in their new categories. You can explore all the hotel categories here.

A representative for Marriott stated that “If a customer makes a points advance reservation under category 7 rates and then the hotel becomes a category 8, Marriott will honor the original rate. While we haven’t announced when category 8 rates take effect, we recommend our members  order the cert before Category 8 takes effect – we will provide ample lead time – with the main benefit being that the member can attach it themselves with no phone call to our Customer Engagement Centers.  If the member doesn’t have the points by the time category 8 rates take effect, but before their stay, they can only attach their certificate at the original point price by calling the Customer Engagement Centers.”

Summary

It’s great to see Marriott finally integrate all Starwood properties into the website. Marriott announced mission accomplished back on August 20, 2018 and that clearly wasn’t true. The integration should make booking award nights easier for you and me, although that isn’t really for the benefit of Starwood ownership. Don’t be surprised if you see even more properties drop off of the new Marriott brand as it seems to be too big for its own good at this point. Be sure to take advantage of the Category 7 pricing for Category 8 hotels as it is only set to last until and undisclosed date in early 2019.

Feature Image via Marriott Hotel Des Indes