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We’ll be continuing to dig through the rest of the details for a little while, but one thing we’re all very interested to see, is which hotels will be in which categories in the new Marriott / SPG loyalty programme.
The first thing to be clear about is there won’t be any changes until August – until then, you can book using the current award pricing. The second thing is that I’m only going to look here at the changes that are being introduced in August, not the Peak/Off Peak and Category 8 awards that are coming sometime in 2019.
New Marriott award chart
Marriott has released an award chart for the new programme:
For the SPG loyalists out there, remember that each Starpoint is worth 3 Marriott Points, in both the current Marriott Rewards programme and the new one being introduced in August.
Unfortunately, an award chart on its own doesn’t really tell us a lot, if we don’t know which hotels are going to be in which Category! Marriott has indicated that we should be see some real examples in the next few days and a full list within 4 weeks.
In the meantime, I think we already have enough information (largely thanks to FrequentMiler’s interview with the VP of Marriott Reward, Bob Behrens) to start making some educated guesses. In particular, this line is useful: “They haven’t established the exact mappings yet, but they will try to map it based on the number of points required. For example, category 7 hotels in the current program require 35,000 points per night. In August, category 5 hotels will cost 35,000 points”.
I’ve produced the chart below as rough guide of what we can probably expect. The column on the left lists the new programme categories and the others show what I think the current equivalent (broadly) is in SPG, Marriott Rewards and Ritz Carlton Rewards. Note that I’ve multiplied the SPG Starpoints amounts by 3 to show the Marriott equivalent and keep things consistent.
Let’s break it down into a few different sections to analyse:
Low Categories ( Cat 1-3 in the new programme)
What I expect to see here is most of the hotels in these categories mapping directly across – so SPG and Marriott Category 1s, will very likely be Category 1s in the new programme too, etc.
From a Marriott perspective, the award prices are generally going up slightly – we may see some properties dropping down a Category to mitigate that.
From an SPG perspective, it looks pretty flat on average, though I can envisage some Category 3 properties perhaps becoming Category 4 in the new programme.
Mid Categories (Cat 4-5 in the new programme)
From a Marriott perspective, this looks pretty even. There may be a small amount of value lost with previous Category 4 and 6 hotels costing a little more, but that is potentially made up for by cheaper Ritz Carlton redemption options.
From an SPG pov, it looks like things are getting cheaper – and perhaps substantially so in the case of some Cat 5s. We may see some of the best SPG Cat 5s moving up to Cat 6 in the new programme though.
High Categories ( Cat 6-7 in the new programme)
Top Marriotts will probably be more expensive (50k rather than 40k-45k). In particular, I would expect the prime Marriott hotels in cities like London and New York to cost 50k Points in future.
Taking a wider view though, I think this is more than made up for though by the savings at Ritz Carlton’s most expensive properties and even more so with SPG’s top hotels. Some of those will be 40% cheaper! This will be a temporary situation however, with the very best SPG and Ritz Carlton presumably moving up to Category 8 when that is introduced next year.
It’s important to be clear that I’m talking in quite general terms here – there will likely be a few surprises at the margins for individual properties, but overall I’m not anticipating anything drastically different from the above.
Some people are concerned that moving hotels to the new programme award categories will provide Marriott with the opportunity for a big ‘stealth’ devaluation. There’s no doubt that the opportunity exists, but for a few reasons, I’m unpersuaded that Marriott will take it:
- The merger has been managed well (indeed generously) so far. There isn’t much incentive for Marriott to create unnecessary ill will at this late stage.
- As I’ve outlined above, overall, the changes actually look positive. With only 7 Categories to play with and plenty of luxurious SPG and Ritz Carlton hotels to squeeze in, there’s only so much raising Marriott can do of (currently) lower category properties, without creating perverse situations where Courtyards and Sheratons are in the same category as St.Regis and Ritz Carltons in the same city.
- Maintaining SPG’s airline transfer options means that there is an effective (and attractive) ‘floor’ value for the new Points. If the hotel redemption options aren’t compelling, more members will transfer more Points to airlines – and you can bet that works out a lot more expensive for Marriott than equivalent hotel redemptions.
Which hotels do you think will be in which Categories in the new Marriott programme? Disagree with analysis above? – let me know in the comments!