Marriott Getting Bonvoyed?

Marriott randomly sent out a round of gift cards this morning to select Elite members. My guess is that they’re A/B testing to see if sending gifts yields more business. Mandy and I are both Gold Elite members, and I received a $50 gift card. She wasn’t targeted.

Check your email inbox for the subject line “Your Gift from Marriott Bonvoy.” Gift cards range from $30-$50.

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The gift card is valid on retail, spa, gold, and food and beverage purchases. It’s an interesting move for Marriott because we haven’t seen anything like this at scale before. The random gift cards could be an indication that the company might be struggling to retain customers.

A $50 gift card is nice, but it might not move the needle to win customers back. Outside of the gift cards, we’ve seen a handful of promotions like the ones below:

  1. “12 Elite nights for 2 stays”

    • 5 elite nights after 1 stay

    • additional 5 after 1 more stay

  2. Double award nights

    • each night = elite + bonus elite

    • night towards status

These promos seem a bit aggressive, and it doesn’t make sense for a company to run the promotions under normal circumstances.

Suggestions for Marriott

Here are a few suggestions for Marriott to improve their loyalty program. Have a suggestion? Leave them in the comments below.

1. Standardize Elite Benefits Across All Brands

It’s frustrating that every time you book a hotel, you need to reference a chart to see what benefits you’ll receive as a Platinum Elite member.

For example, Platinum Elite members might receive free breakfast at one hotel chain like the JW Marriott, and not receive it at a Ritz-Carlton.

There are also a handful of properties that opt out of honoring or giving any benefits for Elite status members.

It would be a better member experience if benefits were standardized across all Marriott brands.

2. Better Benefits for Gold Elite Status

I realize that a lot of consultants don’t like the fact that you can apply for a credit card and get automatic Gold status. However, some credit cards like the IHG Premier card give valuable Platinum Elite status.

It seems like the “new” Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status is the equivalent to the “old” Marriott Silver status, which doesn’t give you anything substantial.

3. Make It Easier to Earn Platinum Elite Status

Unpopular opinion, but I think it should be easier to earn Platinum Elite status. Even if you have multiple Marriott Bonvoy cards, the 15 qualifying elite night benefits do not stack.

There’s not an easy way to earn status unless you fulfill the stay requirements or spend $75,000 in one year on the Chase Ritz-Carlton or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card.

I understand that Marriott is trying to address this with the promotions they’re running, but for most people, it’s hard to invest in a hotel group when the rules seem to be constantly changing. Running continuous promotion may also devalue the brand.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

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