Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood has left one key group vocally underwhelmed: members of Starwood’s Preferred Guest program, particularly Starwood elites who have become accustomed to perks and services that play no part in Marriott’s Rewards program.
That’s no small problem for Marriott, which has acknowledged the importance of winning over Starwood’s best customers to the success of the merger.
This week, Marriott introduced three new features to its Rewards program that are almost certainly intended to assuage Starwood loyalists’ fears that Marriott values its elites less than Starwood does.
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Guaranteed Late Check-Out
Beginning on May 16, Gold and Platinum members of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton programs can request a guaranteed check-out time as late as 4 p.m. when booking their stays, or at any time thereafter. The benefit will not be offered at resorts or convention hotels.
This is comparable to the late check-out perk already enjoyed by Starwood elites.
In late May, all Rewards members will be given access to an “experiences marketplace,” where they can “pursue their passions by choosing from a wide array of curated special events and opportunities for discovery.” As examples, Marriott cites wine-tasting events, Broadway shows, and cooking lessons.
This is along the lines of Starwood’s SPG Moments.
Elite Concierge Service
Also in late May, Marriott will roll out a new concierge service for a small group of U.S.-based Rewards members. The service then will be further developed and refined, and expanded to cover a larger group of elites.
It will probably be 18 months before the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs are combined into a single loyalty scheme. There’s more to do before that happens, but these preemptive moves by Marriott will help make the inevitable transition at least somewhat less wrenching for Starwood loyalists.
Reader Reality Check
What does Marriott have to do to maintain the loyalty of Starwood customers?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.