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Starwood Will Upgrade Elite Benefits

SmarterTravel

In what the company claims will result in “the richest elite program in the industry,” Starwood has announced a slew of new benefits for elite members of its Preferred Guest program.

The new benefits, which take effect on March 1, vary by elite tier.

Gold

Gold members (qualification: 10 stays or 25 nights) will have a choice of several welcome gifts for each stay, whether it’s a paid stay or an award: 125 Starpoints for aloft, elements, Four Points by Sheraton, 250 Starpoints for other hotels; free in-room Internet; or, a complimentary beverage at the hotel’s restaurant or bar.

Platinum

Platinum members (qualification: 25 stays or 50 nights) will have a new option among their welcome gift choices: a complimentary breakfast. Platinum members can also choose from bonus Starpoints or a local gift.

SPG 50 Nights Benefit

Platinum members who stay 50 nights in a calendar year will receive 10 Suite Night Awards that can be used to upgrade to the hotel property’s best room, including suites.

Suite nights are confirmable beginning five nights prior to arrival.

SPG 75 Nights Benefit

Platinum members who log 75 nights in a calendar year can take advantage of the new “Your24” program that lets members check in any time they wish, 24 hours a day. So, for example, a member who checks in at 10 p.m. won’t have to check-out until 10 p.m. on their day of departure.

They will also earn four Starpoints per $1 spent instead of the usual three Starpoints per $1 for Platinum members.

SPG 100 Nights Benefit

Platinum members who stay 100 nights annually can take advantage of the services of a “personal ambassador,” a “unique service designed to provide the ultimate in tailored experiences across all 1,100 Starwood hotels. What separates this from a traditional travel concierge program is the unique personal relationship between Member and ambassador. Starwood’s ambassadors work one-on-one with guests to understand their preferences and what matters to them on each trip to deliver a customized experience on property.”

Lifetime Elite

Following in the footsteps of Hyatt and Marriott, Starwood will now offer its best customers lifetime elite status. Lifetime Gold status is awarded after 250 nights and at least five years of elite membership. Double those thresholds for lifetime Platinum status: 500 nights and Platinum status for at least 10 years.

Richest of the Rich?

Starwood’s press release alludes to the two percent of the company’s customers who account for 30 percent of its profits and quotes a Starwood executive as follows: “Our goal is to make SPG so rich that it’s impossible for mega travelers not to choose Starwood.” Have they succeeded?

With the exception of Your24, all of the new benefits can be found elsewhere. Still, most of the additions are real value-adds that, taken together, do make Starwood’s portfolio of elite perks among the industry’s most robust.

And Your24 is not just novel, it’s a real benefit to travelers. It’s a shame that such flexibility is reserved for those in the highest elite tiers.

The only clunker among the new perks is the personal ambassador, which strikes me as more hype than substance. Ultra-frequent travelers tend to be both capable and pressed for time; they’re likely to find it easier and quicker to do most things themselves than to enlist outside help.

Now that Starwood has burnished its offerings for the top two percent, it’s time to make the program richer for the other 98 percent.

Reader Reality Check

Are these new benefits relevant to you?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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