Beginning May 7, 2010 free internet access at Marriott, J.W. Marriott, and Renaissance Hotels will be a new elite benefit in the US and Canada (excluding Hawaii) for Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum elites. The announcement was made on Marriott Rewards Insiders and FlyerTalk Sunday afternoon, March 7. Free internet for other Marriott brands including Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and SpringHill Suites will continue to be available to all Marriott Rewards members for hotels in the US and Canada. Details will be posted on the Marriott Rewards website March 8.
Coincidentally March 8 is also the day the hotel award category changes go into effect for 350 hotels going down one category and 300 hotels going up one category. Amazingly (at least to me), Marriott Rewards chose to withhold those changes from members except for the Category 5-8 hotels posted on MR Insiders and FlyerTalk on February 24, showing the 29 hotels going down one category and 14 hotels going up one category. There has been no information posted on the Marriott websites regarding the award category changes as I write this Sunday evening, about four hours before the changes go into effect, aside from the post on Marriott Rewards Insiders 12 days ago.
[Update Wednesday, March 10: Marriott Representative Andrew posted on Marriott Rewards Insiders the changes were started on Monday, March 8 and should be complete by Friday, March 12.] – perhaps then we will see the updated list on the website.
Tough luck if you would have liked a heads up on the other 286 hotels going up one category on March 8.
Pay 5,000 points more per night and keep your mouth shut about the changes. There wasn’t any outcry by members for some disclosure of the properties before the changes took effect. Very little discussion has taken place on Marriott Rewards Insiders or FlyerTalk regarding the award category changes.
Do Marriott Rewards members really not care that a list of hotel award changes was not posted before the new award levels went into effect?
Now, I feel like my rant on HHonors in last month’s Loyalty Traveler column for InsideFlyer was not representative of the general loyalty program member. Perhaps nobody really cares when award category changes devalue points and the member does not have an opportunity to redeem for the best value possible. Shouldn’t a member be given the opportunity to choose the best value award level?
Yes I know —more hotels are going down in award category than up, so a “better value” is available as of March 8 for the majority of hotels shifting award category to a lower points award.
Considering how little member discussion accompanied the award category change announcements on FlyerTalk or MR Insiders, why should Marriott be concerned about giving advance notice of all the changes before they take effect?
But in my opinion that is all the more reason to let interested members get the best award deal either way. When someone out there has 20,000 points and finds out the award is now 25,000 points (we do not know which category 4 hotels are going to category 5 in the next few hours), that can mean another $500 in hotel stays to earn the points required for the new award level.
But who cares? Members are not demanding transparency and Marriott Rewards did give advance notice on 43 high category hotels, 6.6 percent of the hotels affected, or almost 1 out of every 15 hotels changing award level tomorrow. Soon we will all know about the other 607 hotels affected in categories 1 to 5.
I’ll show a wag of my finger at Marriott anyway just to be “fair and balanced” since they repeated HHonors action that to me displays an inconsideration of member’s hotel award planning needs and desires to get the best value from Marriott Rewards points.
March 8 update – Check out Gary Leff on View from the Wing who must have been writing about Marriott’s internet offer at the same time as me. He shares insight on how Marriott’s free internet matches up to Starwood and Hyatt.
I have had hotel award category changes flooding my brain for several weeks now as I have been working on some articles about the recent changes. Good news for Marriott Rewards members is my research shows Marriott has high award value compared to most other programs based on analyses I have done over the past few weeks. The fact that half the award category changes are up and half are down means Marriott’s strong comparative position will be retained for 2010.