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Over the weekend, Marriott Bonvoy’s new award chart went live. I’ve written about this previously.
With Marriott, the cost of an award night has long been based on the award category each individual hotel is assigned to. Now… hotels are able to charge the “off-peak, “standard”, or “peak” rate assigned to their award category. Here’s the new chart…
European readers might be more familiar with how airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic handle “peak” and “off-peak” award pricing… They publish a calendar of which dates will apply to which “season”, allowing people to plan ahead / around the lower award prices.
Not so… the lurkers on Flyertalk have made some suggestions about likely off-peak dates:
• Bali: November 2019 through mid-December 2019, mid-January 2020 through March 2020
• Many European cities: Primarily November 2019 through March 2020
• California Wine Country: Mid-November 2019 through April 2020
• New York: January and February 2020
• Maldives: May 2020 through June 2020 and the end of August 2020 through early October 2020
• Capetown: May 2020 through August 2020
• Costa Rica: August 2020 through October 2020
For many seasoned travellers, that list looks a lot like “are you sure you want to take a winter jacket and/or umbrella on holiday?” It certainly seems quite far away from Marriott’s supposed commitment to balance peak, standard and off-peak dates across its entire portfolio (something that is completely impossible for Flyertalk and the blogosphere to keep track of).
What Actually Seems to be Happening
Here’s a calendar view of award pricing for the month of October at the Aloft hotel near the Excel centre in London.
A few peak dates, several “standard” dates, and a handful of “off-peak” dates.
Although not a perfect correlation, here’s what the cash prices look like for October:
When cash prices are low, award prices reduce to “off-peak” rates. In principle that is a good thing, although you still might be better off just paying the cash rate. And on many, but not all, of the really expensive nights where an event must be taking place at the Excel centre… peak award pricing applies.
In Other Words… Dynamic Pricing
Initial indications suggest, therefore, that we aren’t going to see a published calendar for peak / off-peak dates, even at the individual hotel level. Award pricing is simply going to vary in the same way that room rates do.
Your only recourse is to make far more speculative bookings than you might otherwise do… If you see an off-peak date that might work… book it! You can always cancel later. You will also be incentivised to keep a close watch over any award reservations. If the award price has decreased since you booked, you should be able to cancel and rebook to capture the lower price.
However be prepared to be #bonvoyed. Marriott’s IT systems still aren’t completely stable, as I found out this weekend. More on that later…
What do you think of the new Marriott award policy? Love it, hate it? Let us know in the comments section…