Marriott Bonvoy’s “Influencer” Trip To Hong Kong

Filed Under: Marriott, Media

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…

Comments
  1. “Hotel, food, and experience costs will be covered.”

    they don’t even cover airfare to get there? pfft. (i don’t know if that’s normal for such things either way)

  2. Are any of those “influencers” particularly adept with IT? Maybe they could lend a hand

  3. Influencers will receive 100000 Marriott Bonvoy points to transfer to any airline miles to cover airfare to HKG. By the time the transfers are complete the trip may be over…

  4. @Ben, while I agree with you that these trips cannot be covered objectively, it is really much different than you pushing credit cards through this blog and covering them and making lists of the “best cards” objectively?

  5. Shady Ben gives me everything that the newer seasons of Rupaul hasn’t. Also the real titanium experience is having the app (and sometimes staff) refer to you as a “Platinum Premier” still. Oh and any credit they give you won’t post for 2 weeks until you call them….if you get someone that doesn’t hang up on you to clear the call in their queue.

    I feel like Sideshow Bob walking through a yard of rakes.

  6. .”..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.”

    Probably the best thing I’ve heard all day. I find most of them incredibly annoying.

    What I don’t get about brands chasing after these guys is that in most cases if you’re over 35, no one will know or care about influencers, by 35 you know what you like. If you’re under 35, you will care but you probably can’t afford it. So why are brands so keen to chase people who can’t afford their product? I assume they just want them to buy and don’t care if someone gets into debt as a result.

    Secondly, people who believe everything an influencer says and buy something because someone told them to, are idiots.

  7. I support Lucky’s stance of not participating in these nonsense influencer events.
    I trust his reviews on flights and hotels more than any other blogger’s.

  8. @ Daniel — It’s a perfectly fair question, and I appreciate that you’re asking it, so let me give a bit of background.

    First of all let me say that I have editorial independence from credit card issuers. I have affiliate links in one form or another from all the major issuers. Not once have I been told “your coverage of this card isn’t fair, please take it down.” Quite to the contrary, they encourage editorial independence, and me writing about how I feel about these cards. Credit cards are one of the best ways to earn miles & points and get premium travel for pennies on the dollar, and I’ve been writing about cards long before I’ve had affiliate links.

    Furthermore, nowadays the major issuers have “refer a friend” links, so using that logic, doesn’t that mean we’re all sort of biased if we’re recommend credit cards, since we can all earn some sort of commission from some cards?

    What it comes down to for me is that first and foremost I report to you guys. We have a huge readership and I’ve been blogging for over 11 years. This isn’t a job, this is my passion. I know that the reason people read is because for the most part they find what I have to say interesting and trust me, or something.

    At the same time, we also all have to make money somehow. The place I draw the line is that I don’t in any way have financial relationships with hotels or airlines. My goal is to showcase how miles & points can be used for travel, and showcase that in an unbiased way. I actively go out of my way to avoid getting any kind of special treatment from airlines and hotels.

    Furthermore, I think credit card reviews are fundamentally more objective than an influencer reviewing a hotel or airline with special treatment. Look at my valuations of miles & points, and I think you’ll find that most of them are fair, or at least that I don’t have any obvious biases there, aside from my personal travel preferences (which, again, are self funded). I do think some other sites inflate the value of points to help them sell credit cards, but my valuations are much more conservative. So when I review a credit card, I’m sharing how I value the return on spending by the card, etc.

    Long story short, I don’t think there’s a single business out there where everyone definitively agrees that they’re unbiased and that there’s not some potential conflict of interest. However, I do my best to be as unbiased as possible, and the place I draw the line is that I want to do everything in my power to give unbiased airline and hotel reviews, and showcase how miles can be used for that.

    I could go on and on, but hopefully that at least somewhat answers your question.

  9. @Lucky – this post was perfect. Shade? Absolutely. But what’s great is that you can back your sh*t up with a real following and authentic reviews. Keep it up!

  10. This site has always been transparent about the business model. Its why it is my go-to for J class flight reviews and I enjoy the resort reviews I probably will never visit. I totally get how you can heavily criticize Bonvoy in one post, then discuss (push) their credit cards in the next post. This site has always been clear on that, and its why it still remains relevant to me and why I trust the reviews of the trips.

    I also appreciate these little peeks behind the scenes of this little ‘industry’ that you have started to provide to us. In a way, it does help us to differentiate this site from some of the other sites with more questionable impartiality.

    I don’t even see it as ‘shade’ as much as helping distinguish your brand from others. Keep at it, but know that you are creating enemies in the process.

  11. Love this post and Lucky’s response to Daniel above. Keepin’ em honest in this social media-driven world of fabricated reality that thrives on instilling jealousy externally and over-consumption internally. #deep

  12. I’m sure TPG will be there. Can’t stand following that site anymore. Thanks for the interesting post, Lucky.

  13. Don’t be jealous for not getting into every single pilot cabin during the flight violating all possible rules “just because you are a nice guy” like me “can’t get rid of this 5-dollar smile on my face” Sam Chui, Lucky 😉

  14. These “influencers” should check their credit card statement. Marriott probably put a deposit on their card to assure their free stay.

  15. I rarely leave comments but wanted to say I respect your decision to fund your own travel. As someone who takes 5-6 international trips a year, I rely on blogs like yours for unbiased advice. I’ve stopped using many websites because they rely on influencers who sell hotels and restaurants they were given for free.

    Also, TPG is a complete sham. His advice is terrible, and the whole Marriott conflict of interest is a dealbreaker for me.

  16. One of my favorite articles of all time here. This article not only made for a fun read, but open criticism like this of the points/miles blogging sphere helps shape it into a more transparent, honest space that’s more beneficial to readers. Lucky – this work has more consequence than any trip review. Please keep it coming!

  17. Lol thanks Ben for this article
    And don’t even get me started about the ritz Carlton! Haha
    No breakfast
    No lounge
    No upgrade
    Not even for titanium elites…
    I just checked out of rc Tokyo and found it way over rated and totally underwhelming with the exception of mt Fuji who decided to come out of her cloud blankets this morning and awed everyone with her appearance
    Lol XD

  18. This was a great post. Love the shade. Did TPG really delete all comments questioning his independence due to his Oscars trip? If true that’s really a more serious indictment of his independence than the actual trip would be.

    There are some potential conflicts That any journalist would face. A journalist with integrity would proactively report on those so readers can reach their own judgments. TPG’s efforts to conceal his potential conflict are completely inappropriate — whether or not the underlying Oscars trip was OK. (Plus criticism of Marriott disappeared from his site after the trip. It does seem like he really is just acting like a shill for Marriott.)

  19. @Ken k

    I went to the RC Tokyo last year and I enjoyed it, but I accepted what I was getting into, they actually did upgrade us to a better view room where we could see Tokyo Tower. Breakfast and lounges are nice and all but I prefer to eat street food for breakfast and drink in the local bars. However if one is looking for a good points option for Tokyo and is willing to go a little more south the Prince Sakura Tower in Shinagawa was amazing as well and had a good breakfast selection to boot for Platinums and above. The only thing the RC may have had outside brand recognition, spa, and location was concierge services but I didn’t “test” them appropriately as I didn’t ask the same questions at each location. If you ever go back to Tokyo and are going on points I’d recommend at least looking at Prince Sakura Tower.

  20. @Enzan Tokyo (Or Japan in general) is probably the least place you want to get street food for breakfast, and a in hotel breakfast makes most of the sense in the world

  21. “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.”

    Would love some further info on this, I probably missed it.

    Also, Ocean World Marriott??!! As someone frequents HK Marriotts, duh they’re really too cheap to offer W/Ritz huh.

  22. One of my favorite posts! As someone in sales for a major hotel chain (NOT Marriott) in a large tourist city, we get pressure to “host” influencers. Both from our corporate offices and our destination city. It’s not something we do often. I’d rather rely on honest reviews and coverage as this just makes us a better hotel. Point out our flaws and ways to improve. But also point out what we do well and recognize our staff.
    This is my only travel blog I read on a regular basis because of the honest reviews. I ditched TPG a long time ago. I travel internationally only 2-3 times a year and I value the honest opinions and have used @Ben’s and team reviews to help me make decisions. Thanks Ben and Team!

  23. @ Lucky – I appreciate your honest response to Daniel, above. My problem with the model
    is not that the “pay for play” link isn’t clear (as it is, and your blog is very up front about that).

    My problem is that we DON’T know whether you get more “kick backs” for pushing one credit card over the other – whether you get paid more to push an American Express Card over a Citi Card, or whether you get a higher fee from one type of card over the other.

    I understand that the card companies ask you not to disclose those details, but it’s a commission relationship that affects your income and, therefore, MAY affect placement and editorial coverage. I fundamentally believe – whether you’re at a department store buying a suit, or a hotel concierge booking a restaurant, or a newspaper covering a company that advertises with you – commissions and fees should be disclosed for full transparency.

  24. @Ethan

    To each his/her own, the only time I had “bad” food in Japan is when I accidentally ordered horse. It looked like Tuna on the picture menu. Even then it was properly prepared and didn’t make me sick, I just didn’t like it. Now can you get a guaranteed solid (mainly in terms of quantity) breakfast out of street food? Debatable depending on neighborhood and time of morning. I just tend to like to escape the perceived safety of the hotel breakfast when traveling, especially overseas. As I mentioned if you do like that feature guaranteed there is a quite comparable Category 6 (Compared to Category 8 for the RC Tokyo) in Shinagawa I can personally speak to in the Prince Sakura Tower if you’re looking for that luxurious hotel experience with included breakfast. There are also other Marriotts that I haven’t stayed at in the region that should include breakfast for fewer points and in my experience with hotel breakfasts in the country they’re quite good.

    (For the record not only does Horse look like Tuna it tastes like meatier Tuna too.)

  25. Also @Ethan, the issue Ben is talking about is around TPG being at the Oscars with Marriott brass right around the time they shifted (to me) to speak a lot more highly of the Bonvoy program. I think it’s a carryover of his time really pushing SPG, as I remember seeing TPG himself on the infomercial channel of the Sheraton really pushing that program before the merger.

    If I’m wrong Lucky I welcome you sassing me into the netherrealm.

  26. AA actually did something like what you suggested a while ago. The influencer had to ticket everything with miles and showed how it was done. Of course he sometimes used AAnytime, but still it was nice to see the honesty.

  27. I appreciate the honesty without the hype. It drives me nuts sometimes when I see something like TPG rave about a flight or hotel stay where they’re given the royal treatment “OMG, suiiiiite upgrade” when in reality my own status as a non-influencer (but platinum elite) gives me “meh” treatment.

  28. Hahaha brilliant post Ben. The Bonvoy and the benefits we get as Titanium (whether the call this now), but above all the insulting customer service, are so poor that indeed require a paid cover post. Perheps we all shall start and document the treatment we get on daily basis and counter-post. At least I figured out why they introduce the new programs at end of the year, we were so busy anticipating and by the time we realise how big was the blow it was too late to switch to another chain.

  29. Lucky, another great post. Keep up the great work, you’re awesome.

    @ Daniel, if you have issues with the credit card links that Lucky posts, then stop coming to this site, instead go to TPG and read all his crap – talking about selling out.

  30. Ben, do you not consider the AMEX/SPG stars program (may have the name wrong) to be an influencer program? Trying to figure out how you see that differently.

  31. Someone posted the full email on FlyerTalk, including the dates.

    So anyone who sees positive fluff pieces about Marriott Bonvoy and this property in newspapers or travel blogs in April or early May will know the writer took this trip.

    For what it’s worth, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and other credible news outlets with real travel journalists prohibit their editorial staff from accepting free airfare, free hotel stays, etc. It’s one thing if this is paid, promoted content, but it’s altogether something else if this is “news” coverage.

    And, let’s be honest, if these writers were getting the “full” titanium elite experience, this would mean, at least at some properties, a bagel and coffee for breakfast and no suite upgrade.

  32. Wow, you really do have a vendetta against Marriott. Are you pissed they didn’t invite you. If I remember correctly, you went on an expense paid trip as one of the SPG stars not too long ago before they disbanded SPG. Every brand does this – no need to slam Marriott only for it. Stop being a hypocrite and grow up

  33. Really appreciate this post and esp your response about the credit cards. Love the blog. All the best.

  34. Ben, thank you for the detailed explanation above re: your business model. Why I’ve always found you more trustworthy is that it’s clear that you’re marketing credit cards as a means to write about travel — not the other way around. Too many sites lately are churning out horrible travel content as a means to sell credit cards.

  35. The Marriott Ocean Park is a new hotel, and the first hotel at the park. With Ocean Park losing money for the last several years, I wonder Marriott is working with the them to offer this promotion. They hope with the new MTR line (metro) to the park, the new bridge that linked HK with Macau and Zhuhai, and new a new hotel will increase visitors to the park.

  36. Ethan, before you make some snark comments about the Ocean Park Marriott, try figure out what revolves around the world beyond getting free credit card points. The influencers are visiting Hong Kong during one if it’s busiest time of the year with all the activities and events going on. (If you even bother to check) There is a world beyond Miles and points. It’s generous of Marriott to provide the free accommodations during its busy season even though it’s not the Ritz Carlton. Get a life and try comprehend the world. What’s the next free trip on points going do for you? Nice room but know nothing about the world??

  37. I love your ability to understate. “a bit of a hot mess” is hilarious, like saying that the sailing of the Titanic had a few minor issues. Keep it up, please.

  38. I first got into miles and points because of some random blog post TPG put up about 10 years ago when he was actually writing his own content and wasn’t pimping the same card 12 times in a single post. However the content quickly went downhill; definitely a strong correlation with quality of content and ego. Now I will say, TPG know’s how to build a brand and a business.

  39. @John I can confirm TPG deleted my comments along with others on his own Instagram(which I am now blocked on due to two simple questions) as well as on the TPG site for yourself. Go ahead and try it out on the website within 24 hours your comments will be deleted.

  40. Ben, Fantastic read. Don’t change a thing. Any of the blogs are a single data point. Supplementing our own research will guide individual decisions. Thx for your insights.

  41. @lucky Suggest you do a post that sets out your policy and approach to commissions, points etc. (e.g. the additional Q above about whether your commission rate is higher than the average Joe). Your answer above is already great. Publish a specific article on it, and you’ll both clearly address once and for all your independence (& more than likely will increase readership)

    FWIW, never once got anything as an Ambassador (in SPG days or now) other than treats during a hotel stay itself, and a gift on/around my birthday. But nothing ever approaching free tickets, VIP concerts etc. The service / individual assigned was the biggest benefit, which has been severely diminished given their workload (e.g. just today, I was meant to be called by my ambassador at 12pm; that time has come and gone)

  42. I read the full email that Marriott sent.

    I don’t have a problem with Marriott’s PR firm trying to get positive coverage. I take more of an issue with any “journalist” who accepts their offer and then doesn’t disclose in their coverage that they were fully hosted by Marriott.

    Even the restaurant reviewers don’t accept free meals. I get that some bloggers and influencers accept freebies but I’ve always thought most journalists don’t.

    I think that’s the real issue here.

    As for TPG, the website and not the man, they claim to be a news outlet now but they are far from transparent. At least with a newspaper I can call up the advertising department and get the rates to understand what advertisers paid. I have no idea what TPG is getting paid to promote credit cards co-branded by hotels and airlines.

    And does anyone for a second think that the major airlines and hotels don’t have all the major bloggers at TPG and even here at One Mile at a Time flagged to receive better treatment? I’ve criticized Ben on here before for publicizing what flights or hotels he will fly or stay at beforehand.

  43. Ditto much of what was said above. I will also add that I appreciate your sometimes contradictory articles. I’m think here of the “AA is making me crazy” and the “ok I still fly AA” posts. Not everything is super black and white, and this mirrors a lot of what your readers may experience, particularly those stuck in AA hubs. I re-examine my miles and points strategy every year so it is good to flesh out the good and the bad to make the best decisions based on my travel needs.

    Thanks again for your great reviews and articles!

  44. @Lucky. I love your blog and check it every day multiple times. I absolutely do NOT mind if you benefit from the credit card referral bonuses. In fact, since your advice (many times) saved me a ton of money (once 4x$400 on 4 Business class tickets using the AARP discount), I ALWAYS apply for our credit cards using YOUR links. I often say that the best business is when all parties benefit.
    I am saddened to see that many times whatever you write about, certain repeat offender commenters will either criticise you or bring in totally irrelevant political opinion, including spewing hatred about people who think differently, whilst patting their own back as to how progressive/tolerant they are.
    I love that in your writings you always try to be impartial, and not bring in your political opinion. I do appreciate it when I have no idea of the political affiliation of the blogger.
    Please do keep up the excellent work and do not let the trolls stop you what you are doing and enjoying.

  45. “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”

    Being stuck with TPG “himself” and Sam Chui would be personal hell for anyone. In fact it is considered torture under the Geneva Convention.

  46. @Lucky, very well done piece. I really appreciated this insight, which is right in line with the pertinent content you passionately put out on a daily basis; TBH, yours is quickly becoming the only P&M blog I read. A request: would you ever consider linking to other blogs you consider to be on par (ethically) with yours, outside of the H/T context? Brett Snyder over at Crankyflier used to do something like that early on, maybe around 2008 was the last time. The balance is helping readers find more sources to geek out on without steering traffic from your own site, so I get why you may not want to do that – perfectly fair objection.

    Speaking of Crankyflier, Brett openly takes “influencer” trips, but I think he discloses it the right way – right up front and very clearly – so the reader can make their own qualitative judgments. That said, those that read his blog know that while he reviews flights, most of the “paid” trips are reported on through the lens of management interviews and he’ll usually call balls and strikes pretty clearly. American just had a huge junket for airline reporters which included Brett and TPG’s latest “journalist” hire; Brett’s article very clearly disclosed how AA paid for basically everything. TPG’s latest “journalist” – well – not so much. The difference was clear and we all control where we source our information.

    As Lucky points out, influencer trips are just the way of the world, so the reader owes it to himself or herself to be skeptical – as we should be with about anything put out these days. “Noise around the edges” from an old man – I digress.

  47. so glad that you’re breaking from the crowd and calling out the bonvoyed experience. yeah… unbookable on points and denied breakfast at RC (i got denied dining room breakfast at a JW last month as ambassador- being tracked down while eating to tell me!).

    i guess we know where TPG will be in April (though i imagine his invite came with airfare, and maybe a grammy)…

  48. Ban, I do believe you’re an honest guy. However, one thing I do find shady about the website is the suggestion that all these amazing trips can be made by acquiring points as a normal person does.

    You regularly drop 80,000 points here, 140,000 points there and so on like it’s nothing. And you have these points because you also sometimes pay for these business class seats in cold hard cash. And presumably, that cash comes from the revenue you get off your referrals and such.

  49. @ JJJ — I appreciate the feedback. I always clearly disclose how I book my tickets. Sure, I sometimes pay for my tickets with cash, but I also redeem a lot of miles. And you’re right, I redeem a lot more miles than the average person. That’s because I largely buy them, and also because this is my job. I’ve never claimed that the average person can or should travel as much as I do — they’d have to quit their full time job — but rather I’ve claimed that most of the airlines I review and points hotels I stay at should be attainable for the “average” person using the credit credit cards with a bit of planning. 🙂

  50. Great post! I do have to correct you though, the new trend in posts by influencers are big breakfasts in a bubble bath! #livingmybestlife

  51. Love the TPG burn.

    Lucky, you or one of your cowriters should schedule a trip with a similar itinerary around the same dates and do a trip report about it. Talk about how you were treated and

  52. Lucky:
    How is your participation in the AMEX/SPG Stars program different than these influencer trips? You’ve done these Stars trips in the fairly recent past even though you clearly don’t need to based on how successful the blog is.

  53. Lucky- I know I have been hard on you before. Just wanted to drop in and say I appreciate you answering all the feedback you received on this post and your last one with shade to a certain blogger ;). Rather than hide or avoid how you advertise on the blog, you are addressing heads on. Love the transparency!

  54. Remember that time when Lucky threw an Oscar party and paid to have a Real Housewife and rapper, Lil’ Uzi Vert show up?

    Didn’t think so

  55. Hi Ben,

    Staying independent and staying alive gives you from my point of view “thumbs up”. I have been seeing way too many examples of what you are posting in Scandinavia and especially in Norway. However the government has imposed a law that posts are to be clearly marked “Paid by”, “Sponsored by” etc. Keep up the great work.

  56. Man, the thing that pops out every single time I read about Bonvoy program: Titanium tier. Seriously. Titanium. Are they out of precious material? Whenever I hear “Titanium elites,” somehow 3 images pop into my head. One, BIG PERSON swaying to lobby (I really don’t know why; maybe “titanic” means big?). Two, some machinery; interestingly never any alluring machinery (e.g. airplanes); something sweaty and oily. Three, fancy ship sinking.

    Maybe Bonvoy wants the last image to describe itself? Seriously. Titanium.

  57. Not defending TPG although here is a hypothesis on the Oscar visit and then deletion of article and critical comments.

    RedVentures bought TPG. I could easily see Marriott be a Red Ventures customer for data mining services or digital marketing sales support. Thus the parent company may not be able to tolerate Marriott critical comments despite creating the impression that TPG is impartial.

  58. a word about the ocean park marriott… i was there during its soft opening. one of the best marriott experiences i’ve ever had. as a titanium, i received all benefits without asking, breakfast, lounge and upgrade to a suite. OK, so the hotel had just opened and maybe they weren’t at peak occupancy… but it’s a great hotel, nicely designed, with great staff and great elite recognition. i saw other elites being welcomed and catered to. it has a great location and it’s minutes away via MTR to a lot of things you’d want to se as a tourist or need to as a business person. anyway, it’s entirely possible that marriott wants to showcase a brand new top notch property and that’s why they chose it.

    as far as hosting a “fam” trip, this has been going on for decades. what’s different about an “influencer” trip is the demand up front for coverage. it’s fine to go from editorial to advertorial (with full disclosure). but this is more like pay for play. even with disclosure, it’s unseemly.

    as for credit card affiliate links… i have a bunch of miles and points cards. and like any good points aficionado, i cycle through cards. but i very rarely read the articles comparing various cards. i choose my loyalty cards by brand and then look at the issuer’s websites to compare features… do i want the free card, the $95 card or the $450 card?

    when i’ve made my decision, i go back to a site i like and click the affiliate link for the card i want. i use affiliate links such as those as a glorified “tip jar” for sites that i appreciate and whose coverage i respect. this is one of those sites.

    but, again, i don’t think i’ve read a single credit card report on this site. i see them… i just don’t read them.

  59. Rare commenter, every day reader.
    As someone who also enjoys writing about similar topics on the internet, @ben and this site has become my only source for miles/points/travel on the internet. Unfortunately, anything that anyone in this thread is talking about — i.e. credit card pushes — is ten times worse on any other website. The difference, especially when it comes to any kind of credit card reviews, is the amount of concrete arguments Ben is able to provide to support any of his claims. Which brings in the bigger picture, that because he constantly writes so much here himself, he is able to provide readers a holistic view of how and why he makes those decisions.
    I’ve stopped reading any other website because of the things that Ben talked about above. So if you think anything is bad here, can’t imagine what you think about other websites.

  60. I have been following you from the very beginning. I really like and appreciate the person/professional you’ve become. I especially appreciate your honesty about the Bonfire and being Bonvoyed. Far too many travel bloggers drank the deplorable Kool Aid.

  61. Great article Lucky! I have to tell you that I loved your line of the invite mentioning traveling like a Titanium Elite….what does that even mean??!! I am a Charter Ambassador with Marriott and qualified again this past year…I can promise you and your readers this one thing; THERE IS NO BENEFIT, ACKNOWLEDGMENT OR SECRET BENEFIT that we receive! Half of the hotel stays I conduct still thank me for being a Platinum member.

  62. @sam. What’s the point? It says upfront the room was comped and the negative comments about that by readers are there, not deleted.

  63. From the sounds of it, none would ever guess that the pharmaceutical industry does this ALL THE TIME with doctors. Smooze dinners, smooze trips, so they prescribe their company’s medicine TO YOU. Its all legal.
    Just wonder what prescription you get next time, was it genuine or was it influenced?

    And for fashion and certain types of medical treatments, we have the Kardashian influencers.

    Thank you Ben for sharing this about Bonvoy. Whether I agree or not with this promotion, it was interesting to read.

  64. Ben — superb writing — skillful use of humor and cutting wit. It’s obvious from the many thoughtful comments that you have built a very sophisticated, appreciative audience.

  65. @Ben, than you for your response. Also, I really do appreciate how you respond to negative comments instead of deleting them like TPG

  66. Maybe they should ask some real Titanium Elite or even Ambassador Elite people – like me for example!

  67. Ben,

    Just found your site, and have never commented previously. Thank you for telling the truth about Marriott. I’m a Marriott Titanium Elite Lifetime and have never been treated two such extravagance as that described and their communication with the alleged influencers. In fact, since Marriott bought out Starwood, my perception, is that they treat everyone horribly. Marriott service has become so terrible, that I’ve now started staying at Hyatt Hotels. I have Hyatt status and I’m well on my way to getting Lifetime with Hyatt. Three years ago I would have told you this was impossible, because I was a good customer with Marriott. No longer. Every Marriott experience that I’ve had over the past three years, I can say without qualification, has been miserable. I think Marriott is just too big.

    As many others have said, even cashing in Marriott points has become a chore. I cashed in points at one location and was treated with total disrespect. They even told me at the front desk, that since I was using points, basically I had to take the broom closet room they gave me!

    Also appreciate you pointing out the shortcomings of other blogs. I posted negative comments about Marriott on one site and the blog writer deleted them almost immediately. They were up less than an hour… while I understand their livelihood may depend on supporting Marriott, they need to be fair and state this upfront (this was not TPG but a less well known blogger).

    It would be easy for Marriott to remedy their shortcomings if they just kept their promises about what they say the different tiers represent. Unfortunately not even Marriott employees seem to be conversant with what they’re supposed to do.

    Arne Sorenson and his executive crew seem to be out of touch but you’re one of the few to cover this issue… thanks again!

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