Mediocre Hotels’ Loyalty Program Delusions

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It goes without saying that the Aegon Mykonos saga has elicited quite some responses on both sides. A vast majority of people have made fair and reasonable points, though I’ve seen some comments about hotel loyalty program perks more generally, which I wanted to address.

I’ve received dozens of messages from people who work at Marriott properties, and they’ve overwhelmingly been positive and from people who value Bonvoy members. But then there have also been comments from Marriott associates along the lines of “I hate entitled Bonvoy members who think they should get all kinds of things for free” (and by that they typically mean the the published benefits that members receive in exchange for their loyalty).

That gets at a bigger point that I would like to address — I feel like some hotels want it both ways when it comes to loyalty programs. Ironically, in my experience it’s typically the mediocre hotels that benefit most from their association with a major hotel group that also have the most disregard for loyalty program members.

Why travel loyalty programs are genius

When travel loyalty programs launched a few decades back, they completely changed the course of these businesses forever. For many travel companies, these have become the single most lucrative aspects of their businesses. The major legacy airlines in the United States make very little money flying planes (even pre-coronavirus), but rather they make billions of dollars off their loyalty programs. The hotel business model is a bit different, but loyalty programs still play a major role, both for the hotel group as such, and for individual properties. For example, Marriott recently raised almost a billion dollars by pre-selling points.

But much more than that, loyalty programs have changed the way that so many people plan travel. Many would argue that loyalty programs cause members to act irrationally, whether traveling on their own dime, or their company’s dime.

I want to use Marriott Bonvoy as an example, as the program has over 120 million members. When many Bonvoy members start planning their hotel stays, the first place they go is Marriott’s website or app.

Why would a member start their hotel search on marriott.com over an online travel agency like expedia.com? I’d argue it’s not because Marriotts are consistently high quality. There’s huge variance in terms of the quality of individual hotels, and for that matter Marriott doesn’t exactly enforce brand standards very strictly, so it would be illogical to stay at Marriotts based on any expectation of consistent quality.

Rather people primarily choose these hotels because they’re invested in the loyalty program. These reasons could include because they know they’ll get the best rate by booking through Bonvoy, they want to earn points, they have a co-branded credit card, or they have perks they want to take advantage of.

Independent hotels often offer a much better experience

Some hotels take loyalty program members for granted

I think it’s best to explain this in the form of an example, and we’ll use the Aegon Mykonos as an example, which is an Autograph Collection property. I’m doing this not to rag on the hotel, but because I think it’s the perfect example. I want to explain my thought process in booking my stay here, because this is a hotel that I literally only booked because of Marriott Bonvoy (which, again, is probably irrational, but also what this hotel relies on to fill rooms).

Generally speaking, independent hotels face two main challenges in filling rooms at decent margins:

  • Distribution costs — in many cases online travel agencies take massive commissions on independent hotel bookings, typically well over 10%; hotels belonging to hotel groups have more people booking direct, thanks to brand awareness and general incentives to do so
  • Filling rooms — if you don’t have access to the global distribution power of a mega hotel group, it can be hard to fill rooms, as you’re essentially just competing based on word-of-mouth, and it’s hard to stand out through online travel agencies

On the other hand, if you have a Marriott Bonvoy member looking to stay in Mykonos, they might start their search by going to Marriott’s website and seeing the Aegon Mykonos. They’ve probably never heard of the hotel before, they probably haven’t had a friend stay there yet, but they might say “well, I can earn/redeem Bonvoy points and I get perks, and the pictures make the hotel look pretty nice, so I’ll give it a try.”

Now, we can argue that we’re acting irrationally and being chumps by taking this approach. I’d argue that sometimes this kind of loyalty is logical, while other times it’s not:

  • Yes, sometimes we pay more to stay at worse hotels when being so brand loyal, and sometimes we miss out on a more authentic experience
  • At the same time, sometimes the perks really pay off, especially if we can guarantee suite upgrades for stays where it matters most to us
  • Sometimes you get the best of both worlds — for example, Hyatt has a partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, where you can earn and redeem points at some incredible independent properties

While many would argue this kind of loyalty is full-on irrational (and I wouldn’t say those people are wrong), the reality is that many program members do plan their hotel stays that way. For this particular stay, I booked two nights with points (actually, credit card free night certificates) and two nights with cash. The hotel was very empty, so I can guarantee that I would have been a guest who they’re making money off of (by a large margin).

But then you hear some people (including Marriott associates) say “well you just want free stuff when you stay at Marriott properties.” To be clear, I would have never picked this hotel if it weren’t for the “free stuff” (aka the elite perks I’m entitled to) that I receive.

After our disastrous few hours at Aegon Mykonos we switched to Katikies Mykonos, where the experience couldn’t have been more different — the service was spectacular, the hotel legitimately charming, an amazing breakfast was included for all guests, etc.

This was our room at Katikies Mykonos (plunge pool not pictured)…

Our room at Katikies Mykonos
Our room at Katikies Mykonos
View from our room at Katikies Mykonos

Meanwhile this was our room at Aegon Mykonos…

Our room at Aegon Mykonos
View from our room at Aegon Mykonos

The kicker? The Katikies Mykonos room we stayed in retailed for less than the Aegon Mykonos room we were assigned. Which would you choose?

What it comes down to is that some hotels have the attitude “hey, stay with us because we’re part of Marriott, even if it’s irrational, but don’t actually expect to get the benefits that are causing you to choose a Marriott.”

Do loyalty programs water down the quality of hotels?

I think it’s interesting to contrast a brand like Marriott to a brand like Four Seasons. Four Seasons doesn’t have a formal loyalty program that awards points. Therefore people don’t stay at Four Seasons properties because they’re getting rewarded or because they can take advantage of perks (though you can get elite-like perks through Four Seasons Preferred Partner), but rather because they expect service to be consistently excellent.

Four Seasons has to work with every stay to deliver a great guest experience, and the brand generally delivers. That’s quite a contrast to Marriott.

Does that mean that loyalty programs are the problem? No, I’d argue not, or at least I’d say that’s false causation. I think what it comes down to is that many mega hotel groups use their loyalty programs as a crutch to slack in other areas. Some member hotels are fantastic and are onboard the loyalty bandwagon, while others aren’t.

Four Seasons has only its reputation to rely on

Bottom line

Mediocre hotels that both participate in a major hotel loyalty program and are at the same time annoyed by said loyalty program need a reality check. The reason a mediocre Marriott affiliated property is able to fill rooms is because of Marriott’s distribution power and brand awareness, which largely comes from the marketing power of Marriott Bonvoy.

If hotels don’t want to provide the benefits associated with status, they shouldn’t belong to a major loyalty program. That’s quite easy. But good luck filling rooms and keeping your distribution costs low.

I’d love to hear what readers think. Agree? Disagree?

Conversations (69)
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  1. CeeJay

    One reason I like hotel loyalty programs is there is an expectation (perhaps false?) that if I book a hotel that belongs to my respective program of choice there are certain standards that I expect to come with it, like it'll be clean, have good service, etc. That's what I look for when I'm booking my hotel.

  2. _ar

    Now, we can argue that we’re acting irrationally and being chumps by taking this approach.

    The argument is in your mind only :-)

  3. Bob

    No no no. Please keep Americans out of independent/boutique hotels around the world. Keep filling the mediocre Marriotts and Hyatts please!

  4. minervamaga

    "what this hotel relies on to full rooms"
    Little typo there.
    But I agree, the problem isn't with the programs themselves, it's places who lean on that brand loyalty alone. That other hotel looks gorgeous!

  5. Mark Blekherman

    Ben, I love your content and have been on your site every morning for the last six years.

    I beg you to please reconsider the changes that you've made to the site experience. The formatting is not as clean as before, and I find myself going straight to the blog just like before. I understand your goal but implore you to consider the user experience.

    1. Schar

      ever since he changed the damn layout i havent been getting my email newsletters. everythings f*cked. and worse of it all, neither him nor tiffany bother to answer my THREE emails over few days begging for help lol.

  6. Ed

    I prefer Hyatt as I think their points program is still the best. I stay at Marriot f they are cheaper. Hilton is my least favorite as their employees think they are my friend and incessantly bombard me with useless text messages.

  7. Jason

    Please dont parrot another blogger regarding the true p/l of the legacy airlines. As somebody who has worked intimately in evaluating the p/l of airlines and worked at several, I can tell you that the assertion that airlines make very little money from the actual transport of passengers is an outdated myth that is wholly inaccurate.

    1. Eskimo

      For someone who "worked intimately in evaluating the p/l of airlines and worked at several", I expect a little more insightful answer than just saying the outdated myth that is wholly inaccurate.

      As someone who follows these "parrots", I'm going to have to defend these "parrots" a bit. You clearly parrot someone else about the false myth too.

      I'm going to defend that "The major legacy airlines in the United States make very little money...

      For someone who "worked intimately in evaluating the p/l of airlines and worked at several", I expect a little more insightful answer than just saying the outdated myth that is wholly inaccurate.

      As someone who follows these "parrots", I'm going to have to defend these "parrots" a bit. You clearly parrot someone else about the false myth too.

      I'm going to defend that "The major legacy airlines in the United States make very little money flying planes (even pre-coronavirus), but rather they make billions of dollars off their loyalty programs." can be both TRUE and FALSE.

      Just at a high level, obvious short answer.
      In terms of revenue, definitely FALSE.
      In terms of margins, positively TRUE.
      Any legacy airline 10-K will suggest the same for the last few years.

      I suggest you find a new industry, since "worked intimately" doesn't seem to develop your "evaluating the p/l" skills.

    2. reddargon

      @Eskimo I was curious about this so I took a look at United's 10-K for FY2019. You are correct that in terms of revenue, award miles are only a fraction of overall revenue (just under 4% of United's revenue in 2019 came from miles). I'm struggling though identifying how you can tell that margins are much higher for miles vs. ticket fares? The nature of how the revenue is recognized for the miles (i.e., as...

      @Eskimo I was curious about this so I took a look at United's 10-K for FY2019. You are correct that in terms of revenue, award miles are only a fraction of overall revenue (just under 4% of United's revenue in 2019 came from miles). I'm struggling though identifying how you can tell that margins are much higher for miles vs. ticket fares? The nature of how the revenue is recognized for the miles (i.e., as deferred revenue until the miles are redeemed, then as passenger revenue), plus the fact that they don't separately specify the costs associated with those miles redeemed, seems like it would make it impossible to calculate the margin on the miles alone, at least based on info in the 10-K. Is there another, non 10-K report that has this info? Or did I perhaps miss it in the 10-K?

      Genuinely curious here. United also does not disclose how much they make per mile sold in connection with their Chase agreement, so it seems difficult to even try to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on assumptions. Maybe AA or Delta go into more detail on their 10-Ks; I didn't look at those.

    3. Eskimo

      Wondering why you wanted to fact check but interested in UA but not AA or DL.

      A lot of these are not fully disclosed due to obvious business reasons.
      This is where "somebody who has worked intimately in evaluating the p/l of airlines and worked at several" can share a more accurate information. Besides that, you're never going to get the exact number just from the 10-K alone.

      However, at high level with some...

      Wondering why you wanted to fact check but interested in UA but not AA or DL.

      A lot of these are not fully disclosed due to obvious business reasons.
      This is where "somebody who has worked intimately in evaluating the p/l of airlines and worked at several" can share a more accurate information. Besides that, you're never going to get the exact number just from the 10-K alone.

      However, at high level with some guessing (working intimately not required) you can do some estimations.
      This is probably the quickest but worst possible way to do it, but just to give you the idea.
      Assume members redeem at OMAAT's valuation 1.4 cents. Assume this is also UA's deferred revenue (could be possible but likely much higher).
      Assume UA sells Chase at TPG's valuation 1.3 cents. Assume that is also the cost to UA. (which isn't)
      That's already a 7% margin using pessimistic assumptions.

      But you should also hear from "somebody who has worked intimately in evaluating the p/l of airlines and worked at several" has to say because I'm just an outsider. ;)

    4. Jimmy’s Travel Report

      Very accurate. Before COVID airlines were making gobs of money flying passengers.

  8. DWT

    The bigger issue here is that for Marriott (and really all the big chains), their primary "customer" isn't us, the travelers, it's the property owners that sign agreements with them. So there really seems to be little incentive for Marriott to get involved to police brand standards, especially as of late.

  9. Colin Z

    Completely agree with this article. Further, properties that weasel out of benefits should be called out, even if they are technically within program T&Cs.

    Example: currently staying at Wailea Beach Resort (Marriott). Gift shop refuses to offer Bonvoy elite discount because it is not operated by the hotel. But it's the hotel's only gift shop, you can charge to your room, and they sell branded merchandise. This gift shop would likely have zero revenue if...

    Completely agree with this article. Further, properties that weasel out of benefits should be called out, even if they are technically within program T&Cs.

    Example: currently staying at Wailea Beach Resort (Marriott). Gift shop refuses to offer Bonvoy elite discount because it is not operated by the hotel. But it's the hotel's only gift shop, you can charge to your room, and they sell branded merchandise. This gift shop would likely have zero revenue if not for being in the hotel. But it's not hotel-operated so they are compliant with Bonvoy T&Cs.

  10. Jerry

    I think this is a Bonvoy problem, not a loyalty program problem. Hyatt consistently delivers all around the world. If I encounter a problem that the hotel won't resolve, I'm certain that my concierge would take care of it at once. With Marriott, I have no recourse.

  11. khatl

    Airlines do make money off passengers - they're not the zero profit center that they used to be. A lot is added fees, upgrade fees/pricing and so on. That said, the loyalty program also makes them a lot of money.

    I may be one of the few that actually look across the hotels when I'm staying somewhere vs going direct to the Marriott site. Either that, or if I do find somewhere on Marriott, then...

    Airlines do make money off passengers - they're not the zero profit center that they used to be. A lot is added fees, upgrade fees/pricing and so on. That said, the loyalty program also makes them a lot of money.

    I may be one of the few that actually look across the hotels when I'm staying somewhere vs going direct to the Marriott site. Either that, or if I do find somewhere on Marriott, then I'm also looking at Google to see rough average of reviews across the other sites - booking.com, expedia, trip advisor etc.

    The one thing common now is huge inconsistency across the corporate brand as a whole - Hyatt to IHG to Hilton to Marriott. And within some individual brands there's also wild inconsistency - Autograph Collection being a great example - and it ultimately comes down to the responsibility of the corporate owner - Marriott - to maintain a baseline consistency for Autograph Collection. While Marriott does maintain a standards book for each brand, the issue is often that they rarely assess the hotel for its adherence to those standards. You will often have the issue that, unless the hotel is getting some real bad reviews and issues bubbling up through social media, customer service etc., they won't review the hotel's adherence to brand standards.

    One easy way to solve the problem is for the corporate brand to offer points to its Gold, Platinum, etc. members for completing an annual survey based on the hotels that member stayed in. That way, the corporate brand gets feedback from verified people staying at the hotel, at a very low cost for the corporate brand, and can then rank / review low performers.

  12. jmc014

    Since I joined Ritz-Carlton/Marriott in 2014 which has since transitioned to Bonvoy, I have not had great success in receiving elite perks (have been Platinum/Titanium for the duration). I will be switching over to Hyatt since Marriott really seems to have gone downhill. Gone are the days of SPG earning my loyalty.

  13. echino

    I just noticed that all recent negative reviews of Aegon Mykonos were deleted from TripAdvisor and Google (except Ben's). Most of those reviews were from people who have not actually stayed at the hotel, but some apparently real negative reviews were also deleted. Fake positive 5-star reviews still remain.

    Ben, please also post your review on marriott.com (confirmed guest review). I see a fake management's review there, but not yours.

  14. 23H

    Great article and fully agree.

    I’m booked at this property later this summer (although now actively looking to cancel and rebook elsewhere). I would have never booked had it been a non-Marriott property.

    Ben, have you been directly contacted by Marriott corporate about this situation?

  15. Keyser Soze

    An FYI for readers here: I expend effort to avoid Mariott-brand (e.g. Aloft, etc.) properties at all costs. Why? The last time I stayed in one, I subsequently received 50-60 (no exaggeration) spamcalls. They were flogging Mariott timeshares in Florida. This was pre-Pandemic. They Would Not Stop the calls. It took MONTHS before they gave up. Finally, I recently mentioned this caution to friends and actually got a couple of “oh yeah, Me Too” responses....

    An FYI for readers here: I expend effort to avoid Mariott-brand (e.g. Aloft, etc.) properties at all costs. Why? The last time I stayed in one, I subsequently received 50-60 (no exaggeration) spamcalls. They were flogging Mariott timeshares in Florida. This was pre-Pandemic. They Would Not Stop the calls. It took MONTHS before they gave up. Finally, I recently mentioned this caution to friends and actually got a couple of “oh yeah, Me Too” responses. So, my experience does not appear to be an isolated incident. You have been warned. :)

  16. Andy

    I think this is an interesting question. In general, but with notable exceptions, hotel chains seem to improve the quality. At least in Europe, independent hotels are often sub-standard when it comes to beds (no double beds but two individual beds) and bathrooms (no separate shower, just a bathtub). Unfortunately, this is the case even for very highly priced four or five star properties. Meanwhile, chain hotels generally offer a consistent level of service, which...

    I think this is an interesting question. In general, but with notable exceptions, hotel chains seem to improve the quality. At least in Europe, independent hotels are often sub-standard when it comes to beds (no double beds but two individual beds) and bathrooms (no separate shower, just a bathtub). Unfortunately, this is the case even for very highly priced four or five star properties. Meanwhile, chain hotels generally offer a consistent level of service, which is not fantastic, but solid. At the other end of the spectrum, there are fantastic non-affiliated hotels. Bottom line, I would say hotel chains are averaging out ...

    1. TLS

      The separate beds thing is so annoying, especially as some booking sites list them as king size and you get two 80cm beds shoved together. Germany is the worst here, but the UK and the Nordics aren't far behind. Only the Hilton and a few other upscale hotels seems to have decent beds in Europe in my experience.
      I find the bathtub thing being more of a US issue, as there's rarely a separate...

      The separate beds thing is so annoying, especially as some booking sites list them as king size and you get two 80cm beds shoved together. Germany is the worst here, but the UK and the Nordics aren't far behind. Only the Hilton and a few other upscale hotels seems to have decent beds in Europe in my experience.
      I find the bathtub thing being more of a US issue, as there's rarely a separate shower in the US, or maybe I'm not staying in upscale enough properties there? The Nordics is all showers at least.

    2. Mackle

      I suspect that in Germany it’s a cultural thing - when I lived there it was a challenge to get large duvets, non-square pillows, and having two mattresses rather than one big one seemed pretty common.

      Giant square pillows were also more readily available than the traditional size.

  17. Scott

    @Collin Z Marriott in general has very weak wording surrounding their contracts with property managers. The breakfast benefit is a great example, hyatt writes into their contracts "one entree with a coffee/tea/juice including tax, service charge, gratuity or breakfast in the club" while Marriott it so vague. Also a bigger issue is hotels(chiefly marriott) not enforcing their own rules, such as that discount, separate lounges that by technicality aren't included(JW los cabos griffin club), and...

    @Collin Z Marriott in general has very weak wording surrounding their contracts with property managers. The breakfast benefit is a great example, hyatt writes into their contracts "one entree with a coffee/tea/juice including tax, service charge, gratuity or breakfast in the club" while Marriott it so vague. Also a bigger issue is hotels(chiefly marriott) not enforcing their own rules, such as that discount, separate lounges that by technicality aren't included(JW los cabos griffin club), and hotels on the record saying that don't give upgrades and marriott doing jack. This is only regarding the promised loyalty benefits not even getting into brand standards enforcement. Overall Marriott needs to be able to enforce their own rules and have a willingness to do so, this is something that isn't going to change for 3-5 years minimum. Again remember who the customer is. the management companies/hotel owners, they've signed a contract but Marriott also makes the contract very weak.

  18. Antwan

    Agree 100%. Marketing costs are nothing to be laughed at. When I look to travel somewhere, I always start my search on Marriott or Hilton.

    That said, I also understand why some aspirational hotels are aggrieved at having too many points reservations, especially with the rumors that Marriott now pays a flat rate. IMO capping award availability is better than dynamic pricing. There must be a better balance between St. Regis Maldives getting flooded...

    Agree 100%. Marketing costs are nothing to be laughed at. When I look to travel somewhere, I always start my search on Marriott or Hilton.

    That said, I also understand why some aspirational hotels are aggrieved at having too many points reservations, especially with the rumors that Marriott now pays a flat rate. IMO capping award availability is better than dynamic pricing. There must be a better balance between St. Regis Maldives getting flooded with award bookings while a Residence Inn in Indiana may get almost none. As a system of franchisees, it's important to distribute the burden more equitably.

  19. iv

    I agree with EVERYTHING you said Ben.

    Marriott needs to do a better job ensuring properties are delivering on loyalty standards but brand standards as-well.

    Marriott also needs to put an end in allowing properties to post deceptive photo's on their website!

  20. TLS

    This is such an odd way to book hotels for me. We always book based on location/price, usually looking at Google maps for suitable locations and reviews.
    We've had a few duds, usually chain hotels, but we've also stayed at some really nice hotels, especially in South East Asia, that also didn't cost much. We've also stayed in some disappointing five star properties and some truly amazing ones.
    The problem is that it's...

    This is such an odd way to book hotels for me. We always book based on location/price, usually looking at Google maps for suitable locations and reviews.
    We've had a few duds, usually chain hotels, but we've also stayed at some really nice hotels, especially in South East Asia, that also didn't cost much. We've also stayed in some disappointing five star properties and some truly amazing ones.
    The problem is that it's really hard to know what you're going to get and so much of it hinges on the hotel staff. Vietnam and Malaysia rarely disappoints, whereas Thailand and Hong Kong often disappoints.

  21. Dan

    You will get inconsistent branding and service in the hotel industry, and this is (somehow) the hotel chain's selling point. You will see Marriott promoting the Autograph Collection, which varies from a mundane one in St. George UT to one in Jackson Hole WY. Same with Hilton with its Curio Collection.

    In addition, some of these hotels will be independently owned and operated, and they will meet the absolute minimum requirements without going overboard.

    It's...

    You will get inconsistent branding and service in the hotel industry, and this is (somehow) the hotel chain's selling point. You will see Marriott promoting the Autograph Collection, which varies from a mundane one in St. George UT to one in Jackson Hole WY. Same with Hilton with its Curio Collection.

    In addition, some of these hotels will be independently owned and operated, and they will meet the absolute minimum requirements without going overboard.

    It's all about marketing, and not for our benefit.

  22. magice

    I personally think paying "extra" for loyalty program is NOT chump, or irrational.

    There is a concept, "margin analysis," wherein you compare the additional cost against the additional benefits. In context of hotels, this means the increase in rate against any benefit from the loyalty program.

    Personally, I stay mostly with Hilton, because their points back and free breakfast tend to make up for their slight mark up, if any. If you have similar scheme...

    I personally think paying "extra" for loyalty program is NOT chump, or irrational.

    There is a concept, "margin analysis," wherein you compare the additional cost against the additional benefits. In context of hotels, this means the increase in rate against any benefit from the loyalty program.

    Personally, I stay mostly with Hilton, because their points back and free breakfast tend to make up for their slight mark up, if any. If you have similar scheme with Hyatt or Marriott, the same calculation would feature in. Is the additional $20 or $30 per night worth it?

    It's also worth noting that, in some case, it doesn't matter, especially if the total room rate is high enough ($20 is 10% of $200/nt rate, but it's only 5% of $400/nt rate). In that case, you may as well looking into maximize perks.

    The point is: you *should* give an edge to the chain with whom you have status. It's not only natural, but also rational. $1 spent with a loyalty-associated hotel is worth *more* than $1 spent with hotel without such association.

  23. Surya N.

    I mean, it's as you've said before too -- it's a matter of managing expectations, underpromising and overdelivering. We can talk about this with Marriott all day, whereas hotels affiliated with World of Hyatt have been consistently good about managing expectations (at least about 95% of the time) and don't really rely on the Hyatt branding anywhere as a crutch when things go wrong (or, at the very least, will properly take responsibility and duly...

    I mean, it's as you've said before too -- it's a matter of managing expectations, underpromising and overdelivering. We can talk about this with Marriott all day, whereas hotels affiliated with World of Hyatt have been consistently good about managing expectations (at least about 95% of the time) and don't really rely on the Hyatt branding anywhere as a crutch when things go wrong (or, at the very least, will properly take responsibility and duly compensate you). But maybe I'm just being a Hyatt shill ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  24. Stuart

    I'm not sure this is any great revelation. Most have known this for the past few years. As well why many are migrating to free agent status with airlines. The goal in this is to learn which properties deliver and which don't. Often we need to do that ourselves as even the Internet reviews are skewed and, well, it's the Internet. It's why I always have a Plan B wherever I go. I won't create...

    I'm not sure this is any great revelation. Most have known this for the past few years. As well why many are migrating to free agent status with airlines. The goal in this is to learn which properties deliver and which don't. Often we need to do that ourselves as even the Internet reviews are skewed and, well, it's the Internet. It's why I always have a Plan B wherever I go. I won't create drama, I will just leave if the property is junk. Simple. Only Four Seasons, Mandarin, Peninsula, or Rosewood will I be 98% certain of a good product wherever I go. So, in reality, the true luxury hotels may be, in the end, the best overall value. Especially on holiday when you are there for maybe 10 nights and want it to be. My threshold for pain is much better on a two night stay for work.

  25. BookLvr

    Great piece!

    I personally am much more of an independent hotel kind of person when going on vacation. I like boutique hotels, inns, aparthotels, places with quirky personalities.

    Thank you for teaching me that SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the World) can use Hyatt points. I did not know that.

    Overall, I definitely do not mind staying in chain hotels when attending a work convention, going to an event, or stopping for the night on...

    Great piece!

    I personally am much more of an independent hotel kind of person when going on vacation. I like boutique hotels, inns, aparthotels, places with quirky personalities.

    Thank you for teaching me that SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the World) can use Hyatt points. I did not know that.

    Overall, I definitely do not mind staying in chain hotels when attending a work convention, going to an event, or stopping for the night on a road trip. If I am on a true vacation, though, I'm going to pick a hotel for its location, aesthetics, and amenities. A visually delightful hotel in a great location can be part of the pleasure of a vacation.

  26. guisun

    The wanting "free stuff" is quite insulting from these "associates". These points are EARNED through spending money at their hotels or credit card, and elite levels EARNED per stays for some hotels. I really don't understand these "associates". No longer being a road warrior, I spend my OWN money on for stays at hotels, for few business trips and vacations, so I can later use the points for vacation of points and benefits to defray...

    The wanting "free stuff" is quite insulting from these "associates". These points are EARNED through spending money at their hotels or credit card, and elite levels EARNED per stays for some hotels. I really don't understand these "associates". No longer being a road warrior, I spend my OWN money on for stays at hotels, for few business trips and vacations, so I can later use the points for vacation of points and benefits to defray costs of a more aspirational stays. If the hotel program offers elite membership through credit card, we are still paying it through credit card annual fee. If we get a reward certificate we are still paying it through credit card use or annual fee. If earning and using points, along with benefits and perks stipulated by the loyalty program is considered freeloading, than these associates should never ever use any rewards+benefits credit card, or some membership with rewards points and benefits program ever. Not even a gas or grocery membership program.

  27. MJS

    Even though I have gold status (nothing special, I know) at several chains, I almost always stay at independents. I find the experience and the quality infinitely better across the board.

  28. BC

    I think the targeted traveler needs to be addressed in the Marriott vs. Four Seasons discussion about loyalty programs. Without trying to sound as obnoxious as I inevitably will, my perspective on loyalty programs has changed since gaining more financial comfort. Ten years ago, I was totally brand loyal as it was my pathway toward traveling with my then young family. Today, I'll stay in a specific brand only if it's legitimately at parity (quality...

    I think the targeted traveler needs to be addressed in the Marriott vs. Four Seasons discussion about loyalty programs. Without trying to sound as obnoxious as I inevitably will, my perspective on loyalty programs has changed since gaining more financial comfort. Ten years ago, I was totally brand loyal as it was my pathway toward traveling with my then young family. Today, I'll stay in a specific brand only if it's legitimately at parity (quality wise) with non-brand/non-program top hotels. The SLH example is a perfect reason that today, Hyatt is my brand of choice. I love Park Hyatts and I like the smaller, more authentic SLHs in European cities. But, if there is a great non-brand (or non-loyalty like 4S) in a city, I wouldn't hesitate to stay there as my dependency on "free" is less than before. That's who 4S is going after - not the road warrior who spends 200 nights a year in half full-service and half limited service hotels.

    1. Ed

      You don't sound obnoxious. At some point the value of illusory benefits is outweighed by the ability to just pay for certainty. I'm guessing that if you started as not financially comfortable and worked your way there (instead of by some windfall/inheritence/generational wealth), you're probably still working or at least have other opportunity costs against your time. At that point, you'll pay for what you want because you don't get to do it all the...

      You don't sound obnoxious. At some point the value of illusory benefits is outweighed by the ability to just pay for certainty. I'm guessing that if you started as not financially comfortable and worked your way there (instead of by some windfall/inheritence/generational wealth), you're probably still working or at least have other opportunity costs against your time. At that point, you'll pay for what you want because you don't get to do it all the time (because of _time_) and don't want to gamble on something that guarantees less with a "lottery" for getting a potentially outsized benefit - whether thats a suite upgrade or a domestic first class seat. It's just not worth the gamble.

      Now, I'm sure I sound obnoxious, but I'm 100% agreeing with you because I'd say the exact same thing about younger me vs now.

  29. Greg

    I really like this post. Part of the excitement of loyalty programs is the potential that loyalty can bring. From airline programs that can bring a cheap economy ticket a "free" upgrade to a luxurious lay flat suite saving thousands of dollars, simply by being loyal and paying thousands of dollars to that brand.

    The hotel industry the same. I do many crazy things to get my "free" breakfast like booking hotel rooms that may...

    I really like this post. Part of the excitement of loyalty programs is the potential that loyalty can bring. From airline programs that can bring a cheap economy ticket a "free" upgrade to a luxurious lay flat suite saving thousands of dollars, simply by being loyal and paying thousands of dollars to that brand.

    The hotel industry the same. I do many crazy things to get my "free" breakfast like booking hotel rooms that may be more expensive then the competition. Hotels have given me free upgrades to suites that cost thousand + dollars more then the room I booked.

    However with loyalty programs I look at what is guaranteed as the real loyalty benefit. With Hyatt it has been free breakfast as a globalist + a higher percentage of points. That guaranteed benefit is what I base my decision to stay loyal on. Then of course the icing on the cake is the sutie upgrades or nicer rooms.

    With Marriott the guaranteed benefit is the same free breakfast at specific brands plus more points. That is how I decide how much I will spend with Marriott. Then the icing on the cake with Marriott is similar (although I have had less luck) with suite upgrades.

    So what would you have done if the Aegeon Mykonos would not have confirmed your upgrade ahead of time and at check in said they could only do 2 nights. Would that have changed your experience?

    I agree the Aegeon is completely in the wrong and did a pathetic job trying to right the situation. But I am also a little critical of you for putting such a huge deal into the lack of an upgrade with the typically lame Marriott upgrade certificates in the first place.

    You are a very considerate and knowledgable traveller who has arguably the best points/miles blog out there but your writing of this specific experience of not getting upgraded is a little thin. Read Flyertalk and see how many suite upgrades have not happened even though suites are for sale. Again, the Aegeon is wrong, but it is pretty common knowledge that the Marriott suite awards often don't work even when they should. (Although I would love it if you could fix Marriott's upgrade awards)

  30. KEVIN

    When I search for hotel for vacation, the first thing I do is google luxury hotels in xyz city. Once I have a collection of names, I go on TripAdvisor and click on one/ two star reviews. Sometimes I may even check out the reviewers to see what type of hotel reviews he/she typically write for as that will tell me if this person typically stay at this level of hotel or not. If someone...

    When I search for hotel for vacation, the first thing I do is google luxury hotels in xyz city. Once I have a collection of names, I go on TripAdvisor and click on one/ two star reviews. Sometimes I may even check out the reviewers to see what type of hotel reviews he/she typically write for as that will tell me if this person typically stay at this level of hotel or not. If someone typically writes reviews on Mandarin or Four Seasons, I’m more likely to trust that person’s reviews if I happen to looking to stay at one of those hotels. The content of the reviews are as important as managers’ replies. The managers that write canned replies should be a glaring warning as well as those only write please contact us and we will make it right answers. I will also do google map hotel to make sure if the hotel is on the beach if I’m looking for on the beach hotels. Hotels get professional photographers to take pictures so more realistic pictures can be found on Instagram and other social media outlets. The point I’m making is do your homework before plunking down your hard earn points/ cash. Blindingly go to Hilton/ Marriott/ Hyatt.com is not the way to go. Even hotels like Four Seasons and Mandarin Orientals have duds.

    1. MJS

      I also never trust any tripadvisor on a honeymoon. Everything is "awesome" when it's your honeymoon. I also don't trust Europeans that talk about room size. European hotel rooms are the size of a closet. They have no concept of size or space. I love the one and two star views, but have to take some with a grain of salt.

  31. sglat320

    Marriott circa 2021 is basically Comcast circa 2004.

  32. Anthony

    I agree on the power of loyalty programs but in my view the standard and recognition of the programs has deteriorated markedly since the chains started pushing their credit cards with such force and scale.

    What this has done is massively inflate the elite tiers...there are many Platinum and Titanium members who need to spend very few nights in hotel beds to attain and retain status. While this might be good business for Marriott or...

    I agree on the power of loyalty programs but in my view the standard and recognition of the programs has deteriorated markedly since the chains started pushing their credit cards with such force and scale.

    What this has done is massively inflate the elite tiers...there are many Platinum and Titanium members who need to spend very few nights in hotel beds to attain and retain status. While this might be good business for Marriott or Hyatt, or any other program, the individuals see little of this credit card revenue, which may be tainting their view of the power and value of their elite hotel guests.

  33. Randy

    Agree 100%. But it should go further - if hotels don't provide benefits then Marriott should have in their contract with the hotel - a penalty or fine. You can't have it both ways.

    It used to be you stayed at a Marriott because there was an expected level of quality, when hotels were managed by Marriott whether owned or not owned by Marriott.

    The brand has been watered down with too many non-owned...

    Agree 100%. But it should go further - if hotels don't provide benefits then Marriott should have in their contract with the hotel - a penalty or fine. You can't have it both ways.

    It used to be you stayed at a Marriott because there was an expected level of quality, when hotels were managed by Marriott whether owned or not owned by Marriott.

    The brand has been watered down with too many non-owned and non-Marriott managed hotels. I generally avoid the hotels that don't have the original Marriott (or Sheraton) branding. These newer brands don't have Marriott management - just a marketing contract.

    They need a three strikes and you are out with a default penalty in the contract.

    I go by location, when selecting, and if a Marriott is in the location I want to be then I stay at the Marriott. Then a Hilton, then a Hyatt. Otherwise any good hotel.

    Marriott has reduced the benefits so much and raised the points - like most Cat 5 are now 40,000 points outside the 35K for the limit for the new CC (old Chase card was Cat 5 regardless of points).

    I go for best hotel - one with a corporate rate - if that is better. Quality for best price is King.

  34. Yreal

    Nh hotels.

    Buy one share, get gold status.

    Lol

    1. TC

      Just from a very quick search on Google:

      "2.4. Shareholders of the NH Group

      Members of the NH Rewards Programme who are also NH Shareholders may upgrade their category as follows: (i) to the NH Rewards Gold category if they hold a block of shares to a value of up to 3,000 Euros; or (ii) to the NH Rewards Platinum category if they hold a block of shares to a value equal to or greater than 3,000 Euros."

  35. Alpha Golf

    When I saw the headline I thought “Mediocre Hotels” was a new chain.

  36. Doug

    I think it's worth noting that many vacation destination hotels largely see elite members visiting on points while airport/city locations more often see them paying cash. This can contribute to the lack of appreciation for elite members often shown by hotels in Orlando/Hawaii/etc. This is far from universal but is certainly a contributing factor.

  37. Ed

    My position is that hotel program loyalty is irrational because the program itself is free to devalue whenever it'd like, and hotels themselves are rarely made to provide meaningful program benefits if they're not interested in doing so.

    FWIW, when going someplace for the first time, I'll often prefer a chain hotel just because I (maybe irrationally) presume it's more likely to come as advertised, won't have unexpected things like a front desk with odd...

    My position is that hotel program loyalty is irrational because the program itself is free to devalue whenever it'd like, and hotels themselves are rarely made to provide meaningful program benefits if they're not interested in doing so.

    FWIW, when going someplace for the first time, I'll often prefer a chain hotel just because I (maybe irrationally) presume it's more likely to come as advertised, won't have unexpected things like a front desk with odd hours, and will generally provide something similar to whatever I experienced at the same brand in another city. In short, I think it removes extreme variance in the hotel experience, although clearly I'm not entirely correct (hence this post).

    So my general thing is to not be brand loyal, but if I'm honest, probably preferring chain hotels over non-chain unless I have a good first hand recommendation for the latter. I just pay for what I want, which also means I won't be disappointed when benefits aren't provided since no elite benefits were promised.

    That said, I sort of am "loyal" to things like Amex FHR and similar programs, because I trust them to offer up better properties, and the hotels themselves usually deliver what's promised. I actually can't remember when something that FHR/Virtuoso/etc stated was included wasn't done by the hotel.

  38. Saurabh

    Well said Ben. I am hardcore points enthusiast - a Lifetime Titanium with Marriott (unsure if that means anything frankly), Explorist, Diamond, and a bunch of airline statuses and have often out of my way to stay at Marriott and fly my favorite airline(s) - often spending way more. After more than 10 years of business and leisure spend, I have realized that most loyalty programs are one-sided aka they expect you to be loyal...

    Well said Ben. I am hardcore points enthusiast - a Lifetime Titanium with Marriott (unsure if that means anything frankly), Explorist, Diamond, and a bunch of airline statuses and have often out of my way to stay at Marriott and fly my favorite airline(s) - often spending way more. After more than 10 years of business and leisure spend, I have realized that most loyalty programs are one-sided aka they expect you to be loyal to them, but then screw you over when it comes to actually redeeming what you earned.

    I did have some amazing redemptions, but now I am super selective in choosing the property and often compare non-chain hotels to look for the mix of experience + value. Frankly, even for flights I often find better and cheaper seats on cash vs. sticking to my favorite airline!! At the end of the day, a seat on Delta vs. Alaska is not going to make a difference locally.

    We need to start a loyalty program of the non-chain 'awesome' hotels :P

  39. Andrew

    It's funny. I'm reading this article just on the eve where I'm asking myself why I'm loyal to hotels. I've been a Hyatt Globalist since it was a thing (and a Diamond for 3 years before that) - overall I like their loyalty program more than Marriott or Hilton (I was Titanium and Gold, respectively.)

    Yet I find the misses striking. Look at every Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. Every kick-butt suite is listed as...

    It's funny. I'm reading this article just on the eve where I'm asking myself why I'm loyal to hotels. I've been a Hyatt Globalist since it was a thing (and a Diamond for 3 years before that) - overall I like their loyalty program more than Marriott or Hilton (I was Titanium and Gold, respectively.)

    Yet I find the misses striking. Look at every Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. Every kick-butt suite is listed as a Premium Suite in the description. Andaz doesn't believe in suite upgrades under any circumstance, Grand doesn't have a "premium suite" designation and Park and Regency have shadow inventory programs for their premium and standard suites - you have to talk with the front desk manager to get them to unlock it.

    I've griped extensively on this site about the Covid-19 response: let's skip breakfast and give you a paltry number of points instead. You'd think we could get a property to honor breakfasts, or at least part with a sensible number of points for the inconvenience.

    My concierge says it's out of Hyatt's control. Which I think is an unstated problem in the article: non-owned properties are having it both ways, and the chain is appearing to be the victim of operator decisions.

    Which is why I'm on this precipice. I've been loyal to Hyatt, but certainly would enjoy booking suites with Shangri-La Luxury Circle, Peninsula Pen Club, Virtuoso and FHR while paying for exactly the suite I want. Heck, I used Marriott STARS just this last week, and had a fabulous stay at Ritz Carlton Residences Waikiki. Travel less often (because I'm not chasing nights anymore) and pick better properties.

    It's what I've been doing to airlines (picking lie-flat and routes for travel, who needs free bags or other 'elite' benefits?) - do the same to hotels. It's a thought... the industry better sort this out or the savvy recreational traveler will move on from their programs.

  40. Nate

    This is a great post that not only explores the role of loyalty programs, but also strikes at the choice of business plan that hotel brands make. It's a well articulated outline of the different parameters that brands and individual hotels make.

  41. SullyofDoha

    I saw the same as @echino yesterday. The negative comments have been removed from Tripadvisor.

  42. Claus

    Ben, I think it is a bit off to say that airlines earn no money flying and that all their profit comes from loyalty programs. That‘s like saying that a company makes no money from manufacturing products, but it all comes from writing invoices to its customers. Thing is, no product, no invoice. No flights, no loyalty program revenues. Basically, the loyalty programs are one sales channel for selling seats on their planes. Case in...

    Ben, I think it is a bit off to say that airlines earn no money flying and that all their profit comes from loyalty programs. That‘s like saying that a company makes no money from manufacturing products, but it all comes from writing invoices to its customers. Thing is, no product, no invoice. No flights, no loyalty program revenues. Basically, the loyalty programs are one sales channel for selling seats on their planes. Case in point: Would you get a credit card with a sign up bonus of 200k Air Baltia miles?

  43. Schar

    Ben PLEASE respond to my email, I havent been receiving the email newsletters ever since you changed the website format, Ive email you/tiffany at websupport email and have gotten ZERO response. Don't ignore us loyal readers who support your business. I am only asking for help in reinstating my email newsletters.

    1. Bao

      Last week in the Q/A section. Tiffany mentioned that since the switch the newsletter is not working. They are aware and is working with their dev. team to get it fix, along with many other issues.

    2. Schar

      thank you for letting me know!

  44. Sam

    Pay more to stay in a worse hotel. Pretty much sums it up.

    Programs are genius indeed.

  45. TM

    World of Hyatt absolutely comes to mind here. That was the hotel program that made me realize how irrational I was being at times. I know Lucky and lots of readers here love the program, but their footprint sucks compared to Hilton and Marriott. It’s heavily focused on major urban centers and leisure destinations so if you’re anywhere outside of that, you might get a mediocre Hyatt Place or nothing at all. Going out of...

    World of Hyatt absolutely comes to mind here. That was the hotel program that made me realize how irrational I was being at times. I know Lucky and lots of readers here love the program, but their footprint sucks compared to Hilton and Marriott. It’s heavily focused on major urban centers and leisure destinations so if you’re anywhere outside of that, you might get a mediocre Hyatt Place or nothing at all. Going out of your way to stay at an HP when there’s oftentimes a better full-service Hilton or Marriott brand nearby is definitely “irrational”. I stay in a lot of smaller secondary cities and suburbia, but WoH program doesn’t even know most of these places exist. Even when there’s a Hyatt Regency available, it’s usually in an area where there’s stiff competition and better properties from both chain and independent operators.

  46. Jayjay

    I think the point you’re missing is the fact Marriott is creating a large amount of fake elites through their credit cards and other promotions that just make it easy to achieve “top tier” status. It just creates a large influx of people who claim these benefits which costs hotels a lot of money.

    I’ll give you an example, a Starwood property I worked for had a food cost of approximately 10 000 USD at...

    I think the point you’re missing is the fact Marriott is creating a large amount of fake elites through their credit cards and other promotions that just make it easy to achieve “top tier” status. It just creates a large influx of people who claim these benefits which costs hotels a lot of money.

    I’ll give you an example, a Starwood property I worked for had a food cost of approximately 10 000 USD at the club lounge. When Marriott fully merged with Bonvoy that cost exploded to over 30 000 USD due to the influx of members. We were selling the same amount of rooms prior to the Bonvoy merger. The Bonvoy loyalty program didn’t generate more business for us. It created a packed club lounge that didn’t feel exclusive anymore. It’s also the same for room upgrades, we use to get so many complaints about not getting a suite upgrade not because we didn’t want to honor the benefit but because we had already upgraded a lot of members already.

    Bottom line is Marriott Bonvoy should do like Hyatt and remove the “easy way” to get status so we can go back to offering perks to elites who actually do generate a lot of business for the brand.

  47. Krabnov

    It's all about enforcement (or lack thereof), actually. When there's no punishment for non-compliant properties, these problems will exist.

  48. ConnGator

    I am staying at SpringHill Suites Chicago Chinatown next week, really hope Marriott does not let me down. It has good reviews, but after all the comments here I am not sure I trust them.

    Anybody stay there recently?

  49. Mattux

    This article is on point. As an overall travel strategy I have moved away from chasing loyalty status with hotels and airlines in favor of the best option for each specific itinerary. Staying in a mediocre Marriott just so I can get the next status level always feels like a fool's errand.

    My preferred strategy is to use American Express FHR as much as possible. This has worked great and provides greater benefits than most...

    This article is on point. As an overall travel strategy I have moved away from chasing loyalty status with hotels and airlines in favor of the best option for each specific itinerary. Staying in a mediocre Marriott just so I can get the next status level always feels like a fool's errand.

    My preferred strategy is to use American Express FHR as much as possible. This has worked great and provides greater benefits than most hotel loyalty programs. I would also prefer to take the 5x points with Amex than accruing hotel points that are more limited in nature.

    To be honest, it comes at a cost, but I love the Four Seasons' approach of refusing to go down the loyalty rabbit hotel. And in my experience they live up to their reputation of treating every guest like a VIP.

  50. N1120A

    You hit the nail on the head. Loyalty programs drive revenue to hotels, even in the face of superior and lower prices competition. In many cases, people are actually giving up something to get their points and perks, which is why it is not at all unreasonable to expect the hotel to live up to the loyalty benefits.

  51. Homer

    But I'm a Diamond Guest :-)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCqm4H3m3Ew
    oldie but goodie

  52. Tracey Kenney

    This whole episode has generated interesting analysis and comment. Another aspect of loyalty program perks I'd like to toss out is my recent stay st Marriott Beach Resort, Cancun. I did not receive any recognition at any time for elite status. I chose not to make a stink about it because of the hardship that community has been thru and I didnt want to be chump. I can live without bottled water, some points and...

    This whole episode has generated interesting analysis and comment. Another aspect of loyalty program perks I'd like to toss out is my recent stay st Marriott Beach Resort, Cancun. I did not receive any recognition at any time for elite status. I chose not to make a stink about it because of the hardship that community has been thru and I didnt want to be chump. I can live without bottled water, some points and a breakfast certificate. Also. My room was just dandy without an upgrade.

  53. BC Ganley

    "... comments from Marriott associates along the lines of I hate entitled Bonvoy members who think they should get all kinds of things for free (and by that they typically mean the the published benefits that members receive in exchange for their loyalty). " If that's their attitude , maybe they aren't suited to the hospitality business.

    I had an absolutely wonderful encounter with a Marriott associate today at their Chesea (NYC) Fairfield. Even though...

    "... comments from Marriott associates along the lines of I hate entitled Bonvoy members who think they should get all kinds of things for free (and by that they typically mean the the published benefits that members receive in exchange for their loyalty). " If that's their attitude , maybe they aren't suited to the hospitality business.

    I had an absolutely wonderful encounter with a Marriott associate today at their Chesea (NYC) Fairfield. Even though Marriott corporate sent me a message saying that my room was ready (it wasn't) this woman put me in a space where i could work without being disturbed. It's becasue of associates like her that I continue to stay at Marriott.

  54. Lune

    One interesting dynamic you didn't mention is that hotels are usually franchised, while an airline fully owns all their flights (aside from codeshares). It's probably true that business hotels in non-touristy cities get almost all cash customers. Meanwhile those cash customers save up their points and redeem them in tourist-heavy areas. Which means that independently owned franchises in tourist-heavy places have a huge number of redemptions, with relatively fewer cash customers. In essence, that business...

    One interesting dynamic you didn't mention is that hotels are usually franchised, while an airline fully owns all their flights (aside from codeshares). It's probably true that business hotels in non-touristy cities get almost all cash customers. Meanwhile those cash customers save up their points and redeem them in tourist-heavy areas. Which means that independently owned franchises in tourist-heavy places have a huge number of redemptions, with relatively fewer cash customers. In essence, that business hotel near the Javits Center gets people to "irrationally" pay their inflated rates by selling the promise of being able to stay "for free" in a sister property in Hawaii, which is not owned nor operated by them. This wouldn't be a problem if the hotel brand paid a fair rate for the room redemption. But if they have some lowball payment for award redemptions, I can see why franchisees in tourist-heavy places grumble about the burden of redemptions they face while business hotels get to reap the rewards of increased cash customers from being in the network.

    Now airlines have the same dynamic (paying customers in SFO-NYC, a bunch of awards redemptions in SFO-Hawaii). But since they own all the flights, they can spread the costs and benefits of the program around their whole network.

    FWIW, I have some loyalty to airline programs, but have none whatsoever to hotels, even though I stay (using my own cash) ~80-100 nights/yr. That's because I can still get value out of the airline miles I earn. But I did the math on hotel points, and even in the best circumstances possible, using all the promotions and somehow snagging the absolute lowest rate on an aspirational property like the Maldives, I would barely break even vs. saving $25-100/night on all my business stays and just paying for my vacation stay. So I'd rather go on priceline, choose the cheapest hotel room that I can be comfortable in, and save cash rather than points. At this point, hotel points only make sense if you're not paying for your own stays.

    At some point though, this will catch up to them. It's called eating your seed corn. Lots of people loved the old Starwood program, and deliberately stayed there because of it. But Marriott is now riding on its old brand history, which took years / decades to build up among the traveling consultant crowd that constitutes so much of their profitable business. As people realize what a terrible deal Bonvoy (and most hotel programs, for that matter) has become, as Marriott tries to squeeze as much short term profit out the program as possible, frequent travelers will move on. And then they'll wonder why they can no longer sell as many points to credit card companies, and why their customers are now coming from kayak on special deals instead of corporate bookings.

  55. Benjamin G Guttery

    I TOTALLY agree. My husband and I were THRILLED when visiting South Padre Island in Texas to learn that a Marriott Courtyard was being built. We often stayed at independent properties before this, or bayside in a Marriott 25 min away from the beach. Upon opening we booked 3 stays there within the 1st year of their opening (all right before and during the pandemic, Feb, June, & Sept 2020). All of the stays were...

    I TOTALLY agree. My husband and I were THRILLED when visiting South Padre Island in Texas to learn that a Marriott Courtyard was being built. We often stayed at independent properties before this, or bayside in a Marriott 25 min away from the beach. Upon opening we booked 3 stays there within the 1st year of their opening (all right before and during the pandemic, Feb, June, & Sept 2020). All of the stays were AWFUL. Suite being downgraded upon arrival, services not being available, security not enforcing rules and allowing street vendors at the pool and non paying locals all in the property to use it's amenities, and then on our FINAL stay hotel staff ignoring us and using the same elevators with trash and dirty laundry all while not excusing themselves or offering to take one of the other 4 elevators. But the hotel "has us" locked in. They are literally the ONLY MARRIOTT game in town, and if I want to continue to earn status, we "have to" stay there. My husband really enjoys SPI, I could be happy on any beach in any resort town, but we feel stuck there. To make matters worse, the same owner also owns the Hilton next door and several (a dozen) other properties up and down the strip. I can't call and complain to MARRIOTT on every stay (even if it's warranted) unless I want to be flagged as a complainer or worse, system abuser. I stay at 20 other properties throughout the year around the world and country and have never experienced the same lack of appreciation that I'm a paying Titanium Member than at the South Padre Island Courtyard by Marriott. But until another developer decides to build a different property nearby, we're going to suck it up and pay more for less service at this place.

Featured Comments Load all 69 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Colin Z

Completely agree with this article. Further, properties that weasel out of benefits should be called out, even if they are technically within program T&Cs. Example: currently staying at Wailea Beach Resort (Marriott). Gift shop refuses to offer Bonvoy elite discount because it is not operated by the hotel. But it's the hotel's only gift shop, you can charge to your room, and they sell branded merchandise. This gift shop would likely have zero revenue if not for being in the hotel. But it's not hotel-operated so they are compliant with Bonvoy T&Cs.

DWT

The bigger issue here is that for Marriott (and really all the big chains), their primary "customer" isn't us, the travelers, it's the property owners that sign agreements with them. So there really seems to be little incentive for Marriott to get involved to police brand standards, especially as of late.

echino

I just noticed that all recent negative reviews of Aegon Mykonos were deleted from TripAdvisor and Google (except Ben's). Most of those reviews were from people who have not actually stayed at the hotel, but some apparently real negative reviews were also deleted. Fake positive 5-star reviews still remain. Ben, please also post your review on marriott.com (confirmed guest review). I see a fake management's review there, but not yours.

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