Barbara De Lollis published a scoop last week for her Hotel Check-In blog on Starwood Hotels secret elite program, “Scoop: Starwood Hotels runs top-secret loyalty pilot program that targets rivals’ customers”. Since the USA Today article appeared last Thursday the story has spread across the hotel industry journals.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to write about this story due to the exclusive nature of the program. I don’t have much interest in a club I can’t join and most Loyalty Traveler readers won’t be invited to join.
The power of the media is demonstrated when an article in USA Today spreads across the hotel magazine information world in a matter of a few days.
The irony of the recent media publicity is the Starwood secret elite program is a not-so-secret program to readers of the FlyerTalk “Starwood Preferred Guest” forum. Within the Starwood forum is an 18-page thread started over 13 months ago on February 4, 2009 titled, “Hello, I am your Starwood Ambassador”.
Starwood Lurker, a nearly ten year veteran of FlyerTalk and social media representative for Starwood on FlyerTalk, explained the program on February 9, 2009 in this FlyerTalk post:
“My apologies for any confusion; hopefully I can help clear up some questions on the Ambassador program by providing what I know.
The Ambassador program is a new, trial program Starwood is launching outside and complementary of any programs or benefits offered by SPG. As some have already outlined in this thread, each participant in the program is assigned a personal Starwood representative (Ambassador) who will assist them with any travel needs. The Ambassador program is one of a number of pilots and programs that Starwood consistently runs to ensure that we are always serving the evolving needs of our guests. To be clear, this program in no way diminishes the value of the SPG program, nor the value we place in our program members.
As of right now this is an invitation-only program, with no specific entry thresholds or benefits.
Hope that helps!
William R. Sanders
Online Guest Feedback Coordinator
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide”
Several of the participants in the Starwood Ambassador program have positive experiences to share in their posts on the FlyerTalk thread over the past year.
From my point of view – I have not seen any diminishment of my complimentary upgrades during my Starwood Hotel stays over the past year. I love an upgrade to a preferred view and/or a bigger room.
And Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum elite membership is an open club for anyone who cares to plan out an annual loyalty strategy, invest some cash in Starwood hotel stays, and meet the published criteria.
I don’t have a Starwood Ambassador to help with my stays, but I have simple needs. And I have to say the Platinum Concierge phone number on my SPG Platinum card has handled my hotel needs to my satisfaction since 2003.
To all you recipients of a Starwood Ambassador, I’m sure you deserve the attention. Your potential for substantial hotel revenue is a strong driver for personalized service. For the rest us who may not be so profitable to Starwood Hotels, well, loyalty is still rewarded with Starwood Preferred Guest.