Skift Take

2016 is going to be a good year if you have hotel elite status.

The news that Marriott would acquire Starwood sent tremors through the ranks of frequent hotel guests earlier this month and shaking their loyalty to the core.

With many elite Starwood customers unsure about the long term future of their favorite Starwood Preferred Guest rewards program, competitors are now taking turns at chipping away at their loyalty.

Hyatt was the first. In a Twitter campaign aimed at Starwood Preferred Guest members, the Chicago-based hotel chain offered to match the status of inbound customers, offering eight valuable suite upgrades as an incentive. That campaign apparently pulled in about 10,000 defectors.

Now it’s Hilton’s turn, albeit a bit less aggressively. Over on Flyertalk, Hilton’s corporate representative confirmed that the hotel chain would be matching status from other hotel operators through January of 2016. The matched status would be good through March of 2017.

Interestingly, the message from the Hilton representative suggests that elite hotel members have been proactively reaching out to them rather than HHonors running its own outbound campaign. This may suggest that travelers are so willing to give up their loyalty that they’re actively pursuing other suitors.

Whether Marriott and Starwood are interested in stopping the attrition among its loyal customers may indicate how the future venture will shape its rewards program. If the current programs don’t stop the floodgates through some sort of promotion or incentive, it may indicate that they want a smaller, less-dynamic award program in the future — similar to what the airlines are pursuing. But if the joint program wants to keep the same cadence and relationship with its members as the award-winning Starwood Preferred Guest did, it may need to offer up a peace offering. And it’ll have to be more than an empty promise from Marriott’s CEO.

Either way, many frequent hotel customers may now be able to enjoy elite status at Starwood, Marriott and now Hilton and Hyatt through 2017. After the acquisition is complete and the joint loyalty program is announced, the rest of the Starwood-Marriott elites can decide where to take their business.

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Tags: hilton, hyatt, marriott, starwood

Photo credit: Hotel chains are fighting over worried SPG members, among others. American Express

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