My own view is that hotel choices (which are different from airline loyalty programs) have a whole lot to do with age, travel itineraries, income, and loyalty.
-When I was a young graduate student I chose first Hilton then Marriott for hotels; I always chose Delta for flights and have reaped the benefits beyond my wildest dreams.
-When I got early middle-aged I mostly but did not always use hotel loyalty programs.
-As I traveled more to Europe and the Middle East, I always stayed at Marriott and got Platinum level rewards.
-Then I got a little older and Marriott started upping the ante and cutting the benefits; still, even when I didn't qualify on points I bought back status
-Now I am 61 and over the past two years I have only stayed at one Marriott: The Athens Ledra, which to me exemplifies what Marriott used to be and still could be. Other Marriotts that I have not stayed in recently (Brussels and Ghent Marriott) treated me equally well, but I just don't go to Belgium anymore.
- Even if I am 'only' 61 there is some sense because of health issues of the 'autumn of my years.' So what do I do?
- I have given up hotel loyalty programs (I will only make Silver next year thanks to the Ledra and my MR credit card) and will probably transfer my points to Delta. The rewards are no longer worth it.
- I travel internationally about 14 times a year, mostly to Europe. I have found that I get breakfast, free internet, amazing hotels, upgrades and greetings that I no longer got at most Marriotts.
- I leave for Venice in 10 days. Only once have I stayed at a Marriott (the Boscolo, on points, and would not stay there again -- it's nice but not worth the price and inconveniently located. Since then I have stayed at the Metropole, Londra Palace, Pesaro Palace, Hotel Ai Reali, and soon San Cassiano Ca' Favretto. Venice is one of those places where location, floor and view are everything. Then I'll be at a conference in London at the Hotel Indigo Tower and finally in December in Rome at the Saint George Roma. All of these hotels give me free breakfast, free internet and cheaper rates than Marriotts.
-In short, my advice is that if you are just starting to travel for business or research, a loyalty program works. But later in your career, especially when a loyalty program starts cutting its benefits significantly, then it's time just to look for THE BEST HOTEL.
It took me a while and some bad experiences to learn that lesson. If I ever go to Belgium again, I will stay at the Brussels and Ghent Marriotts because they are great, but I probably won't be in Belgium again. In Greece, I will ALWAYS stay at the Athens Ledra, because it exemplifies what Marriott SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE.
I'm still building up my rewards account points balance, but I look for a Marriott brand near where I want to be. When I'm traveling for leisure (usually my county collecting road trips - see http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/people/bejacob/blog), I often choose my route so I can end my day in a location with a Marriott brand.
The combination of points, promotions, and elite nights keeps loyal to the brand. I've been a MR member for a few years and bounce between gold and silver. Trying hard to get back to gold for next year or to at least start 2014 with bunch of rollover nights.
I was (and am still, at least vaguely) an MR member (Platinum for a long time, now Gold). All my travel is outside the United States, and with the loss of many benefits over the past two years, I know go for the best hotel that will provide me what I want in a great location. Very often I stayed at the only Marriott in a city (such as Venice, not counting the airport), only to find after three more stays that there were really great hotels with spectacular views at the same price. So at this stage of my life (early 60s), the points don't matter to me -- where I stay does, for comfort, amenities, treatment and in cases like Venice, the view.
I will always stay at the Athens Ledra, Brussels Marriott and Ghent Marriott because they not only are reasonably priced, but are fantastic hotels. There are a few other I'd consider but the Athens Ledra is the only Marriott I've stayed at (x 2) this year.
I will still always st
yes I totally agree with you on most points. The difference for me is that my company pays for business travel and where there is a Marriott in the area, book us there. This causes me to gain most all of my points which in turn causes me to use the points to book stays in Marriotts when on leisure trips. If my company did not give me the option of using the points I attain, I probably would not stay at many Marriott properties (at least not the higher end ones) because there are alot of hotels just as nice for lower price. With that said, I have enjoyed almost every stay I have had at a Marriott brand hotel because they are clean, professional and staff is usually very friendly and helpful with ease of check-in/check-out. I think most hotel brands try to take care of their customers since they are in a customer service related field. I do occasionally book a leisure trip/vacation at Marriotts and pay cash to advance my points in order to save them for a special vacation up the road. I have seen the point value decline quite a bit over the years but it is still a good program when I am not paying for all of it but reaping the benefits. I definitely will change my habits a bit after retirement when I am the one paying for all my travel because I will go for comfort and price combined to get the best deal out there. It's funny how that works when you are the one paying...
I think in Europe it's different. Until a couple of years ago when a whole bunch of brands were added (not with the same benefits like CLs), categories went up, etc., I mostly did what you did. The difference for me with the more recent changes is that I don't have to stay at any particular hotel and I was finding the points I accumulated increasingly useless. I'm not even using my MR Platinum Premier Card, though I will keep it for the free Cat 5 night (which I always use at the Athens Ledra - go figure, one of the best Marriotts in the world has one of the lowest category numbers, but I think that's because people are unreasonably wary of going to Greece. After now 9-10 trips there in less than 4 years I can testify to its safety as well as the fact that the Ledra is the most spectacular example of Marriott service -- and consistent Marriott service -- anywhere I have ever stayed. I know all the staff by name and when they write me in advance of a trip I'm writing to a person I know -- and they give me gifts for no reason, especially now that I'm just a Gold.
But for other places, like Venice, I stayed at the Boscolo once on points, and it was fine, but I definitely would not have paid to stay there. Since then I have stayed at utterly spectacular Venetian hotels with amazing views, service, free internet, free breakfast, free other things, etc., including:
Hotel ai Reali
and next week!
San Cassiano Ca' Favretto -- a suite with a Grand Canal View at a very reasonable price.
So now that I'm my age, I'm going to stay where I want. Most of Marriott's promotions don't help me (a Cat 4 certificate is useless outside of the US and Canada), and I don't want to stay somewhere just because of points.
That said, I value all those years I was a significant part of the loyalty program and got free stays at good hotels. The dilution of benefits really did affect me over the past two years, but in effect only confirmed a decision I'd already made.
absolutely agree. I have found in my travels I get much better service overseas, whether a Marriott or other brand. The customer service in other countries is top notch in most cases as I've seen anyway, not to say there is good CS here as well, just not as prevalent.
Enjoy next week and be sure to keep the pics coming. Love em