Marriott’s New STARS & Luminous Programs

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

We’ve seen Marriott and Starwood align many aspects of their guest experience over the past year, including the formation of the Marriott Bonvoy program. Shortly Marriott will finally be aligning some of their major programs for select travel agents, which customers can benefit from as well.

How travel advisors can offer you special perks

Many of you may be familiar with programs like Virtuoso and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which offer extra perks for guests who book eligible rates through American Express or their eligible travel advisor.

Typically these programs come with perks like complimentary breakfast, a room upgrade subject to availability, a property credit, and more.

On top of that, some hotel groups have their own proprietary programs for travel advisor. For example, there’s the Four Seasons Preferred Partner program, Hyatt Prive program, Rosewood Elite program, etc.

The logic of hotels having their own programs is that they hope it’s a win-win-win. If hotels offer special perks for the clients of travel advisors, they hope travel advisors are more likely to recommend those hotels, and in turn the cycle begins. They want to keep guests in their “ecosystem.”

Marriott’s new proprietary travel advisor programs

Up until now Marriott and Starwood have had different proprietary programs for travel advisors, known as Starwood Luxury Privileges and Ritz-Carlton STARS.

However, as of July 1, 2019, Marriott will be introducing two new programs — Marriott STARS and Marriott Luminous — which will replace the current programs. Starwood Luxury Privileges will no longer exist, while Ritz-Carlton STARS will feature all new benefits and include new brands.

To avoid confusion I won’t even go into detail on the old programs. Let me once again emphasize that this program only launches on July 1, 2019, so they aren’t active yet.

Marriott STARS program details

First Marriott is relaunching the STARS program, which will offer benefits at more than 250 of Marriott’s luxury hotels.

The new Marriott STARS program will be valid at the following brands:

  • Luxury Collection
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Ritz-Carlton Reserve
  • St. Regis

STARS perks will apply at St. Regis properties

When booking an eligible rate through an eligible travel advisor you’ll receive the following benefits:

  • Complimentary full or continental breakfast daily for up to two people per room
  • Complimentary basic wi-fi daily
  • Hotel credit valued at 100USD
  • In-person welcome
  • Personalized welcome amenity and note

Get free breakfast at EDITION with the Marriott STARS program

I’d say the most valuable perks there are the $100 credit and the complimentary breakfast, especially since elite members don’t typically receive complimentary breakfast at any of those brands, with the exception of St. Regis and Luxury Collection.

One thing I find interesting is that upgrades subject to availability aren’t a benefit anymore. My guess is that with Marriott Bonvoy there are just too many people eligible for upgrades, and they wanted to do a better job managing expectations.

Marriott Luminous program details

This program will probably have more mass appeal, as Marriott’s Luminous program will offer perks at some of Marriott’s mid-range properties, including the following brands:

  • Autograph Collection
  • JW Marriott
  • Le Meridien
  • Marriott
  • Renaissance
  • Tribute Portfolio
  • W Hotels
  • Westin

Luminous perks will apply at Le Meridien properties

When booking an eligible rate through an eligible travel agent you’ll receive the following benefits:

  • Complimentary daily breakfast for two people per room
  • Complimentary basic wi-fi daily
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary room upgrade, subject to availability at check-in
  • Local welcome amenity and note
  • Hotel credit valued at 100USD, but only at select hotels

Score a $100 credit at some W properties with the Luminous program

On the surface this sounds awesome. You can pick up benefits like a $100 credit and breakfast on a fairly cheap Marriott or Westin stay, for example.

But there are two big catches:

  • Hotels belonging to the above brands can opt out of this program, and not participate
  • Even for those hotels participating, they can opt in or out of the $100 hotel credit

We’ll hopefully know which hotels are participating, and to what level, on July 1, 2019.

What rates qualify for these benefits?

As a general rule of thumb, only the “best available” flexible rate qualifies. So you can’t get these benefits on points stays, on member-only rates, on advance purchase rates, etc.

There are situations where the rates won’t line up exactly, but in a vast majority of cases the rates should be the same as the best available flexible rate you see online.

Can you earn points on these stays?

Yes, all Marriott STARS and Luminous bookings are considered “qualifying” for the purposes of earning points, elite credits, and more. These count the same as any other stay booked directly with Marriott.

How do these stack with elite benefits?

A lot of people may be wondering “well how does this stack with my Marriott Platinum/Titanium/Ambassador benefits?” The answer is “it depends.” In some cases elite members may find huge value booking these rates, while in other cases they may not:

  • For hotels offering a $100 credit, that has the potential to be useful to just about anyone
  • Marriott elite members don’t receive complimentary breakfast at EDITION and Ritz-Carlton family properties, so booking a STARS rate would get them those perks
  • Even for properties where you do get breakfast by way of lounge access, booking a Luminous rate could get you restaurant breakfast instead
  • While this won’t necessarily be the case, it could be that a Marriott Platinum booking a STARS rate would get an upgrade ahead of a Marriott Platinum member not on a STARS rate; however, don’t necessarily think this means you’ll get an upgrade to the best available standard suite, and then a further upgrade based on STARS

Bottom line

It’s good to see Marriott aligning their programs for travel agents, to simplify things if nothing else. However, like most things at Marriott, this isn’t actually simple.

The STARS program is pretty awesome and straightforward. It doesn’t necessarily add that much value, though, since Virtuoso offers similar perks, and most luxury Marriott hotels participate in Virtuoso (though not all).

The Luminous program sounds great on the surface, but the problem is that hotels in each of those brands have the ability to choose their degree of participation, and that will make the program inconsistent.

I’ll post again once the program launches on July 1, 2019. Overall I’d say this program is good news for eligible travel advisors, as well as their guests.

  1. Seriously….hotels can opt out of offering certain benefits? I thought the point of creating programs like this was to harmonize the new Marriott group. So inconsistent

  2. Want to correct one bit of misinformation…

    There is a specific designated rate code for STARS and Luminous bookings. This code must be put into the GDS or website when booking … or provided over the phone to the Marriott agent taking a phone reservation.

    @SK, any STARS agent can access this program. Ourisman Travel has access to STARS rates, and I’m sure that Ford can handle this for you as well.

  3. So…. what’s the point of maintaining my Elite Status with Marriott? It forces me to stay at least 100 nights per year to maintain my Ambassador Status…

  4. I often travel w/ kids — so sometimes w/ these deals, I can use the included breakfast for the adults — and the platinum breakfast for the kids. Doesn’t always work, but usually does.

  5. Staying at the Ritz Carlton in Berlin. Let’s say it has been negatively memorable. We’re Titanium Elite members, which apparently, gets you almost nothing. Upon check-in staff acknowledged Bonvoy membership. We did get a room on the Concierge level. However nothing else offered. Friends who are a couple of levels lower got Concierge level and passes to the Lounge. We were told we needed to pay 120 Euro per day.
    The RC property is nothing to write home about. Location is good – across the street from the Marriott on Potsdamer Platz. Doorman, Concierge staff and our room staff have been very good to excellent.
    The front desk is abysmal. They informed us that we didn’t get free club lounge passes because they have alcohol 24/7 in the lounge. Couldn’t explain why the other party did get them since we’re with the same group. (I don’t drink and husband has a beer every other day.) When I asked to make an appointment with the manager for the following day, I was told “He won’t have time to meet with you.” Apparently that’s the case since I haven’t heard from anyone today. Now comes the only redeeming factor in this place: the evening host in the club lounge. He overheard my conversation with our friend, and immediately sprang into action. He got the facts as we had them, checked his computer, and proceeded to remedy the situation to our complete satisfaction. His name is Evangelos M.. If I were still in the corporate world – I would try to hire him in an instant. At 20 he has the demeanor of a saged 40ish administrator. I might consider the RC brand again with the hope that more folks are like Evangelos, as opposed to the front desk staff and management. But, as long as I keep getting service superior to that of what I’ve experienced here why bother?

  6. The benefits for this have been depleted. There was time when this was valuable but the $100 credit for a more expensive room isn’t worth it. I’d rather book the cheapest rate.

    If there were free nights and expanded benefits (free shuttle, activities, etc…) I would be more excited.

  7. It all sounds very confusing and nebulous!!Subject to interpretation problems at the hotels!

  8. So basically a random Joe can pay a higher rate and receive all the perks (and then some, given the $100 credit) of elite status at most of Marriott’s brands. That’s crazy. I’d be pissed as an ambassador elite if I didn’t get an upgrade because a guest with no status got it.

    And what constitutes the included breakfast benefit? It better not be a full breakfast while us elites get stuck with a bagel and coffee.

  9. Marriott did not manage it to make the program simple as Hyatt was doing it with Hyatt Prive. Stars is now missing the upgrade – what is a pitty. However the Stars Hotel need now – even more – to create a experience for the Stars client. The idea from Marriott is not mainly the added value – it is really the unique experience for each Stars guest.

    Luminous cuts now out the 100 USD Hotelcredit. Only a view hotels offering this 100 USD Credit in the new program. However the upgrade is still in the program.

    Interesting to see is that several hotels opt-out and are not anymore part of any of these programs.

    All over Marriott is rolling out the programs more defensive while the other brands play offensive.

  10. Ok so I found this weird thing:
    STARS Promotional Offer

    This rate is STARS but in the description there is no mention of the 100 USD or upgrades….. I did book it from a STARS travel agency. And the normal STARS rate included 100 USD and upgrade…

    It is for Ritz Carlton Sanya, I am staying there tomorrow so I guess I will find out.

    What’s funnier is that the rate shown on Marriott’s website included the 4th night’s price…..

    STARS Promotional Offer, breakfast for 2 guests daily, buy 4 nights get 4th free, see Rate details

    Additional Information Commissionable Rate Stay Every Four Nights, Enjoy 4th Night Complementary Complimentary Daily Breakfast for Two Early Check-In and Late Check-Out based on availability Welcome amenity and note from General Manager Complimentary basic high speed wireless internet access

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