Want to take advantage of Marriott STARS benefits, including a space available room upgrade, complimentary breakfast, a hotel credit, and more? Contact Ford ([email protected]) for more details. He may even be able to help if you already have a stay booked. This is valid for paid stays at BVLGARI, EDITION, Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and St. Regis.
While one way to get perks at Marriott properties is by having elite status in the Bonvoy program, many people don’t realize that travel agents can often also add perks to stays, that in many cases rival, and in some cases even exceed, what elite members would typically receive. Best of all, if you’re a Bonvoy elite member you can potentially use this program to get even more value.
In this post:
How travel advisors can offer you special perks
While many people may think the concept of travel agents is outdated, the reality is that they can in many ways add more value than ever before, especially for luxury hotel stays.
There are programs like Virtuoso, where select travel advisors can offer perks like free breakfast and upgrades at all kinds of luxury hotels. On top of that, some hotel groups have their own proprietary programs that offer more perks, like Accor STEP, Belmond Bellini Club, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Hilton Impresario, Hyatt Privé, Mandarin Oriental Fan Club, Rosewood Elite, Shangri-La Luxury Circle, 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 programs for travel advisors
Marriott has two programs for travel advisors, known as Marriott STARS and Marriott Luminous, which offer additional perks for stays at various Marriott-family properties.
Before we talk about the specific perks, let me emphasize that:
- You need to book through a travel advisor to take advantage of these perks; they’re not available directly to consumers
- These perks only apply when booking rates equivalent to the standard/flexible rate on Marriott’s website; these perks don’t apply for member-only rates, advance purchase rates, points redemptions, or most other promotional rates
With that out of the way, let’s get into the details of these two programs.
Marriott STARS participating hotel brands & perks
Let’s start with Marriott STARS, which I’d argue is the program that’s a lot more valuable. The Marriott STARS program is valid at the following brands:
When booking an eligible rate through an eligible travel advisor you’ll receive the following benefits through Marriott STARS (there’s no minimum length of stay):
- Complimentary full or continental breakfast daily for up to two people per room
- Hotel credit valued at 100USD once per stay
- Room upgrade, subject to availability at check-in
- Complimentary basic Wi-Fi daily
- In-person welcome
- Personalized welcome amenity and note
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 those brands, with the exception of St. Regis and Luxury Collection.
Marriott Luminous participating hotel brands & perks
Next let’s talk about the Marriott Luminous program, which on the surface will have more appeal, but which has its challenges.
The Marriott Luminous program is valid at the following brands, though only at select locations of each brand, since properties can choose to opt out of the program (there’s no minimum length of stay):
- Autograph Collection
- JW Marriott
- Le Meridien
- Tribute Portfolio
- W Hotels
When booking an eligible rate through an eligible travel advisor you’ll receive the following benefits through Marriott Luminous:
- 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 once per stay, but only at select hotels
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 huge catches:
- While Marriott STARS includes all properties of the participating brands, Marriott Luminous properties of the participating brands can choose to opt out of the program
- Even for hotels participating in Marriott Luminous, individual hotels can choose whether or not they want to offer the $100 hotel credit, and a majority choose not to offer the $100 credit
What rates qualify for Marriott STARS & Luminous benefits?
As a general rule of thumb, only the “standard rate” that you find on Marriott’s website qualifies for STARS and Luminous perks. You can’t take advantage of these perks on points stays, on member-only rates, on advance purchase rates, etc.
In some cases there will be discounted rates through these programs, but that’s the exception rather than the norm.
Can you earn points on Marriott STARS & Luminous stays?
Yes, all Marriott STARS and Luminous bookings are considered “qualifying” for the purposes of earning points, elite credits, promotions, and more. These count the same as any other stay booked directly with Marriott.
Does Marriott STARS & Luminous stack with Bonvoy elite benefits?
A lot of people may be wondering “well how does this stack with my Marriott Platinum, Titanium, or Ambassador benefits?” The answer is “it depends.” In some cases elite members may find huge value booking Marriott STARS and Luminous 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 Bonvoy elite members don’t receive complimentary breakfast at EDITION and Ritz-Carlton properties, so booking a STARS rate would get them those perks
- BVLGARI and Ritz-Carlton Reserve aren’t even participating properties in Marriott Bonvoy for the purposes of earning and redeeming points, and elite perks, so Marriott STARS is significantly more valuable for that
- Even for properties where you do get breakfast by way of executive lounge access, booking a Marriott Luminous rate could get you restaurant breakfast instead
- While this won’t necessarily be the case, it could be that a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum member 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 perks
How do you find a Marriott STARS & Luminous advisor?
There are lots of travel advisors with access to the Marriott STARS & Luminous programs. Advisors are welcome to leave their contact info in the comments section below, or you can always find an advisor through Google.
A couple of things to note:
- Some travel advisors charge booking fees, while others don’t; travel advisors do earn a commission from hotels, so it often comes down to how big the bookings are, how busy the travel advisors otherwise are, how personalized they want to be with service, etc.
- I know that many travel advisors are willing to help with STARS bookings but not Luminous bookings, given that the latter program typically involves less expensive hotels, and is less consistent in terms of participation and perks
How do Marriott’s programs compare to Virtuoso?
Some might be saying “well wait a minute, most Ritz-Carltons also belong to Virtuoso, and benefits are similar, so what’s the difference?” The truth is that in many cases there aren’t major differences between the programs.
There are a few important distinctions:
- Marriott STARS offers a $100 hotel credit that you can spend on just about any eligible incidentals, while Virtuoso credits are often specific to either the spa or food & beverage, and not both
- Marriott STARS & Luminous programs get you access to a lot more hotels than you’ll find through Virtuoso
- In theory hotels prioritize upgrades for their own proprietary programs, though in practice that may not always be the case
- Most travel advisors who have access to STARS & Luminous also have access to Virtuoso (and vice versa), so they can advise you as to which program it makes more sense to book through
Marriott offers two special programs for travel agents, known as STARS and Luminous.
The Marriott STARS program is pretty awesome and straightforward. It offers perks like breakfast, hotel credits, and room upgrades, even at Ritz-Carltons, where elite members wouldn’t otherwise receive complimentary breakfast. In the case of BVLGARI and Ritz-Carlton Reserve, those are brands that otherwise don’t actually participate in Marriott Bonvoy in any way, so the incremental perks there are major.
The Marriott 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 — they can choose whether they want to participate at all, and if they do participate, they can choose whether or not they want to offer a $100 hotel credit.
Have you ever taken advantage of the Marriott STARS or Luminous program? If so, what was your experience like?
|Want to take advantage of the Marriott STARS program to receive extra perks (like breakfast and upgrades) for paid stays at BVLGARI, EDITION, Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and St. Regis? Contact [email protected] for more details. He may even be able to help if you already have a stay booked.|