Posted by Ric Garrido

I started out writing today wanting to argue a point about hotel loyalty program comparisons.  Quite often a hotel program comparison will state how much spending is needed to earn a free night.  Frequently, a table will show how much spending is required to earn the points for a free night at the lowest category hotel in the hotel loyalty program.

I made a comment on a Budget Travel article and my comment received a Budget Travel editor’s response.

One of the points I wanted to make is the lowest category hotel redemption level is not all that practical in real travel simply due to the small percentage of hotels in the lowest category.

Hilton HHonors Opportunity Hotel Redemption is 7,500 points per night, but only 2% of USA Hilton properties are in the Opportunity Points Redemption Category.

Marriott Rewards Category 1 Hotel Redemption is 7,500 points per night, but only 12% of USA Marriott properties are in the lowest Category 1 Points Redemption Category.  While this is a much higher percentage of hotels in the lowest free night redemption category than Hilton HHonors, I anticipate a major shift of Marriott Rewards hotels to Category 2 in 2009. 

Hilton HHonors Hotel Category Distribution USA

Hilton HHonors Hotel Categories in the USA of 2,673 Hotels in November 2008

HHonors Hotel Category

Number of HHonors Hotels

Percentage of Total Hotels (2,673 HHonors Hotels in USA)

Opportunity

49

2%

1

153

6%

2

944

35%

3

940

35%

4

408

15%

5

124

5%

6

55

2%

The numbers shown here for Hilton HHonors are based on a quick HHonors spreadsheet sort and count.  The exact number of hotels in each HHonors category may be slightly lower or higher.

 Marriott Hotel Category Distribution in USA

Marriott Rewards Hotel Categories for the 2,663 hotels in USA in November 2008

Marriott Rewards Hotel Category

Number of Marriott Rewards Hotels

Percentage of Total Hotels (2,663 Hotels in USA)

1

308

12%

2

691

26%

3

963

36%

4

441

17%

5

187

7%

6

61

2%

7

12

<1%

Good for Consumer = Marriott Rewards Redemption Table Weighted Heavily to Lower Category Hotels

Today I played around with numbers and the startling observation to me is the alignment Marriott Rewards has taken to emulate Hilton HHonors in free night redemption.  And the 5th free night is just a little edge on HHonors VIP elite 6+  night discounts and matches Starwood’s 5th Night Free.

Marriott looks surprisingly consumer-friendly at the present time with most hotel properties in the lowest half of the categories.  I expect the second big Marriott Rewards announcement is going to be a major category shift in its USA hotels for 2009.

Corresponding Hotel Category Low to High

Marriott Hotels

(2,663)

Hilton Hotels

(2,673)

1

308

49

2

691

153

3

963

944

4

441

940

5

187

408

6

61

124

7

12

55

All categories for Hilton were bumped up a level to correspond with Marriott’s 7 lowest levels.

The level of the HHonors Category has been increased by one level for comparisons of relative hotel distribution among points redemption categories between Hilton HHonors and Marriott Rewards . 

Hilton Opportunity = 1; HHonors Category 1 = 2; and so on to HHonors Category 6 shown as Category 7 in charts and tables.

Distribution of Hilton HHonors and Marriott Rewards Hotels by Category

Hilton HHonors is weighted much more heavily to the higher end hotel redemption categories than Marriott in 2008.  The number of hotels compared here is almost identical for Hilton (2,673) and Marriott (2,663) and they are both divided into 7 categories. 

I predict category shift will be the knockout punch for Marriott Rewards members in the 2009 changes.  The shift from Category 1 and 2 hotels into Category 3 and 4 hotels will be a major shift to align Marriott categories more closely with HHonors.  The introduction of a new Marriott Rewards Category 8 in January 2009 will likely create a major shift of hotel properties upwards into Categories 5, 6, and 7.

Marriott currently has 1 of 8 USA hotels in its lowest Category 1 redemption level, whereas, Hilton HHonors has only 1 in 50 hotels in its lowest category of Opportunity Hotels. 

Marriott currently has 26% of its hotels, 1 out of every 4 hotels in the USA,  in the second to lowest Category 2 redemption level, whereas, Hilton only has 6% or 1 of every 16 USA hotels in its corresponding level.

Comparison of Marriott Rewards 2008 Stay Anytime to 2009 Award Nights

Category

NIGHTS

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

1

15,000 Anytime

7,500

2009 Award

28,000

 

15,000

40,000

 

22,500

50,000

 

30,000

60,000

 

30,000

70,000

 

37,500

80,000

 

45,000

2

20,000

10,000

38,000

20,000

54,000

30,000

70,000

40,000

86,000

40,000

100,000

50,000

110,000

60,000

3

30,000

15,000

56,000

30,000

82,000

45,000

104,000

60,000

126,000

60,000

146,000

75,000

164,000

90,000

4

40,000

20,000

76,000

40,000

110,000

60,000

140,000

80,000

170,000

80,000

190,000

100,000

210,000

120,000

5

50,000

25,000

92,000

50,000

130,000

75,000

160,000

100,000

190,000

100,000

210,000

125,000

230,000

150,000

6

60,000

30,000

110,000

60,000

156,000

90,000

190,000

120,000

220,000

120,000

240,000

150,000

260,000

180,000

7

70,000

35,000

130,000

70,000

180,000

105,000

220,000

140,000

260,000

140,000

280,000

175,000

300,000

210,000

8

na

40,000

na

80,000

na

120,000

na

160,000

na

160,000

na

200,000

na

240,000

The elimination of Stay Anytime awards is a significant point saver for the consumer, but quite a loss for Marriott for hotel stays using points requiring the large number of points for a No Blackout Stay Anytime Redemption.  I have no idea what percentage of Marriott rewards redeemed are Stay Anytime Rewards. 

Most of my lifetime Marriott stays have been through Priceline. 

I expect a significant category shift for Marriott Rewards points redemption will take place in 2009 to recoup more of the points and revenue being lost to the new award schedule with the concurrent elimination of blackouts and Stay Anytime awards.  A comparison of Hilton and Marriott, two chains with almost identical numbers of USA hotels, indicates to me a major shift upward will be coming from Marriott in Category Redemption Level to more closely correlate with Hilton HHonors hotel category distribution for USA hotels. 

I hope I’m wrong about my prediction of a major Marriott Rewards hotel category shift upwards.  But, I think it will happen.

A shift upward in hotel category is inflation and devalues your earned points.  Opportunities for getting sufficiently more bonus points to compensate for higher prices of room night redemption may not happen.  The bottom line is your points buy less with changes each year and that seems to be a principle of travel loyalty programs.

4 Responses

  1. Hello –

    How does Starwood measure with its reward program?

    Thanks

    carmen

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