More hotel companies, especially those that occupy the upper upscale and luxury categories, are seeking to expand their guest offerings beyond the traditional guest room or hotel restaurant to build loyalty, offer more “authentic” experiences, and distinguish themselves from the competition.
Marriott Rewards wants to make sure it is rewarding its most loyalty program members with three new offers and features that will be exclusive to its members.
The first is what Marriott calls the “experiences marketplace” whereby Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards members will have access to specially curated events and activities during their stay on a global scale, beginning this May. Such experiences may include tickets to a Broadway show in New York, and opportunity to meet a favorite sports team, or a private cooking lesson, for example. To purchase an experience, members can apply their Marriott Rewards of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards points.
Offering exclusive, specially curated experiences for loyalty members and guests has quickly become the norm for hotel companies including Four Seasons, Hyatt, and Peninsula Hotels, for example, not to mention Starwood Preferred Guest, the loyalty program of the hotel company with which Marriott will soon merge.
The second is exclusive to Elite members of Marriott Rewards and involves a new Elite concierge service. Marriott is piloting the program first in the U.S. beginning in late May with an initial group of U.S.-based members for whom they will provide a dedicated concierge to oversee their travel experiences on a global scale. The concierge can reserve on-property amenities and services like restaurant reservations, spa treatments, and golf, as well as make arrangements for special occasions. Marriott Rewards plans to expand the concierge program following the pilot to members based outside of the U.S. as well as to a group of members from The Ritz-Carlton Rewards program.
Thirdly, beginning on May 16, Gold and Platinum Elite members of both Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards will receive guaranteed late check-out for as late as 4 p.m. after they request late check-out by phone while making a reservation, via the Marriott Mobile app, or upon arrival at the hotel. This benefit is available only at fully participating Marriott Rewards hotels, and excludes resorts, convention hotels, and the Marriott Vacation Club. Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards will continue to offer Silver Elite members the benefit of requesting late checkout on their day of departure.
“We’re evolving how we engage with, recognize, and reward our loyal guests,” Thom Kozik, vice president of loyalty at Marriott International said in a statement. “Loyalty is not just about our members choosing to stay with us. We want to make their travel more seamless and personalized, and we also want to deliver memorable experiences that go beyond the stay. Giving our members even more flexibility, freedom, and opportunity to enjoy what they love most about travel — and life — is one of the best ways we can show our loyalty to them.”
In addition to offering these features to loyalty members, Marriott also rolled out discounted room rates exclusive to Marriott Rewards members earlier this month in an effort to incentivize guests to book direct instead of booking on third-party, online travel agency sites like Expedia and Booking.com.
Loyalty is big business for hotel companies like Marriott and its competitors, including Hilton and Starwood, with whom Marriott will merge. On April 1, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said the loyalty programs for Marriott and Starwood were at the top of his priorities list following the merger with Starwood. “The most important thing for us to succeed at is the loyalty program,” he said.”
Marriott Rewards, which boasts approximately 54 million members worldwide, tied for No. 1 with Hilton HHonors on J.D Powers’ most recent list of the top hotel loyalty programs.
Photo credit: Marriott International's app for loyalty members. The hotel is adding branded experiences to its offers for members. Marriott International