Points as a form of loyalty isn't for everybody, as rewards are not always immediately accessible — but Marriott Bonvoy is looking to change that.
The complexity of point loyalty programs has pushed several travel companies to rethink their strategy, and the most recent to flip the script is Marriott Bonvoy.
Marriott Bonvoy points can usually be redeemed for hotel stays or to book flights with agreed partners. However, Marriott Bonvoy Moments offers members so-called “money-can’t-buy experiences” and the company is rolling out some for as little as one point.
That might mean sipping Mezcal with Breaking Bad duo Aaron Paul & Bryan Cranston, for example. Other One Point Moment Drop experiences that will be available during the next few weeks include “Hang with US Women’s Soccer Star Trinity Rodman;” “Sit (or cry, maybe?!) in the “Hot Ones” seat with host Sean Evans;” and Uncover a true-crime mystery with Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat of the hit podcast Crime Junkie.”
Linking Loyalty and Experiences More Tightly
Peggy Roe, chief customer officer for Marriott, who has been studying the concept of loyalty, said while loyalty begins with points, it isn’t the reason customers stay with the brand.
“I always talk to guests and ask them this simple and key question, ‘Why do you stay in our hotels? Why do you keep coming back to Marriott Bonvoy?’ And very rarely does somebody say, well, it’s because of the points,” explained Roe.
“Mostly, it’s a story or a memory about something, some trip they went on with a family or a friend, or it’s a story about their interaction with a hotel associate. Loyalty comes because of how we make customers feel, and that’s core to hospitality. That’s what we do in our business. But there’s this kind of disconnect between that and creating loyalty programs.”
Roe believes that, in many respects, the hospitality sector has commercialized loyalty too much, noting that the core focus for Marriott is to design the best customer journey from the hotel stay, when guests use the Marriott website and app, or engage with its call centers — all complemented with experiences of an equally high standard.
“You don’t need to have status to get status. One Point Moments gives all our Marriott Bonvoy members the chance to experience that which fuels their passions and interests. Just one stay will afford guests the opportunity to explore and indulge in the breadth of once-in-a-lifetime adventures that Marriott Bonvoy provides.”
Marriott Bonvoy has the most members of any hotel loyalty program, at about 180 million. Skift has previously reported on how the company’s executives tout a virtuous circle with the loyalty program and co-branded credit cards, banking on the inclination of loyalty members booking trips directly, thereby skipping online travel agency middleman fees.
Yet, most hotel loyalty programs have long offered members generic perks after meeting spending thresholds. IHG, as another of the six largest global hotel groups and the owner of the Holiday Inn brand, revamped its loyalty program in 2022 to go beyond this ‘points’ mindset to offer a choice of perks.
Instead of rewarding guests with free Wi-Fi access after 10 stays, for example, IHG tweaked the generic process by inviting its most frequent guests to pick their favorite perk from a few reward types.
Marriott Expands Experiences
Giving guests more opportunities to create lasting memories feeds into Marriott’s intention to grow loyalty through experiences. But One Point Moments offer very limited package numbers.
Moments that require far more points continue to be available. For example, guests can bid on live events and concerts like seeing Dermot Kennedy from barstool seats in the Marriott Bonvoy Luxury Suite at Madison Square Garden in New York — starting from 75,000 points it includes two tickets per package and only two packages. Or they can bid to dine at luxury restaurants (Culinary overnight journey with Michelin-starred chef François Geurds starting at 200,000 points); packages for major sports events (Luxury Suite seats for Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh for 55,000 points); or destination packages (Maldives manta rays snorkeling with US Paralympic Gold Medalist Gregory Burns for 302,500 points at the time of publishing).
Guests’ bidding and booking patterns with these Marriott Bonvoy Moments packages provides data insights for Marriott to deepen its loyalty offering. If they want to keep guests coming back for more, they just need to make sure there is enough of it to go round.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include Bonvoy in the title and copy as Marriott Bonvoy
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Photo credit: Marriott One Point Moments launch with Dos Hombres experiences with Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston. Source: Dos Hombres