Marriott Bonvoy has been a bit of a hot mess. This is the name of Marriott’s rebranded loyalty program, which continues to have huge issues. Nonetheless the company is spending millions of dollars marketing the “Bonvoy” name, which is fair enough, given that it’s a made up word.
It’s pretty normal for travel companies to offer “influencer trips.” It’s basically paid positive coverage, and is about the least unbiased coverage you could get, short of an outright ad. This is very, very common, and just about all travel companies engage in this.
I don’t do these anymore (I think my last trip of this sort was about a decade ago, when I was 18… I thought it was cool at the time), and frankly I’m always surprised just how many self-proclaimed “journalists” do.
I don’t do these for a variety of reasons:
- These don’t give you any sort of “honest” coverage of anything, and present an inherent conflict of interest
- They’re usually jam-packed with activities, so they’re exhausting rather than fun
- I’m an introvert, so being around people for this long is just plain tiring
- There are plenty of nice “influencers” out there, but some are quite possibly the most insufferable human beings on earth, so being stuck with them for days on end is my personal hell
I’m surprised that major national publications allow people to go on these kinds of trips and write stories about them. But this is just how things work, and no one seems to take issue with it.
Well, it looks like Marriott Bonvoy is planning their first major “influencer” trip to highlight the program. Several people who were invited have forwarded me the email, and it sure is… interesting.
I’m sharing this not because I’m surprised Marriott is doing a trip like this (like I said, it’s normal), but rather because I figure a lot of you would be curious about the details.
It will be taking place in early April. While I don’t want to share the exact dates everything is happening (I think that crosses the line), I’m a bit amused by the premise:
Available to go to Hong Kong in April? On behalf of Marriott Bonvoy, I’d like to invite you to experience the endless inspiration Marriott Bonvoy provides members during an exclusive trip to Hong Kong.
As a guest of Marriott during the 5-day trip, you’ll travel like a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member, with VIP concerts and sporting events, dine at Michelin starred restaurants, and explore the city with Marriott Activities. Our rough itinerary is included below.
Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in covering – we would need confirmation from an editor at a top-tier national outlet for two articles describing your experience (can be within travel, sports, culinary or entertainment focuses). Hotel, food, and experience costs will be covered. Media spots are extremely limited, so we will be reserving spots on a first come first serve basis. Happy to work with you on any story angles you want to explore.
For what it’s worth, the influencers will be staying at the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, and activities include a spa experience at the hotel, lunch at Michelin starred Tin Lung Heen at the Ritz-Carlton, a local food blogger tour, a harbor cruise, VIP Gwen Stefani concert tickets, and VIP Hong Kong Seven rugby game tickets, along with a meet & greet with the US rugby team.
So yeah, I’m not sure where to even start with this.
First of all, I’m surprised they’re staying at the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott, rather than the Ritz-Carlton. I’m also surprised they’re not even covering airfare.
But mainly I just love how they suggest that they’ll be traveling as Titanium Elites, suggesting that has anything to do with them getting VIP concert and sporting event tickets, dining at Michelin starred restaurants, etc. Are there some hidden Titanium Elite benefits I missed?
I figured if they were traveling as Titanium Elites they should really:
- Stay at a Ritz-Carlton and be denied complimentary breakfast
- Have to book their own hotel with points, only to be told that a room isn’t actually available on points, even though standard rooms are available for sale.
- Etc., etc. 😉
Though it’s also possible that I’m maybe just not keeping up with unpublished Marriott Bonvoy elite benefits. An “influencer” recently changed his story after the fact (and after deleting all the comments questioning him) to claim that an awards show invite was in fact due to being an Ambassador Elite member, and not from personal connections.
Anyway, for those of you who wonder what these “influencer” trips are like, now you have a sense. I look forward to reading all of the coverage that will come out of this…
If nothing else I’m sure we can look forward to Instagram pictures of people posing with ridiculously big breakfasts while sitting in their hotel bed, with a cup of coffee up to their mouth…